When you are seeking information about symptoms of any particular condition or disorder, it can sometimes be difficult to wade through the medical jargon to understand exactly what you may be dealing with. It is my personal perspective that it can sometimes be more helpful to hear about symptoms from either the person who is experiencing them or from a caregiver who sees the manifestation of these symptoms in the day to day. For example, I have given the firsthand experience of coping with depression symptoms on My Depression Connection in a Depression Symptoms Series. I hope to do the same thing here on ADHD Central for the symptoms of ADHD but from the perspective of a caregiver.
What is hyperactivity?
The first thing to know about hyperactivity is that it may or may not be a symptom of ADHD. It is possible that a child will be diagnosed with ADHD who does not exhibit hyperactivity. The diagnostic labels can be confusing and our Eileen Bailey helps us to understand the subtypes of ADHD in her post, “ADD or ADHD: Which is Correct?” Another thing to know about hyperactivity is that this is a symptom which may also be experienced by children on the autism spectrum. And as we are finding there can be a great overlap of symptoms between ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. My main point is that no two children who experience hyperactivity will be the same.
Hyperactivity is said to diminish for some children who are diagnosed with ADHD by adolescence. But for some, feelings of restlessness continue into adulthood.
Sometimes I think that hyperactivity is more about who observes the child than it is an objectively defined symptom. If you have a teacher who expects young children to sit quietly without moving for hours at a time, then she may describe the majority of her class as “hyperactive.” The term “hyperactive” - and is sometimes shortened to “hyper” - has become an overly used descriptor of any child perceived to be energetic and active. But when does this become a problem? When is it part of some diagnosis or a symptom that must be dealt with? The child is usually not complaining or asking for help with his energy level. It usually becomes an issue in school when the teacher or other students cannot handle your child’s inability to sit still, fidgeting, or excessive talking.
What does hyperactivity look like?
My youngest son’s first word was “GO!” He uttered it from within his crib as he was trying to make an escape. And since then he has fully embraced that word as he is always on the go from the time he wakes up until the time he crashes into bed.
What does hyperactivity look like to a parent? A blur. The cartoon character my son most resembles? The Tazmanian Devil. I say this lovingly and with affection: I have visited museums, parks and even whole cities without remembering much because we were always moving at the speed of light. I don’t dare wear any type of shoes but tennis shoes. In my old age I have become a long distance runner. Where my son goes, I follow, and fast.