by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Hyperactivity is considered one of the main symptoms of ADHD, however, there can still be a diagnosis of ADHD without the presence of hyperactivity. There are many people that have an inattentive type of ADHD that do not exhibit symptoms that would accompany hyperactivity.

The degree of hyperactivity also can diminish as a child becomes older. This is one of the reasons that it was believed that children grew out of ADHD as they become older. While children may act as if they “are driven by a motor,” never sitting still for a moment or constantly jumping and bouncing, adults might experience a continuous feeling of restlessness. Adults might still have problems sitting still for long periods of time or thrive in high activity situations. Although the symptoms can manifest differently in children and adults, hyperactivity can be present in both.

Characteristics of Hyperactivity in Children

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat

  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected

  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)

  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly

  • Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"

  • Often talks excessively

Characteristics of Hyperactivity in Adults

  • May be constantly moving, even during times sitting still is important, for example, tapping foot on floor, tapping pencil during a meeting, doodling on paper

  • May get bored easily. You might feel bored just a few minutes after you start a project or you may start a new job only to find that a few months later you are once again bored. You may not be able to sit through a television show, finding the inactivity of TV boring. You may have a need to create variety and excitement in everything you do, for example, your food contains more spices, your desk has toys scattered around to keep you occupied, you love to buy gadgets but once you have them you become bored with them.

  • You might become restless easily. You may have trouble sitting down in the evening to relax, finding that you always need to be “doing” something. You may lose interest in conversations or drift in and out of a conversation while you are planning your next activity. At work you may find yourself spending time walking around, socializing, getting coffee or anything else that you can do besides sitting at a desk.

  • You may crave fast paced, risky activities. You may drive fast. You might like fast moving sports such as basketball, you might find baseball to be too slow moving. Hobbies might include hang gliding, sky diving, and other exhilarating activities.

Hyperactivity often interferes with daily activities. In children, constant motion can be disruptive to a classroom. Children might get up to sharpen pencils or constantly be dropping things from their desk. Teachers could be consistently reminding them to sit still. At home, hyperactivity can cause problems with completing homework. Children with hyperactivity do not “play quietly”, they run around, bounce from one thing to another and sometimes, it seems, literally jump off the walls. As children get older, they do tend to calm down a bit but even as teenagers and adults, hyperactivity shows itself, for example, showing itself as restlessness, participating in high-risk activities and driving fast

Medications for ADHD relieve some of the symptoms of hyperactivity, allowing people to sit still long enough to complete a task. For some people, learning to live with hyperactivity is the best course of action. They may design their lives around their constant need for action, finding a job that does not require them to sit for long periods and will allow them movement throughout the day.

More on symptoms of ADHD:

Common Symptoms of ADHD in Women

Comparing Symptoms of ADHD in Children and Adults

How ADHD Symptoms in Children Appear in “Real-Life”

How ADHD Symptoms Manifest in Adults


Yin and Yang of the Bouncing Brain

New Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD: Subtle but Important Changes

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.