Hyperactivity is considered to be 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 may have a continuous feeling of restlessness. Adults may still have problems sitting still for long periods of time or thrive in high activity situations. Although the symptoms may manifest differently in children and adults, hyperactivity can be present in both.
Characteristics of Hyperactivity in Children
The DSM-IV lists the characteristics of hyperactivity as:
- 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. Boredom may sit in 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 may 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 can interfere with daily activities. In children, constant motion can be disruptive to a classroom. Children may get up to sharpen pencils or constantly be dropping things from their desk. Teachers may 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, hyperactivity shows itself.
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.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.