What causes hyperactivity? 7 possible conditions

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What Is Hyperactivity?

Hyperactivity means being more active than is usual or desirable. Depending on the cause, hyperactivity has many different characteristics. The most common of these are:

  • constant movement
  • aggressive behavior
  • impulsive behavior
  • being easily distracted

Many different mental diseases and medical conditions have hyperactivity as a symptom. People who are hyperactive may develop other problems due to the inability to stay still or concentrate. For example, hyperactivity may lead to difficulties at school or work. It may strain relationships with friends and family. It may lead to accidents and injuries. And it increases the risk for alcohol and drug abuse, and other delinquent behaviors.

Hyperactivity is often considered more difficult for those around the hyperactive person—such as teachers, employers, and parents—than it is for the person who is hyperactive. However, hyperactive people often become anxious or depressed because of their condition and the way people respond to them.

One of the main disorders that displays hyperactivity as a marker is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a disorder that causes the person to become overactive, inattentive, and impulsive. This condition is usually diagnosed at a young age. Some people, however, suffer from ADHD as adults.

Hyperactivity is treatable. For the best results, early treatment is usually required.

What Causes Hyperactivity?

Hyperactivity can be caused by mental and physical disorders. The most common causes for hyperactivity are:

  • ADHD
  • hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone)
  • brain disorders
  • nervous system disorders
  • psychological disorders

Recognizing the Signs of Hyperactivity

One or several signs may be present. These depend on the cause of the disorder. Hyperactive children may have difficulty concentrating in school. They may also display impulsive behaviors such as:

  • talking out of turn
  • blurting things out (this is a typical symptom of Tourette’s syndrome)
  • hitting other students
  • being overactive

Adults who display hyperactivity may also display the following:

  • difficulty concentrating at work
  • short attention span
  • difficulty remembering names, numbers, or bits of information

Anxiety or depression may occur if the person is distressed about the condition. Adults who have hyperactivity probably displayed these symptoms as children.

How Is Hyperactivity Diagnosed?

If you or your child is displaying signs of hyperactivity, speak to your doctor. Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms. Questions will focus on when the symptoms began, and will also look at recent changes in your overall health. Your physician will ask if you are taking any medications to treat a medical or mental health condition. The answers to these questions will help your doctor determine what type of hyperactivity you are displaying. They will also help to gauge if it is a new or worsening condition. Your answers will also help your doctor determine if the cause is simply a medication side effect.

In addition, your doctor may take a blood or urine sample to check your hormone levels. An imbalance of thyroid hormone or other hormones may result in hyperactivity.

If your doctor feels this is a mental condition, he or she will refer you to a mental health specialist for treatment.

How Is Hyperactivity Treated?

If a condition affecting your thyroid, brain, or nervous system is causing your hyperactivity, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat the underlying problem. Hyperactivity can also be caused by an emotional disorder. If this is the case, you will be treated by a mental health specialist.

A mental health specialist will review your symptoms to determine what condition you may have. Once a condition is diagnosed, you may be given medications or therapy to help control the hyperactivity.


Common therapies used to treat hyperactivity are:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • talk therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change yours patterns of thinking and behavior. Talk therapy involves discussing your symptoms with a therapist. The therapist can teach you how to cope with the condition and reduce its effects.


When therapy isn’t enough, you may need to take medicine to control symptoms from the brain. These medications have a calming effect. They are often prescribed for children and adults. These drugs include:

  • dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall)
  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat)
  • lisdeamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin)

Some of these medications are habit-forming. Your doctor or mental health care provider will monitor your intake.

You may also be advised to avoid stimulants that may trigger symptoms. Commonly used stimulants to be avoided are caffeine and nicotine.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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