Hyperactivity describes an excessive state of activity, particularly motor activity, that may be transient or chronic.

Hyperactive behavior is commonly associated with children, though adults may also exhibit hyperactivity. Common hyperactive behaviors include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Fidgeting, frequent motor activity, or the need for frequent physical activity
  • Excessive talking
  • Difficulty following directions

What Causes Hyperactivity?
Some people may naturally be more active than others, and activity level is believed by some psychologists to be an important component of personality. Caffeine and sugar are especially likely to cause hyperactivity, and stimulant drugs–both illegal and prescription–can also increase activity.

Role in Mental Health
Some mental health conditions are associated with hyperactivity. Most notably, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic state of hyperactivity coupled with difficulty paying attention. ADHD is frequently diagnosed in children, but adults can also suffer from the condition. Mania can also result in hyperactivity. Anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and some personality disorders can also contribute to hyperactive behavior, though hyperactivity is not the characteristic trait of these disorders.

Is There Treatment for Hyperactivity?
Most people experience brief bouts of hyperactivity, and when hyperactivity is transient, it does not require treatment. However, when hyperactivity interferes with concentration or is a symptom of an underlying health condition, it may necessitate treatment. Stimulant drugs are often prescribed to help people struggling with hyperactivity gain better concentration. Lifestyle changes, structured schedules, and nutritional changes may also help peoplestruggling with hyperactivity.

The diagnosis of ADHD and other hyperactivity-related illnesses in children is controversial, with many experts and laypeople arguing that hyperactivity is the natural state of some children and that it is dangerous to medicate normal behavior. A poor fit between a person and their environment may also contribute to hyperactivity. For example, a child who reads well above her grade level may become hyper in class due to boredom. For this reason, clinicians treating hyperactivity should look at both environmental and lifestyle factors in addition to considering prescription medication.


  1. Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  2. Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Last Updated: 01-5-2024

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