Hyperkinetic behavior

Alternative names
Activity - increased; Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is a state of excessive muscular activity. This term is also used to describe a situation when a particular portion of the body is excessively active, such as when a gland produces too much of its particular hormone. See also attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Hyperactive behavior commonly refers to a group of characteristics. This can include constant activity, easy distractibility, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, aggressiveness, and similar behaviors.

Typical behaviors may include fidgeting or constant moving, wandering, excessive talking, and difficulty participating in quiet activities (such as reading).

Hyperactivity is not easily defined, because it often depends on the tolerance of the observer. Behavior that seems excessive to one observer may not seem excessive to another. However, certain children - when compared to others - are clearly far more active, which can become a problem if it interferes with school work or making friends.

Hyperactivity is often considered more of a problem for schools and parents than it is for the affected child. However, many hyperactive children are unhappy or even depressed. Hyperactive behavior may make a child a target for bullying, or make it harder to connect with other children. Schoolwork may be more difficult, and hyperactive kids are frequently punished for their behavior.

Hyperkinetic behavior often decreases as the child grows older, and may disappear entirely by adolescence.

Common Causes

  • Attention deficit disorder  
  • Emotional disorders  
  • Brain or central nervous system disorders  
  • Hyperthyroidism

Home Care
A child who is normally very active often responds well to specific directions and a program of regular physical activity. A child with a hyperactivity disorder, on the other hand, has a hard time following directions and controlling impulses.

Call your health care provider if

  • Your child seems persistently hyperactive  
  • Your child is very active, aggressive, impulsive, and has difficulty concentrating  
  • Your child’s activity level is causing social difficulties, or difficulty with schoolwork

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. There may also be a review of the home and school environments.

Medical history questions documenting hyperactivity in detail may include:

  • Is this a new behavior for the child or has the child always been very active?  
  • Is the behavior getting worse?  
  • Exactly what behavior have you noticed?  
  • Is the child physically active?  
  • Is the child easily distracted?  
  • Does the child have trouble following directions?  
  • Have you noticed anything that makes the child more or less active?  
  • Is the child more active at school than at home?  
  • What other symptoms are present?

The provider may recommend a thorough psychological evaluation.

If a diagnosis was made by your provider regarding the cause of the child’s hyperactivity, you may want to note that diagnosis in your child’s personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Amalia K. Gagarina, M.S., R.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.