ADHD Hyperactivity

Understanding the Spectrum of Hyperactivity in ADHD

Hyperactivity in people with ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all symptom; it exists on a spectrum, affecting individuals in diverse ways. From mild restlessness to constant motion and impulsive actions, the spectrum of hyperactivity in ADHD requires personalized management strategies. Tailored approaches, including behavioral interventions, medication, supportive environments, and lifestyle modifications, play crucial roles in helping those with ADHD navigate their symptoms effectively. Recognizing the spectrum allows for a better understanding and support, ensuring individuals receive the most appropriate and effective care tailored to their needs.

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word from our expert

The Complexity of Hyperactive ADHD: Are You Missing the Signs?

Many think ADHD is all about not being able to sit still or getting distracted by every little thing. But hyperactive-impulsive ADHD? That's a whole other ball game. It's not just about fidgeting or losing focus; hyperactivity has layers  -some you can see and some you can't.

Let's break down what hyperactive ADHD means by exploring:

  • The full spectrum of ADHD symptoms, both visible and invisible.
  • How to identify the signs of hyperactive ADHD in yourself and others.
  • Exploring the challenges and strengths associated with this subtype.
  • Managing and treating hyperactive ADHD symptoms.

Ready to see hyperactivity in a new light? Let's dive in. 👇

hyperactivity is mostly present in 2 of the 3 adhd types.

Understanding the Hyperactivity in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodivergent condition that affects the brain’s executive functions. 

The exact cause of ADHD is unclear, but research suggests that dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to emotional regulation and reward-seeking behaviors, plays a key role. People with ADHD often have altered dopamine levels, possibly due to higher dopamine transporter density (DTD) in their neurons, affecting dopamine regulation.

Additionally, according to neuroimaging research, there are structural differences between the brains of people with ADHD and those without. 

According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are three categories of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: 

  • Predominantly Inattentive Type
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
  • Combined Type

Those who have inattentive ADHD and experience predominantly inattentive symptoms typically experience difficulties in maintaining attention or trouble staying focused during their daily tasks. 

They may be easily distracted by sounds, sights, or even slight stimuli. It can become difficult to filter out unnecessary information, and it can be challenging for them to finish a task, especially in a noisy environment. 

Individuals with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD often feel like they’re driven by a motor, either physically or mentally. They may constantly fidget or have trouble waiting their turn to speak.  

If you experience both hyperactive & impulsive behavior and inattention symptoms, you may be diagnosed with the Combined Type of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Of the three ADHD categories, it is said that Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type is the least common, with inattentive ADHD being the frontrunner.. However, it is believed that it is the ADHD category with the easiest identifiable symptoms and behavior, which means it might be a little easier to spot earlier. 

So, what does a person with hyperactive ADHD experience? 🤔

The DSM-5 Criteria for Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

When you seek an ADHD diagnosis, your mental health professional will use the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose and categorize you into one of the three ADHD types. 

The diagnostic criteria for Hyperactive-Impulsive Type Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder include the following symptoms:

  1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms while sitting.
  2. Often leaves the seat when the person is expected to stay in place.
  3. Often run or climb in inappropriate situations (for children with ADHD) or feel extreme restlessness (for adults).
  4. Cannot participate in leisure activities quietly, instead having a tendency to play loudly
  5. Often described as a person ‘on the go’, as if energy is unlimited.
  6. Often talks excessively.
  7. Often blurts out answers before a question is completed.
  8. Often has difficulty waiting for his or her turn.
  9. Often interrupts or intrudes on others, like butting into conversations.

For a diagnosis, at least five symptoms must persist for six months or more, affect two or more areas of life (such as work, school, or home), and be unsuitable for the person's age and development stage.

For children aged 16 or under, six or more symptoms must be present. 

If you meet the criteria for this and show five or more symptoms of inattention, you may be diagnosed with Combined-Type ADHD.

We want to highlight how important it is to have a professional evaluate you for ADHD.  

If you think you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you should seek an official diagnosis so you can get the help that you deserve. It can be a long process, but it’s worth it. 

Visualize your ADHD traits!

Take our fun online quiz to visualize your ADHD traits and learn more about your brain!


Identifying the Signs of Hyperactive ADHD

Even within the same type of ADHD, everyone experiences their own unique set of symptoms and challenges differently.. That said, some hyperactivity symptoms are more common than others like fidgeting and impulsive behavior.

Research suggests that people with ADHD hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are often physically restless or mentally hyperactive

That’s why someone can have hyperactive ADHD and not be visibly hyperactive. Racing thoughts are also a form of hyperactivity, and can’t be seen.

Let’s explore some of the key symptoms in detail:

Fidgeting or Stimming

One of the more noticeable, visible symptoms of hyperactive ADHD is self-stimulation (or stimming). This is a behavior we share with our other neurodivergent friends, such as people with autism.

Stimming is the act of self-stimulating the senses through repetitive behavior. The idea is to regulate and activate their nervous system and counteract understimulation. This can look like hand movements, tapping, humming, singing songs repeatedly for days, or even habits like skin-picking and nail-biting

Basically, it’s anything that makes you feel something. 

It’s a form of self-regulation that most people pick up unknowingly in childhood. 

physical hyperactivity can sometimes be repressed or hidden

Impulsive Behaviors
Impulsivity is a big part of this type of ADHD and can manifest in many ways with varying levels of consequences. 

Examples of impulsivity include: 

  • Impulsive spending
  • Being impatient waiting in line
  • Standing up in classes or meetings where it’s inappropriate
  • Blurting out answers or interrupting 
  • Trying new hobbies (and quickly losing interest)
  • Taking unnecessary risks and getting into risky situations
  • Excessive drinking or substance abuse
  • Unsafe sex

As you can see, each has undesirable consequences, often either financial or social. This is why some adults with ADHD struggle to manage their finances, keep a job or maintain relationships.


Think everyone with ADHD has an unlimited source of energy? Think again. Internal and external hyperactivity is exhausting - humans aren’t meant to be going full-speed at all times. Fatigue is very common, with daytime energy dropping much more than the usual afternoon slump. 

Sleep Issues

It also doesn’t help that ADHD makes sleep difficult. There are plenty of reasons for this:

  • Racing thoughts and bursts of inspiration while trying to sleep.
  • Struggling to stick to a routine, especially a sleep schedule.
  • Late-night hyperfocus sessions. 
  • Side effects of ADHD medications.

All of this can lead to sleep disorders and a generally poor sleep quality. And, of course, this leads to fatigue the next day. Lack of sleep can also worsen ADHD symptoms and increase difficulty sustaining attention.

hyperactivity can also be mental

Navigating Challenges and Embracing Strengths

ADHD is a challenge - there’s no escaping that fact. If not managed correctly, it can affect your mental health, cause behavior problems and low self-esteem, and make it hard to maintain relationships.

But a hyperactive mind isn’t always a bad thing.

If you have ADHD, there’s a good chance you’re seriously creative. 🤩 When you’ve got a million ideas and strategies racing through your mind at once, it’s a statistical probability that you’ve got a winner. 😉

Sure, this is great if you’re in a creative field, but what if you’re not? Well, in today’s job market, creativity, and problem-solving are consistently listed as some of the top skills for any industry. 

You may also have a natural talent for entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is all about finding solutions to problems, and that’s exactly what the hyperactive ADHD brain often excels at. You just need the right tools to refine these thoughts and ideas.

In your personal life, your spontaneity and creativity may be what attracts people to you. You’re probably interesting to others because you have so many interests. And many people will love and share your passion for the things you’re into. 

Your varied interests likely mean you fit into so many different communities, so if you’re having trouble making and keeping friends, that’s a good place to start.  

Learning to manage your ADHD is step one in your journey, and should be your top priority, but finding ways to embrace it will make life not only easier but happier.

hyperactivity can vary in time...

Managing & Treating ADHD Hyperactivity

If you're dealing with ADHD, my advice is always to proactively seek ways to work with it, not against it. Though it might feel easier to just let things be and overlook the symptoms, that approach is often more challenging in the long run.

This starts with getting a proper diagnosis of ADHD. 

Discovering management strategies and tools that work with your brain can feel like putting on those glasses you didn’t think you needed, and suddenly being able to see.

Ways to Treat ADHD

Seeking an official ADHD diagnosis allows you to get treatment from medical professionals. Treating ADHD doesn’t necessarily mean taking stimulant medications (though that does help some people). It also looks like behavioral therapy or social skills training.

These can be very powerful tools to treat ADHD and mental disorders.

But unfortunately, treatment is limited and can be expensive, especially in countries where healthcare isn’t free or there simply aren’t enough trained medical professionals to diagnose ADHD, let alone treat it. 

Managing your symptoms, or your child’s, however, is entirely within your control at all times.

hyperactivity can be awesome but also exhausting

Managing ADHD in Children & Adults

If you’re a parent, teaching your child or teenager to manage their symptoms is essential. Without this during their developmental years, they may be at risk of developing learning disabilities or a mood disorder. 

It can be difficult, especially if you don’t have ADHD and can’t understand your child’s behavior or mood swings, but the best thing you can do is try to educate yourself so you can educate them. Speak to your child’s doctor or check out resources from organizations like the National Resource Center on ADHD and the American Psychiatric Association.

As an adult, it's crucial to continue treating your ADHD with the seriousness it deserves. With activities that require sustained mental effort, pay attention to which you can tolerate and which you can’t. You should do the same with environmental factors like noise levels and light sensitivity.

Armed with this knowledge, you'll gain deeper self-insight and prevent the onset of mental health issues, like an anxiety disorder or depression. 

Find Ways to Make It Fun

One of my favorite tips is to actually find ways to enjoy managing symptoms. I know that may sound impossible, but hear me out. 😆

Like many with ADHD, I have difficulty organizing tasks, tend to make careless mistakes, lose focus, or frequently forget things. 

So I find fun, dopamine-inducing ways to help. Making a to-do list and checking things off may not sound glamorous, but it’s a satisfying way to stay focused and concentrate on one task at a time.

Plus I love problem-solving and finding new ways to do things, so whenever I identify a pain point, either in my life or work, I’ll research and create ways to make things easier. 

Managing your symptoms doesn’t have to be a chore! 🙏

Remember: Hyperactivity can look and feel different for every person with ADHD

Remember, having hyperactivity and ADHD doesn't define your character or who you are. 

You've probably been told your whole life to ‘tone it down’ and made to feel annoying or too much.

However, your energy and unique perspective are actually superpowers in disguise. They allow you to see the world in vibrant colors, tackle challenges creatively, and connect with others on a deeply empathetic level. Embrace your differences - they make you who you are and guide you to where you're meant to be.

ADHD & Hyeractivity

Key Takeaways

  • The CDC identifies three ADHD categories: Predominantly Inattentive Type, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined Type, each presenting unique challenges.

  • The DSM-5 outlines specific symptoms for diagnosing Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD. 

However, in day-to-day life, the hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD can manifest as:

  • Fidgeting or Stimming: Visible behaviors like hand movements, tapping, or humming to stimulate the senses and regulate the nervous system.

  • Impulsive Behaviors: Actions such as impulsive spending, blurting out answers, and taking risks that can have significant consequences.

  • Fatigue: Despite the stereotype of endless energy, individuals with ADHD often experience fatigue due to constant mental and physical activity.

  • Sleep Disorders: Difficulty falling asleep due to racing thoughts, an irregular sleep schedule, or medication side effects, leading to poor sleep quality and increased fatigue.

  • Seeking an official diagnosis is crucial for accessing appropriate treatment and support, which can significantly improve quality of life. Effective management involves medical treatment, behavioral therapy, and personal strategies tailored to your needs and symptoms.

  • While having hyperactive-impulsive ADHD presents challenges, it also brings unique strengths such as creativity, problem-solving abilities, and a dynamic perspective on life.

Remember, ADHD is a part of your identity but does not define you. Embrace your uniqueness, play to your strengths, and seek support when needed. With the right strategies and mindset, you can navigate life with hyperactive ADHD successfully.

What’s Next?

Want to explore the symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD in more depth? 

Check out these related articles. 👇

Exploring the Role of Fidgeting in ADHD Management

Tackling Persistent Fatigue in Adults with ADHD

Staying Focused: Understanding & Overcoming Distractions With ADHD

ADHD and the Rush of Racing Thoughts

Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

Visualize and assess 25 ADHD traits and understand how they affect your life.

Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you calm down an adult with ADHD?

Calming an adult with ADHD involves various strategies focused on mental health and wellbeing. Techniques can include mindfulness practices, structured routines, and physical activity. It's also beneficial to minimize distractions in their environment and encourage tasks that require manual dexterity or concentration. Support groups and professional advice from organizations like the American Psychiatric Association can offer tailored strategies.

Does ADHD calm down as you get older?

Research and clinical observations suggest that while the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD, such as physical restlessness, may decrease with age, other symptoms like inattention or impulsivity can persist into adulthood. Many adults find strategies to manage their symptoms better. They may seek support from mental health professionals to navigate the challenges associated with ADHD.

What is hyperactivity like in ADHD?

Hyperactivity in ADHD is characterized by excessive physical activity, impulsivity, and difficulty controlling attention. Individuals might feel an inner restlessness, struggle to stay still, and often engage in unnecessary risks. This hyperactivity can vary significantly among individuals, making it crucial to diagnose ADHD accurately and manage it effectively.

Share this article on Social Media

Help us raise awareness around ADHD, let's spread ADHD love and support to all that need it.

If you liked this article you are going to like these ones:

Check out more content about similar topics: