Hyperactive Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options, and Barriers to Diagnosis

Childhood hyperactivity is a pervasive disorder.

We all know kids who can’t sit still, who never seem to listen, who don’t follow directions no matter how they are presented, or who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times.

Sometimes these kids are labeled troublemakers or criticized for being lazy and undisciplined. However, they may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex mental health disorder that can affect your child’s school success and relationships. The symptoms of ADHD vary and are sometimes difficult to recognize.

Many of the individual symptoms of ADHD are typical for any child. So, to make a diagnosis of ADHD, your child’s doctor will need to evaluate your child using several criteria.

ADHD is generally diagnosed in children as teenagers, with an average age of 7 years.

Older children who show symptoms may have ADHD, but they often exhibit elaborate symptoms early in life.



Although ADHD is the most common cause of hyperactive children, other conditions can cause hyperactivity:

Symptoms that a child is hyperactive

Common signs of ADHD include:

1. Self-centered behavior: A common sign of ADHD is what appears to be an inability to recognize the needs and wants of other people. This can lead to the following two signs.

2. Interrupt: Self-focused behavior can cause a child with ADHD to interrupt others while talking or in conversations or games they are not a part of.

3. Trouble waiting their turn: Children with ADHD may have trouble staying during classroom activities or playing with other children.

4. Emotional confusion: A child with ADHD may have trouble controlling his emotions. They may have angry outbursts at inappropriate times. Younger children can have tantrums.

5. Restlessness: Children with ADHD often cannot sit still. They may try to get up and run, fidget, or squirm in their chair when forced to sit.

6. Problems with quiet play: Restlessness can make it difficult for children with ADHD to play quietly or participate calmly in leisure activities.

7. Unfinished Tasks: A child with ADHD may show interest in many things but may have trouble finishing them. For example, they can start projects, chores, or chores but move on to the next something that interests them before finishing.

8. Lack of focus: A child with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, even when someone is speaking directly to them. They will say they heard you, but they will not be able to repeat what you just said.

9. Avoid tasks requiring prolonged mental effort: This lack of concentration can cause a child to avoid activities that require sustained mental effort, such as paying attention in class or doing homework.

10. Mistakes: Children with ADHD may have trouble following directions that require planning or executing a plan. This can lead to careless mistakes, but it does not indicate laziness or lack of intelligence.

11. Daydreaming: Children with ADHD are not always boisterous. Another sign of ADHD is being quieter and less complicated than other children. A child with ADHD may stare into space, daydream, and ignore what is happening around him.

12. Trouble getting organized: A child with ADHD may have trouble keeping track of tasks and activities. This can cause problems at school, as it can be difficult for them to prioritize homework, school projects, and other charges.

13. Forgetfulness: Children with ADHD can be forgetful in daily activities. They may forget to do housework or homework. They can also lose things often, like toys.

14. Symptoms in multiple settings: A child with ADHD will show symptoms of the condition in more than one setting. For example, they may offer a lack of concentration both at school and at home.

All children will display some of these behaviors at some point. However, you should start thinking about the next steps if:

  • Your child regularly shows signs of ADHD.
  • This behavior affects their success in school and leads to negative interactions with their peers.

Treatment options for ADHD

ADHD is treatable. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, review all treatment options. Then set a time to meet with a doctor or psychologist to determine the best course of action.

Parent training (behavioral)

Parenting interventions are the first-line treatment options for children. Parents are trained in behavior modification principles, such as positive reinforcement at home.

The goal is to enhance parents’ understanding of behavioral principles and children’s compliance with parental mandates.

School intervention (behavioral)

Like parenting intervention, teachers receive training in classroom-based behavior strategies to improve problem behavior and academic achievement.

child psychotherapy

Psychotherapies for children with ADHD may include social skills training, anger management, and problem-solving.

Medication – Stimulants

Stimulants have effectively treated many children with ADHD and are the most prevalent ADHD medical treatment.

Clinical studies have found that therapeutic doses of stimulants can improve PFC function and efficiency, reducing ADHD symptoms.

Parents should ensure that their child only takes the recommended dose as directed by the doctors. Excessive consumption of stimulants can affect PFC functions and become exaggerated.

For parents who have teens with newly diagnosed ADHD, before beginning any drug treatment, they should work with doctors to assess teen substance abuse symptoms.

If substance use is identified, the abuse must be addressed before drug treatment can begin.

Medication – Non-stimulants

Stimulants are not for everyone. Some people cannot tolerate stimulant treatment.

There may be adverse side effects such as tics, aggressive impulses, or liability for drug abuse. For those people, non-stimulant medications are another option.

Non-stimulants generally take longer to work. The child may have to take them for some time before noticing an improvement in symptoms.

ADHD treatment plan for children

ADHD is an early-onset disorder. The latest research shows that up to 60% of children with ADHD continue to have ADHD symptoms into adulthood. It is a chronic condition that must be treated for a lifetime for these people.

Selecting the correct treatment approach with the help of a doctor is crucial. But it also helps to be equipped with information about each treatment option.

Here is a summary of the treatments recommended by the AAP. Recommendations are based on the age of the patient:

Preschoolers (4-5 years old)

The first line of treatment for preschool-aged children is evidence-based parent-administered (and teacher-administered) behavioral therapy. If behavioral intervention alone does not significantly improve the child’s functioning, medication may be prescribed.

Elementary school children (6-11 years old)

For elementary school-age children, medication and behavior therapy are recommended, but a combination of the two is preferable.

The school setting, program, or location setting is also recommended.

For teens (12-18 years old)

For adolescents, medication (with adolescent approval) and behavioral therapy are recommended, but a combination of both is preferable.

The diet factor

Using diets to treat children with ADHD has been a popular and attractive solution since the 1920s. These treatments are controversial because there is not enough empirical evidence to support their effectiveness.

Conclusive results are challenging to obtain due to flaws in the study designs. Also, children may have different food sensitivities and intolerances.

Common dietary interventions include an additive-free diet (e.g., artificial flavors and colors), a sugar elimination diet, food allergies and sensitivities elimination diet, and a fatty acid supplement diet.

Parents can determine whether a specific diet is suitable for their children through testing errors. But it is essential to do it under the guidance of nutritionists to ensure that the diet is balanced and meets the needs of your growing child.

Safety in drug treatment

The first concern in using drugs to treat the disorder is safety.

Safety is a concern with all medications, not just ADHD medications. But since these drugs target the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, which are much more complex than other organs in our bodies, there is an increased risk of unforeseen problems.

Another concern is adverse side effects, such as loss of appetite or the development of tics. Stimulant abuse for untreated use is another major issue feared by parents.

Because of all of these concerns, parents are advised to begin non-drug treatment before considering adding medication to it.

However, if non-drug treatment has not been effective or sufficient, parents must weigh the fear of these potential problems against the benefits to be gained from the use of medications.

When ADHD is not treated, the effects can have a significant impact on a child’s learning, self-esteem, relationship, and quality of life.

Barriers to diagnosis and treatment

One of the reasons parents often raise barriers to diagnosis is fear of the stigma of mental illness.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the microcirculation circuits. Brain circuits are more flexible in younger brains than in older ones (this flexibility is called brain plasticity).

The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner interventions can be provided and the more likely they can disrupt the risk pathways that lead to ADHD.