24 Feb 2024

How hyper is normal? ADHD vs High Energy 

One of the most common traits in children with ADHD is hyperactivity, but as a parent, it can be difficult to tell if your child …

One of the most common traits in children with ADHD is hyperactivity, but as a parent, it can be difficult to tell if your child is hyperactive or has high energy. In this guide, we’ll explain when you should consider an ADHD assessment for your child.

What is hyperactivity?

The H in ADHD stands for hyperactivity, but what does it mean medically? Well, hyperactivity is typically characterised by constant activity. In ADHD, hyperactivity is classed as having an abnormal amount of energy compared to a neurotypical person. Uncontrolled, hyperactivity can impact your child’s learning and performance at school.

Examples of Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity can manifest in different ways in children with ADHD including;

  • Constant fidgeting: Children with ADHD often have trouble sitting still. They might bounce around in their seat, tap their feet or bounce their legs up and down. They might also find themselves fiddling with their belongings or doodling instead of paying attention in class.
  • High levels of physical energy: A child with ADHD is more likely to play physical games and enjoy activities with high levels of physical activity, as they find it much more stimulating. In addition to finding, it hard to sit still, they might also find it difficult to stay seated, especially during lessons, mealtimes and while relaxing or watching TV.
  • Inability to play quietly: It may be difficult for a child with ADHD to engage in quiet play and they may prefer to engage in loud and active play. It’s common for children with ADHD to get carried away with pretend play which can sometimes be labelled as disruptive.
  • Restlessness: Children with ADHD might have trouble switching off and relaxing, leading to restlessness. Often, they have trouble with bedtime routines and in other scenarios where quiet and calm are required.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is a common trait found in children with ADHD. It can affect all aspects of their day-to-day life. It may also impact their friendships and play if they engage in impulsive behaviour when upset or angry without thinking about the consequences.  
  • Verbal hyperactivity and impulsivity: Children with ADHD are likely to interrupt others when talking. They are also likely to shout out the answer in class when they know it instead of raising their hands. They can also struggle to control their emotional impulses which can mean your child might often fall out with their friends.

Differences between ADHD and high-energy

The main difference between an ADHD and a high-energy child is the ability to control certain behaviours and impulses. A child with ADHD won’t just have high energy, but will also display other symptoms of ADHD such as forgetfulness, impulsivity and difficulty with organisation.

The main difference between a high-energy child and a child with ADHD is that a child with high energy should still be able to control their energy levels when needed, such as in a school environment.

Are all children with ADHD hyperactive?

No, not all children with ADHD are hyperactive. ADHD is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity but the levels that these traits are evident in a child’s behaviour can vary differently from child to child.

It’s also common for symptoms of ADHD to manifest differently between boys and girls. Boys are more likely to display some of the more obvious traits in terms of hyperactive behaviour, whereas girls’ behaviour might be more subtle.

Girls often experience more inattentive traits such as daydreaming, having difficulty being organised, forgetfulness and their hyperactivity often manifests verbally – in a different way to boys. Girls with ADHD are often described as either “chatterboxes” or being “away with the fairies”, whereas boys are more likely to be described as “boisterous”.

How can the Autism Service help?

If your child displays symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that impacts their learning or relationships, an ADHD assessment could be the first step towards the support your child needs to thrive.

Our clinics are based all around the UK, with qualified clinicians with a wealth of experience in assessing ADHD in children. Our assessments are NICE guideline-compliant and are recognised by schools and the NHS. Learn more about our assessments or contact us today.


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