All children are active. In some children, this activity is poorly controlled. They are inattentive and careless and cannot control their impulses. They are more active than other children, and the disarray of their actions makes it more disturbing to others, especially when they are in groups, such as in school or in team sports.
Hyperactivity, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is much more common in boys than girls. The cause is unknown but a number of forms of metabolic brain injuries or physical traumas have been suggested. Some people feel artificial dyes, sweeteners, or other food products are factors. None of these has been proven. Hereditary factors, however, may play the greatest role. Parents of children with ADHD often show the same characteristics.
The problem becomes most evident during school. Not only does the child disrupt the class and hinder organized teaching, but the disease also prevents the child from attaining his own optimal development, not only academically but socially as well.
Early detection and treatment are helpful in preventing the consequences of “growing up hyperactive.” It is difficult for these children to make up for lost ground in school and to correct their ingrained habits and acceptance of failure.
When hyperactivity is identified, it is usually helpful to treat it. Most children improve with stimulants such as methylphenidate or amphetamines. These medicines are given in the morning and at noon, so the beneficial effects occur during school. Often the child does not use the medicine over weekends or summer vacations. With time, he will usually outgrow the need for the medicines and can assume a normal life, although continuing treatment in adulthood is becoming more common.