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ADD & ADHD Center

What Are the Causes of Hyperactivity in Children?

author image Richard Nilsen
Richard Nilsen writes poetry, fiction, features and news stories in upstate New York. He was an emergency mental-health consultant for 20 years and directed a mentoring agency for a decade. Nilsen is a black-fly control technician in the Adirondack Park, where he enjoys hiking, biking and boating.
What Are the Causes of Hyperactivity in Children?
Hyper boys playing outside. Photo Credit: Steve Baccon/Photodisc/Getty Images

Children who are said to be hyperactive tend to have difficulty paying attention to task, move from one activity to another, lose interest in any subject quickly and may be behaviorally disruptive. While there is much discussion on the causes, from poor parenting to toxic exposure to modern lifestyles, many see some common factors.

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One cause for hyperactivity in children is anxiety. The anxiety may stem from a lack of a secure, structured home life, or an environment in which the roles of parent and child have become reversed. Whether the child is bombarded with sensory stimulation or has no regular routines for daily activity, anxiety can result and can cause hyperactivity.


Nervousness in children can cause them to be hyperactive. Nervousness can be shown by nail biting, fidgeting or nervous medical conditions or disorders. Repeated behaviors that serve no useful purpose can be symptomatic of nervous conditions.


Stress can cause hyperactivity. When there is no stabilizing force in a child’s life, and she is unsure what to expect from her actions, stress occurs, and the child may become hyperactive to compensate. Erratic parental responses to children can cause such stress, but environmental factors over which a parent has little control can be at fault. Extreme poverty, chaotic weather, homelessness or a dangerous environment can cause a child to show signs of hyperactivity.


Studies have shown that hyperactivity may be genetic. Brain scans of hyperactive children show similar brain wave activity in the areas of the brain that control activity and attention. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one out of four children with hyperactivity have a near relative with the problem.


Exposure to toxins may increase the risk of hyperactivity in children. The toxic exposure can be caused by a child ingesting lead in paint in older residential housing, or the mother may have been exposed to toxins like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) before or during pregnancy.

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