Children with hyperactive ADHD often fidget, squirm, and struggle to stay seated; they may appear to act as if “driven by a motor,” according to the DSM. Hyperactive symptoms don’t disappear in adulthood, but they do often morph into racing thoughts, non-stop talking, social interruptions, and poor self-control. This type of ADHD is seldom recognized or diagnosed later in life, especially in women, though its symptoms are pervasive and life altering.
ADDitude recently asked adults with hyperactive ADHD how their symptoms have changed or stayed the same since childhood, and how hyperactivity affects their thoughts, actions, and life as a whole. Share your experience with life-long hyperactivity in the Comments section below.
Hyperactive ADHD in Adulthood
“Hyperactivity affects every aspect of my life. I’m the most energetic person I know, working a very physical job with an 18-mile round trip bike commute, even during the winter. The stigma that made me ashamed of being hyperactive set me back way more than actual hyperactivity ever has. I’m never going be able to sit still, but I can be self-confident and happy. My high level of physical activity allows me to think clearly, stay calm, and regulate my emotions. Suppressing my hyperactivity made me an unfocused wreck. By channeling it, I’ve gained valuable coping skills and my mood and focus are better.” – Andy, Illinois
“It was a relief to receive an explanation for why I, unconsciously and unintentionally, interrupt people all the time. I’m pretty much as hyperactive as I was when I was a child – it’s just interpreted by society as anxiety now. The impulsivity factor is interesting in social situations: I always get called out for something I said or a way I acted, even when I don’t see anything wrong with it.” – Mariela, Panama
“Hyperactivity sends my thoughts racing, especially when I’m in a tough situation. My mind tries to find all possible solutions. I often forget what I’m going to say. In school, I spaced out or got bored when I wasn’t challenged. As an adult, I can manage staying on task for boring things, but I know better than to put myself in unchallenging scenarios for extended periods of time.” – Crystal, Missouri
“My hyperactive ADHD manifests differently from my husband and sons, who are always moving. The hyperactivity does not help me get housework done or get going with exercise (unfortunately). I am a doodler who has been able to take that “nervous energy” and create beautiful works of art. I am also a talker — rambling, over-excited, usually one-sided talking that the person listening to me usually doesn’t understand.” – Beth, Colorado
“Before diagnosis in my 30s (I am a typical slipped-through-the-cracks ADHD female), I never suspected hyperactivity because I can also be a sloth for days, especially when paralyzed or overwhelmed by emotional or organizational problems. The only difference in older age is that I’m acutely aware of my problems and sometimes I can attribute an emotional outburst or a flurry of activity to my ADHD, thus making it easier to forgive or manage myself.” – Julie, Oregon
“I have a hard time staying on topic and not interrupting. I tend to leave other people behind when I go off on tangents.” – Alex, Georgia
“My thoughts rarely stop. I jump ahead in conversations and integrate information quicker than anyone I know. That’s the positive side. The downside is imagining negative outcomes for every action and decision I make.” – Drew, Canada
“As a child, my hyperactivity was dismissed as disobedience when I couldn’t sit still or when I interrupted instead of raising my hand. Now that I’m older, I tend to dismiss college assignments because they aren’t engaging enough, which has negatively affected my grades. Imagine that everyone is a library with an online, easily searchable catalog, while I have to navigate the Dewey Decimal System. Half the time, the book is already checked out.” – Beth
“I interrupt conversations, usually because I may not remember what I needed to say or because I know I’ll lose my concentration if I wait till the end of the conversation. I also have social anxiety and am overwhelmed with stimuli outside of my home.” – Anonymous
“It touches every part of my life, in both positive and negative ways. For the most part, it remains unchanged from childhood. I couldn’t sit still then, and still can’t. People have chastised me (with varying degrees of tact) my whole life for drumming on whatever is nearby. On the plus side, the fidgeting impulse drove me to become an accomplished musician, including – surprise – drums!” – Dave, Oregon
“In my 30s, my primary doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and put me on Xanax when I told him I could not sleep because my brain would not shut off. A few years later, I finally got the ADHD diagnosis and went on Adderall XR. At 43, I’m a single mom to an 11 year old with ADHD. The growing responsibilities that come with single parenting made my hyperactivity worse: the to-do list is ever mounting, the overthinking and second guessing everything is exhausting and debilitating.” – Anonymous
“I have the energy of a much younger person. I don’t require a lot of sleep (never have).” – AJ, New Jersey
“My husband will say, ‘Penny for your thoughts,’ and I have to decide if he wants the 20 that are whirling through my brain right now or the 16 my mind was racing through when he asked. I can be having a conversation and be trying to alphabetize the grocery list in my head at the same time. The racing thoughts have increased as I have gotten older.” – Anonymous
“I was a hyperactive kid, so my parents took me to art classes, soccer, gymnastics, piano classes, etc. to neutralize my hyperactivity. As an adult (with fewer activities) my hyperactivity transformed to racing thoughts.” – Anonymous
“When required to sit quietly in a meeting, I tighten muscles in my legs and release them again and again – it is the only way I can manage to get through a meeting. I cannot watch even a half hour television show without getting up and leaving. At 76 years old, I manage to work up to eight hours at a stretch – when I was younger I could do 15. I get twice as much work done as any young person that I hire to help me.” – Ann, Minnesota
“I’m a late-diagnosed, 33-year-old woman, and it mostly affects my thoughts and conversations as opposed to actions and activity level. It’s always been that way for me and hasn’t improved as I’ve gotten older. I find it difficult to follow conversations, pay attention in meetings, read books, or sit still during movies. I’ll say something I didn’t mean, or I’ll over-analyze situations.” – Heidi, North Carolina
Hyperactive Symptoms of Adult ADHD: Next Steps
- ADHD Symptoms Checklist: Signs of Each Subtype in Adults & Children
- Read: “Suddenly, a Lifetime of Struggles Made Sense”
- Learn: ADHD or Just Hyperactive?
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.
This content was originally published here.