Case history of hyperactivity

John was brought to the Allergy Clinic because of concerns about his progress at school. He was seven years old at the time. His teacher had complained that his concentration was poor and that he was giddy during class. His mother added that he sometimes 'goes wild, absolutely wild’ and that he is likely to thrash out at anyone within striking distance when he gets into one of these moods. John, for his part, was more concerned about the fact that he had frequent headache, and that he was always running to the loo with diarrhoea. He also complained of feeling tired all the time — a paradoxical symptom, given that he was always on the go and never paused for a moment's rest. During his visit, he stuck his nose into every nook and cranny of the office, mauled every valuable item on the desk, spent less than 5 per cent of the time in his chair, and was pulled back several times from expensive medical equipment. Throughout this time, he shouted several unrepeatable sentences at his mother, and interrupted our conversation frequently. John, by any reasonable standards, was suffering from hyperactivity.

Hyperactive children have long tested the patience of their parents, siblings and teachers. They have also eluded the best medical attempts to categorise and tame them! Over the years, doctors have espoused, and then rejected, countless descriptive terms for the condition. This may be because the condition is in fact a conglomeration of several different conditions with overlapping features. Thus, it is important that we agree somewhat more precisely on what it is we mean by ‘hyperactivity'.

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