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What Is Hypoactivity?

By L.L. Probst
Updated: Feb 10, 2024

Hypoactivity is a learning disorder that affects an individual’s ability to process and react to information or situations in a timely matter. It is closely related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The individual, however, presents in quite the opposite manner as would be expected with someone who is considered to be hyperactive.

Often called attention deficit hypoactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity, hypoactivity can be a debilitating disorder. It is characterized by an inability to fully and quickly process information, behavior that appears to be slow to react and difficulty handling stressful and social situations. It is believed to be a genetic neurological condition affecting the frontal lobes of the brain, although there are other possible causes, including environmental exposures and difficulties during pregnancy and delivery.

People who have hypoactivity disorder show a disconnect in being able to take a thought and convert it into quick action. Signs include a delay in being able to answer questions, difficulty taking timed tests, inattentiveness in school and poor or failing grades. The sufferer unusually has shy or quiet behavior, has a delay in motor ability and reflexes and will display social problems. Teachers and parents often view children who have hypoactivity as not trying hard enough in school or lazy.

Anxiety and disorganization also are commonly seen symptoms. The anxiety of not fitting in socially and the pressure form peer judgment can lead the individual to be emotionally exhausted and even more withdrawn by the end of the day. Handwriting, desks, bedrooms, vehicles and other environments inhabited by someone with hypoactivity tend to be highly disorganized and messy because of an inability to focus on more than one objective at a time.

The social problems stemming from hypoactivity can be debilitating and are often misdiagnosed as other psychological disorders. These individuals can suffer from depression caused by feelings of being outcasts from society. Depression and anxiety typically are the initial diagnosis of people who are suffering from this disorder.

Diagnosis can be made through positron emission tomography (PET) scans, through which decreased brain activity can be observed. There also are psychological and intellectual tests, such as the processing speed index test, that can be administered by teachers or therapists. Direct observation and close attention from parents and teachers can quicken the diagnosis by being able to give a complete behavioral picture to doctors.

Initial treatment of hypoactivity is a mixture of prescription psychological drugs and therapy. For children, it is beneficial for there to be an individual education program report for parents and teachers as a work direction tool. Over time, with proper learning and coping mechanisms in place, the use of medications can be reduced or even ceased.

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Discussion Comments
By MagicRunner — On Oct 19, 2014

Hi HonorLamb. My son also suffers from hypoactivity and what I've learned is this:

Hyperactivity is ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Hypoactivity is often referred to as ADD.

When a person is suffering from hypoactivity, he or she isn’t doing things such as fidgeting or walking around (like during class when he needs to remain seated). Simply put, a person with ADHD often can’t sit still.

ADD sufferers, on the other hand, project a clear lack of focus and disorganized thoughts (but without all the fidgeting).

By HonorLamb — On Oct 18, 2014

My son was recently diagnosed with hypoactivity, but everyone assumes I mean hyperactivity. Is there a simple way to explaining the difference?

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