What do you call a person that can't just relax, someone who always needs to be working or taking a class or working out? Someone who can sit still in one place but only if they are working on something (mentally), and if they aren't working on something mentally then they need to be physically doing something, like running errands or working out etc.. BUT the specific person I have in mind is very calm, and patient but they cannot sit around doing nothing because they feel lazy, like time is wasted.

Maybe it would help to point out that there is not a physical drive to do these things, it isn't a energy level but more of a psychological need to do these things. Often this person is somewhat tired and usually doesn't get a full nights sleep due to over them being so busy with everything they try to do.

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    That description makes me think of hiper-activity. Feb 12 '16 at 20:11
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    Hyperactive would be my choice. Feb 12 '16 at 20:21
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    @John Clifford My point is that hyperactive is a clinical term, so ought not to be used in an everyday sense. A doctor or a clinician is the only person who can diagnose hyperactivity. So one ought not to use it unless there has been a diagnosis. Margaret Thatcher used only to have about 4 hours sleep a night and was working, speaking, meeting, and moving around the rest of the time. I have never heard it said she was hyperactive.
    – WS2
    Feb 12 '16 at 22:09
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    @Soudabeh Workaholic is another of those clinical terms - a bit like hyperactive. You will see from the dictionary definition that it says compulsively. The majority of people who are said to be workaholics are nothing of the sort. There is a terrible tendency in modern society to pathologise people's personalities with words like this.
    – WS2
    Feb 12 '16 at 22:23
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    @WS2 I don't know if it's a cultural thing but I've never considered hyperactive a purely clinical term; my parents used to say I was hyperactive as a kid because I couldn't sit still, but +1 anyway. Feb 12 '16 at 22:45

There is type-A personality, restless, ADHD, or just hyper.


Three of these terms were originally medical diagnoses.

"Type-A personality" was a theory developed by the cardiologist Meyer Friedman that the behavior of chronically angry and impatient people raises their risk of heart attacks. The underlying theory remains controversial but the phrase and the concept have passed into the popular culture.

"ADHD" stands for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ("hyper" is just short for "hyperactive"). The disorder itself is a highly controversial diagnosis about the social behavior of children, especially boys, but again the phrase and the concept are now part of the culture, at least partially detached from the medical judgment.

There is a fair amount of controversy in the comments for this answer about the use of "ADHD" as a label for a certain kind of person (the criticism was unleveled against "Type-A" and "hyper", but it would be equally valid).

Without discussing the factual statements, I would advise: give it up. The label for any psychological or social pathology is liable to being appropriated to describe personality quirks that vaguely resemble the problem, e.g. "retarded", "spastic", "schizophrenic", "paranoid", "catatonic", even plain old "crazy". I don't think there is any way to stop the process, and dodging it just puts you on the famous Euphemism Treadmill.

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    I believe ADHD also includes short attention spans and one can be hyperactive and still be able to focus for long periods. Feb 12 '16 at 20:32
  • I like the use of restless. That is probably the word the OP wants. But please see my comment on the matter of ADHD and hyperactivity. These are clinical disorders which names are heavily overused - often by parents to describe their normal healthy children who are just above average in physical energy and bounce.
    – WS2
    Feb 12 '16 at 21:44
  • Type A Personality, and restless seem to be the sort of thing I was looking for. Thank you!
    – Jessica
    Feb 12 '16 at 22:03
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    @SaraCosta - It is something of a misconception that ADHD implies a "short attention span". In fact, one common trait of ADHD is "hyperfocus", where the individual cannot be distracted from a task but focuses on it intensely.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 12 '16 at 22:22
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    I think this is a good answer, but it needs more explanation. You should be especially clear that ADHD is formal medical diagnosis, and not all hyperactive people are necessarily ADHD.
    – dwjohnston
    Feb 13 '16 at 0:58

What about ebullient, i.e. overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement; showing liveness and vivacity; cheerful and full of energy.

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    No, that's about personality and extroversion, not about activity level. There are introverts who are hyperactive, yet noone would ever call them ebullient. I personally know lots of them. As to cheerfulness, depressive people can be hyperactive too.
    – smci
    Aug 21 '17 at 0:42

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