ADHD & Lying

Unraveling the Link Between ADHD and Lying

Looking to understand why some people with ADHD may struggle with being honest? It's not that they're inherently dishonest or that they're a bad person not to be trusted. Our article dives into the complex relationship between ADHD and lying - why does it happen, and what can we do to change it?

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Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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A word form our expert

Is It Compulsive Lying... Or Is It An ADHD Coping Mechanism?

First off, let's clear the air. This article serves as an explanation for why some of us with ADHD grapple with dishonesty. It's not here to offer justifications or excuses. We're diving deep into the complexities that sometimes push us toward lying to move towards living a more authentic, self-aware state. 🥰

So why even discuss ADHD and lying? Well, these little untruths can actually be a big deal. They can affect our relationships, self-worth, and mental health. Understanding why we lie can be the first step towards building a more truthful and ultimately healthier way of living. 💓

In this article, we'll unpack various scenarios where dishonesty becomes the fallback tactic for some of us wrestling with ADHD. We'll examine how this tendency can manifest in our childhood years, exploring the underlying reasons for dishonesty, and what we risk by doing so. Finally, we'll share some strategies to help us break the cycle and embrace a life of honesty and authenticity. 👨‍❤️‍👨

When Lying Becomes An (Accidental) Habit For Children

Childhood is when ADHD symptoms often lead to situations that land us in trouble. 😬

When I was a kid, my parents would only let me play video games if I'd completed my chores and homework. So, in a whirlwind of activity, I cleaned my room and washed the dishes to get the go-ahead from my Mom. When she asked if I'd finished my homework, I told her I had none. I then jumped into a gaming marathon 🎮 until bedtime.

The following day, I was hit with the realization that I had forgotten about a school assignment. I got in trouble with my teacher, and a letter was written to my parents. In my mom's eyes, I'd lied to get extra gaming time, but honestly? I'd just forgotten. 😞

You see, the impulsivity and knack for forgetfulness within ADHD in children can mean that kids lie without even realizing. Whether it's losing track of chores or an impending deadline, it's usually not about intentional deceit. Kids with ADHD often lie to avoid parental disapproval, like more of a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat than a calculated choice.

Flash forward to adulthood, and many of us find that these quick exits haven't left us; instead, they've evolved to help us navigate a world that expects us to conform to neurotypical norms. So, what's really driving our detours from the truth? 🤔

The ‘Why’s’ Of Lying in ADHD

To fully understand the possible connection between telling lies and ADHD, we must first dig into the root causes. 🌱 By understanding the possible traits that may be driving us to lie as a coping mechanism, we can develop empathy for ourselves and take control of the situation.  💪


Impulsivity can send us down the rabbit hole of dishonesty before we realize it. This lack of control over immediate responses often results in those 'white lies' that seem to slip out effortlessly. 😬 It's not about intentional deceit but rather about reacting quickly to a situation without thinking it through. We might ask ourselves, 'why did I lie about that?' when it was unnecessary. 🙄

Fear of Consequences

We've all been there—lying as a knee-jerk reaction to escape consequences or rejection. This quick-fix approach persists as we age, making lying a go-to strategy, even in adulthood. Whether dodging social events with fabricated excuses or avoiding difficult conversations, the fear of being judged or exposing our vulnerabilities can drive us to dishonesty. 😥

Masking Symptoms

Masking ADHD symptoms can sometimes rely on dishonesty as a shield to blend into a neurotypical world. It can look like telling people you're 'doing fine' when you're drowning in tasks or committing to a deadline you know you won't meet. All these lies can help us fit in but at the cost of authentic connections and self-acceptance.

Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional dysregulation in ADHD can make a simple 'no' feel like a monumental task. We may avoid hurting people's feelings by using softer phrases like 'I'll try to' or 'Let me check my schedule,' even when we know we can't commit. We might experience challenges navigating emotions and avoiding the feelings of rejection that can come with confrontation and disappointing others. 

Being Afraid to Ask for Help

When it comes to asking for help, many of us would rather go it alone. This behavior is often rooted in the fear of being seen as incompetent or burdensome. According to psychological studies, people underestimate how willing others are to lend a hand. The result? We bottle up stress and exhaustion, lying about how well we can cope and missing out on potential support. 😞


An ADHD diagnosis can bring about a sense of shame so powerful that we'd rather dodge the subject than confront it. This fear of being 'different' often manifests in tiny white lies that help us sidestep uncomfortable topics and maintain a facade of being 'normal'.

Lying to avoid these feelings can also look like being dishonest about things like personal hygiene. For instance, we might say we've showered when we haven't to avoid the discomfort and fear of being judged or excluded by others. 

By carefully unpacking the reasons as to why some folks with ADHD may lie, we're not just looking for excuses but seeking to understand the root causes of our actions. With this understanding, we can aim for a more genuine and fulfilling life of honesty and transparency. 🥰

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When ‘Little White Lies’ Backfire

We've all been guilty of bending the truth at one time or another; it's part of being human, after all. But when it becomes a habit, especially for those with ADHD, the repercussions can ripple through every aspect of our lives. From our emotional wellbeing and relationships to our work and self-perception, lies that start small can grow into big problems. 🤥

Impact on Emotional Well-being and Mental Health

In the ADHD brain, 🧠 impulse control and executive functions are often compromised, making it easier to lie to avoid punishment or discomfort. Over time, this constant dishonesty can worsen mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, catching you in a web of your own making. It's a vicious cycle that starts with a 'small' lie but can become a significant emotional burden. 🥵

The Strain on Relationships

Whether it's friendships or family ties, dishonesty can significantly strain your relationships. Let's say, for example, a child with ADHD avoids telling their parents about a failed test at school. ✍️This not only erodes trust but also puts added stress on an already complex parent-child dynamic. It's the same with friendships; lies, even small ones, can chip away at the trust and intimacy that hold these relationships together.

Work Life Woes

In a professional setting, dishonesty can be particularly damaging. Lying about deadlines being met or tasks completed can put your job at risk and harm your reputation in the long run. 🙅And let's be honest: the anxiety of maintaining a lie amidst team meetings and performance reviews is a source of stress that isn't worth it long-term. 

Self-Esteem and Personal Integrity

When you lie, you're not just tricking others but also eroding your self-esteem and sense of personal integrity. Especially for those with ADHD, who might already struggle with self-esteem, these lies can reinforce the belief that you cannot do the right thing. 😥Maintaining personal integrity is about being a person others - and you - can rely on, and constant dishonesty chips away at that reliability.

As you navigate the challenges of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it's crucial to remember that while lying might offer a quick escape, the long-term consequences are not worth it. The trick is to hone your impulse control and develop coping strategies, ensuring those seemingly harmless lies don't spiral. 😵‍

How To Stop Lying

So, we've dived into the deep end of why folks with ADHD might be prone to dishonesty. Now we know why it might happen, what can we do to work on it for the better?

Here are a few things you can try that might be helpful.

Develop Awareness

The first step is understanding and accepting that this is a challenge in your life. Kids with ADHD, and even adults, often lie as a coping mechanism. Recognizing this behavior is the first step to change. 👍

Get Accountable

Accountability can be a game-changer. Whether it's having a 'truth buddy' that you trust to gently call you out if they sense you're not being honest or keeping a list of times you found yourself lying, find a way to hold yourself accountable. ✅

Parents could be a great help in this area, especially when their children are still in school and homework is an issue in terms of reliability and their ability to trust their child. 

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices can help improve your executive function abilities and focus, making it easier to think before you speak. Taking a moment to stop and breathe before you jump into a lie can go a long way. 🕐 

Don't be afraid to take a good look inside and reflect on why you are telling the lie in the first place. 🧐Does this topic in particular trigger feelings of shame or rejection for you? Get curious about the 'why's' of dishonesty, and you will be able to stop it in its tracks. 🖐️

Seek ADHD Education

Educate yourself and your family about the complexities of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The more you know, the less you feel the need to lie about your challenges. 👪 For example, schools often provide resources that help children with ADHD navigate the complexities of behavior and punishment, which can help them work on their social skills.


Understanding why people with ADHD lie is crucial to break the cycle and lead a more authentic life. Parents, schools, and even the person struggling with ADHD have a role to play in changing this narrative. Being accountable and talking openly about the difficulties can go a long way in altering the behavior.

When we work on these skills, we stop lying not just to others but also to ourselves. Remember that it's a journey, and like any other skill, it'll take time to master. You might not get it right in two weeks, but keep at it. The focus should be on improvement, not perfection. Stay committed to your growth, and over time, you'll find that honesty becomes second nature. ❣️

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ADHD & Lying FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can compulsive lying be a symptom of ADHD?

While lying is not directly listed as a symptom of ADHD, certain traits common in adults and kids with ADHD, like impulsive behaviors or forgetfulness, could contribute to a tendency to lie or give wrong answers. Understanding the differences in how ADHD affects behavior can offer more clarity on why dishonesty might be more prevalent in this group.

Why might people with ADHD lie or avoid telling the truth?

There are several reasons people with ADHD might not be fully truthful. First, forgetfulness can lead to incorrect answers, which may appear as lying. Second, impulsive behavior can cause spur-of-the-moment dishonesty, especially in kids. Additionally, there may be an emotional component; some adults and kids with ADHD lie to avoid telling people about their struggles, challenges, or inadequacies to fend off judgment or rejection. Therefore, it's important to talk openly about these issues to better understand the behavioral tendencies related to ADHD.

How do we get past our tendency to lie?

The best way, of course, is to understand your condition. What are our main symptoms, and how do they affect us? Of course, we must also accept the help and support from those around us. Hence, we need to be honest about our condition and the symptoms that come with it.

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