There’s no hard evidence on this link, but lying may still be a coping mechanism for some people with ADHD.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder.
Impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention are the three main symptoms of ADHD. And psychologists suspect that a possible consequence of these common ADHD symptoms may be lying. However, there is currently no hard data to support the connection.
There’s no evidence that suggests adults and children with ADHD might lie more often than those who don’t have ADHD. So, until research is conducted on this, the answer is unclear.
It’s also worth noting that people with ADHD are fully capable of being honest. In some cases, they may be too honest for some societal standards.
But there may be certain situations that increase the chance of people with ADHD lying out of habit or as a coping mechanism to avoid unwanted consequences related to their ADHD symptoms.
Impulsivity often plays a role in why people with ADHD lie.
“This alone [may] lead to an increased probability that an impulsive person may lie to avoid responsibility or manipulate others to achieve a goal,” Goldstein says.
Still, he clarifies that “there’s limited, if any, scientific evidence that ADHD itself drives deceitful behavior. However, combined with other personality and mental health challenges may lead to an increased risk of lying.”
Some people with ADHD may develop a habit of lying, which, for some, could be a form of compulsive lying.
Although lying can be a disruptive behavior, white lies can often be harmless in nature. For example, difficulty staying focused during a conversation can lead to someone lying to pretend like they were listening to not hurt someone’s feelings.
People with ADHD with a poor memory might also forget something that happened, then say it didn’t when it actually did. To the other person in the conversation, this may appear as lying.
Some other reasons why adults or kids with ADHD may lie may include:
- covering up an impulsive behavior that resulted in an unwanted consequence
- forgetting what happened and lying to pretend like they remember
- responding impulsively with a lie due to hyperactivity
- hiding a lack of understanding of something with a lie
- wrongly answering questions they didn’t listen to because they were distracted
- telling white lies out of difficulty expressing themselves
- impulsively making promises they can’t keep
Challenges with executive functions can also make it harder for people with ADHD to process information or speak and listen clearly. This could lead to miscommunications, which may wrongly be considered lies.
If you, your child, or a loved one is lying as a result of ADHD, rest assured it’s possible to change.
Here are some coping tips for kids and adults with ADHD who want to stop lying:
- treat ADHD (e.g., medication, therapy, skill building)
- practice telling the truth as often as possible
- read self-help books on how to control lying
- reduce distractions to increase focus during conversations
- slow down communication to think more before responding
There’s no evidence to suggest that people living with ADHD lie more often than those who don’t have the condition. But there are many situations in which someone with ADHD might lie as a coping mechanism, to cover up an impulsive behavior that wasn’t thought through, or without even realizing it.
People with ADHD can take steps to stop lying. For starters, ADHD treatment, reducing distractions, and reading self-help guides might help.
If you or someone you know needs help managing their ADHD symptoms, consider speaking with a mental health professional.