Why Individuals with ADD & ADHD Lie?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many if the individuals I work with will lie. While some of the lies aren’t hurtful, they’re lies. It usually involves responsibility or getting out of a situation, but the facts don’t line up with the story.

Why is this you might ask? Let’s start at the beginning. Having ADD and ADHD is a challenge. We’re dealing with a lot of personal, professional and academic struggles. It impacts our lives and there’s times when we feel that there are few options, so lying seems to be our best option. It provides instant gratification to a situation that can become worse. What we fail to realize that it will lead to much bigger and worse consequences later. Think of it as us ADD and ADHD folks using lies like credit cards and not realizing that there’s a bill at the end of the month.

Of course, when this bill arrives, we want to call one of those bankruptcy people for help. But some tough love and accountability are the best ways to ensure a successful life-lesson. I usually like to work with my clients on taking ownership of the lies, identifying why he or she lied and identifying solution moving forward. I do not like to focus on the past except to learn from mistakes. Most of my clients aren’t very happy about this, but it is the reality of life. It’s better to learn from a mistake than to continue making it over and over all the time.

I advise the families of my clients to keep a journal of lies. Instead of trying to deal with it in the moment, track this over time an see what the results might be after the fact. The client will see that the long-term consequence of a lie adds up to bigger problems down the road. Touching the hot stove works.

For more information on my ADD, ADHD and Executive Functioning coaching, please visit www.adhdcoachchicago.com. To learn more information about some of the other services I provide, please visit www.carrolleducationalgroup.com and www.iepexperts.com. I can be found on Twitter at ADHDEFCoach. You can also find me on Facebook and Tumblr. My good friend and fellow ADD/ADHD Coach Tara McGillicuddy invites me as a regular guest on ADD/ADHD Support Talk Radio. Tara does many wonderful things and you should check out her website here. Feel free to email me at jonathan@adhdefcoach.com or call 773.888.ADHD (2343) with any additional questions.


  1. I’m happy you bring it up. That’s right. I never lied though, even if it was hard. I think lying really is not a good option because if we lie, how can we expect other people treat us differently? We have to be fair, at least with people who deserve it.

  2. Lying is a poor behavior that everyone engages in. It has absolutely nothing to do with ADHD. That’s just an excuse, and that’s actually worse than lying.

  3. No one wants to be wrong. So to cover up their forgetfulness, they lie. Going along with the lie instead of pointing it out to them, does not benefit them in the long run.

  4. I just had an incident with a child who has ADHD and my son who has PDDNOS. They got into an altercation together, and my son immediately ponies up what he did and apologizes. The ADHD kid, denied all of it. Said he never did any of it and blamed the entire thing on my kid. I was not putting up with it, and told him flat out I did not buy his story. I told them BOTH they were equally responsible for the mishap because they BOTH knew it was wrong. The kid just sat there and denied everything, he didn’t do it, it was all my kids fault. I thought to myself, maybe my son is lying. Two other people afterwards told me my son was not lying, that the kid was in fact doing the things my son said he was.

    My son tells me all the time, that the biggest gripe he has with this kid is that he lies and doesn’t follow the rules. So.. do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this?

    • Thanks for your comment. I always tell my clients that he or she can only control their own actions or responses. I’d tell your son he’s right and even when others don’t take ownership, take pride in being the bigger person.

  5. John: I have an 11 1/2 y.o. daughter with ADD. She is the sweetest girl, not a malevolent bone in her body, and yet, she lies alot. We have had conversations about the lying, she has been punished, even rewarded for telling the truth, but still, she’ll lie. Again tonight regarding how much of assigned reading she’d completed for a class. It is frustrating (and hurtful) when your ADD child lies to you. I know and I understand why ADD kids lie, but my girl needs to find a way to tell the truth, consistently.

    Do you have some tactical advice for a frustrated parent? I worry that this pattern will get her in alot of trouble as an adult, as I know from experience it did with my own husband. Lying and withholding are very corrosive to the trust in work and personal relationships. And will make her academic life harder as well.

    Thank you!

    • As I always tell my clients…

      when you go to bed at night, you’re the only one that knows the truth

      In the case of your daughter, the message needs to be the same. The only person at the end of the day your lying hurts in yourself.

  6. I have a 16 yr old daughter who has been dating a boy with ADD (HD) OCD. He tells her that she is the one person he can talk to and that he doesn’t lie to her about things. However over the last three weeks there have been several occasions when he has made plans with her and then backed out very last minute. Even to the point of saying he is getting ready to head over – only to text her 30 minutes later to say he is really sick. My daughter has talked with him about this and he says that he knew he wasn’t going to be able to come over much earlier in the day and doesn’t know why he handled it that way. He has done similar things on other occasions – says he put his phone away and forgot about it, tells her he will call in 15 minutes – but doesn’t, falls asleep and forgets to call when he says he will. She asked him if lately his ADD is flaring up and he said yes. She asked him if that is why he has been acting differently over the last 3 weeks and he said that is quite possible. We think he is having family and school stress. My daughter says that when they are together they have a wonderful time talking and laughing – but making plans to get together seems difficult. The hardest part is that my daughter thinks it is her – even though he reassures her it is not. How do I help her with this. She insists that she wants to work on this with him and not back out. I am concerned about her.

  7. Norman Silva says:

    Twenty years ago I had a boss with ADD. I’m now the other side of sixty and my blood pressure still rises when I think about the few years I worked for him. He was younger than me and was a typical ADD boss – disorganized – everything was left to the last minute – everything was a crisis – CONSTANT LYING, exaggerating, embellishing – two faced – you couldn’t tell him anything, he knew it all – if he was stumped, he’d make something up and then change the subject. I only of late realized that he had ADD – like in the last three months. It was a “forehead slapping” moment for me.

    When I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, ADD wasn’t heard of. We only had kids that were “naughty”. In the late 70’s we started hearing about hyperactive children and most of the time that resulted from no boundaries and discipline (I’m not talking about punishment – punishment and discipline are two different things) but I digress.

    He was a textbook case for ADD. He looked like Pavarotti complete with beard, overweight and flamboyant hand movements.

    Of late I have thought about all the people over the years I have met that had ADD but I didn’t recognize it and all of them to a man was a LIAR. When asked a question that they didn’t know the answer to or had been caught out on whatever matter, they would lie. You could see the cogs turning and the eye movement as they fabricated lies.

    The people with ADD that I knew, all had good jobs and were in senior positions. They always gave the impression that they were busy – truth be known, they were working twice as much as the normal person because they were so disorganized. Of course, always being late was another favorite. All of them were very charming and charismatic. I thought the other day about the people with ADD that don’t have good jobs – they must really battle and I feel for them as being the boss, everyone has to put up with your behavior.

    Anyway, I agree with you 100% as I’ve experienced it many times – these people are habitual liars.

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