ADHD and Lying: How to Stop Lying and Gain More Trust

People who live with ADHD, autism, and related neurodivergent challenges don’t lie more than others. At the same time, living with these conditions can create situations for a person to be more susceptible to telling untruths.


Here are five reliable ways for you or your loved one to stop lying and gain more trust.  


ADHD and "Lying" 


Although lying is not OK, rather than assuming dishonesty, it’s important to understand the collection of symptoms associated with ADHD, autism, and other neurodivergent conditions, that can make a person more likely to fudge the truth.  

Executive Functioning Challenges,  such as planning, organization, and self-monitoring, can lead to impulsive behaviors and poor decision-making, which may result in statements or actions that seem dishonest


Working memory challenges can make it difficult to recall details accurately. This can inadvertently result in providing incorrect information, leading to misunderstandings that may be perceived as lying.

Your teen told you they earned a B, but when you looked online at the grades you learned the grade was a D. Your teen may not remember that poor grade you just found, or even that they had a test. 

You or your spouse may not recall your recent conversation about plans with another couple. You understood that your spouse volunteered to get the theater tickets and the other couple was going to make the dinner reservations. Your spouse remembered the conversation differently. Furthermore, when you asked your spouse if they purchased the tickets, they said they did. You now found out they did not. Your spouse thought you were talking about different theater tickets for another event. 


Attention/Distraction challenges can create problems and quarrels leading to conditions for untruths and disappointments. You or your loved one could be distracted and communicate something different than intended. Furthermore, it’s difficult to switch between tasks and respond if you're involved in a task.  You might respond without awareness of doing so, deny or not remember what was said, or fail to acknowledge the conversation. 

You receive a call from your loved one who is about to leave the office, to ask you if you’re OK with getting dinner started or if they should pick something up.  You tell them you’re already on top of it, no need to pick anything up. Once you disconnect the call, you go back to intensely focusing on what you were doing. Before you know it, your loved one comes home, and dinner hasn’t started. When your spouse approaches you about the phone conversation, you don’t recall telling them you were already on top of dinner. 


Impulsivity, or acting without thinking through the consequences, can lead to spontaneous or impulsive statements that may not be entirely accurate. Someone with poor impulse control may lie as a response to your question or the situation. It comes out of their mouth without appropriate thought attached. 

Although impulsivity is common among teens and young adults, adults can also struggle with impulsivity. They often wrestle with self-control and connecting their actions to consequences, which can lead them to telling frequent lies. Impulsivity can also manifest in ways such as impulsive shopping, which can lead to financial problems (among others) where individuals are “caught” stretching the truth regarding the justification for certain purchases and items.

Your teen just got their driver's license and is "finally" “free” for the first time. They tell you they are going to a friend’s house in the suburb you live in, but later that evening they hear about a concert in the city, and can't resist going.   Without thinking, your teen volunteers to drive all their friends in their car (your car) without telling you, because, how will you ever find out? They didn't consider that something could go wrong to expose them. Besides not paying attention to the rules limiting passengers for six months after getting their license, your teen drives to the city, and doesn't pay attention to parking signs, and gets booted!  (yup, this happened to us with one of our kids)!


Social Challenges can make it difficult to navigate interactions smoothly. Miscommunications or difficulties in understanding social cues may contribute to situations where the person appears to be dishonest. 

Coping mechanisms, including avoidance or deception, can help navigate challenges or avoid negative consequences. This can sometimes manifest as lying, especially if someone is trying to protect themselves from judgment or criticism. You may feel tempted to fudge the truth, to protect yourself from the shame of being accused of doing something wrong, or to prevent an argument or tedious conversation. 


You told your family you’d take the kids to soccer practice after work, but you tend to lose track of time. Just when you are about to rush out of the office, you receive a phone call from a friend. Once you answer the call, you get involved in a conversation. You soon realize it’s getting late, but it’s awkward for you to say that you need to close the conversation so you can leave. You become worried about letting your family down and uneasy about the negative feedback yet again for your lateness. When you arrive home, you tell your family that you got tied up with your boss on an important project, instead of facing up to the criticism, judgment, and self-judgment you’re experiencing. 


Lying serves to live up to expectations that seem impossible to meet. When you’re protecting yourself because of an accusation, lying may serve to limit negative feedback and create acceptance. You may feel guilt, shame, and self-loathing about telling untruths. Most times you don’t intend to hurt yourself or others.


It’s crucial to understand for yourself, and your teen, young adult or loved one, why frequent lies are being told, and the consequences of the lies so you can work together to gain more trust. 


How to Stop Lying and Gain More Trust


Separate the Lie From the Person

If you or your loved one tends to lie, it does not mean they are a “liar,” and it is damaging and shaming to identify them in this way. 
As we have seen, there is a collection of symptoms associated with ADHD, autism, and other neurodivergent conditions, that can make a person more susceptible to lying. 

At the same time, it’s important to remember that you are not your diagnosis, and behaviors associated with executive functioning challenges can be learned and changed. 
If you are a parent, spouse, colleague, or friend of an individual who tends to fudge the truth, you can assert the values and behavior you prefer to see by saying, “We tell the truth in this family,” or, “This relationship values transparency.” 

Don't Take Lying Personally

Lying is not a betrayal or an action against you. It’s a poor decision. It also reflects a need to feel safe when feeling vulnerable. 

Rather than focusing on the lie itself: (your teen got a D on the test but told you they got a B; your spouse said they were working with the boss rather than that they were talking with a friend)
Focus on what the lie is about: (For the above scenarios: your teen was not aware of their grade; your teen was not aware they had a test; your teen forgot their grade; your teen was fearful of telling you their grade; Or: your spouse didn’t know how to set a boundary with their colleague; your spouse was afraid of being judged and criticized in front of the kids; your spouse needed to save face and has a tough time with negative feedback).

If an individual with executive functioning challenges responded to you with a lie, it’s important to approach them with empathy and respect, rather than with contempt. 


Obtain Attention

It’s tough to respond when distracted. Watching TV or scrolling through social media interferes with concentration, listening, focus, following instructions, and connection.

Whether it’s your teen, spouse, boss, or colleague, before making any requests or asking or responding to any questions, make sure you get, and give your full attention.

If you want to increase the odds of a truthful response, turn off all distractions and make direct eye contact.


Get Curious

When individuals live with impulsivity, there can be a tendency to blurt out a response, leading to an impulsive lie.  

Give yourself time to get curious about a situation. If someone asks you for a response, ask for a few moments to consider your reply. Make a note of the need to respond, and so you don’t forget, use an alarm or timer. 

If you are asking a question of someone, let them know they have time to respond. “I’m curious what happened when …. Think about it and we can talk briefly so we can understand each other.”


Check In

It’s useful to clarify truths rather than accuse untruths. This way all parties are clear and consistent. After or during a conversation, or during agreements on chores or tasks, check for understanding by summarizing the steps or arrangements.


“It’s my understanding that this is what we’re doing…” Or, “It sounds like you said….,” or, “I think you may have asked me this before, but I’m checking in to be sure.”



To sum up, there is a cluster of executive functioning challenges associated with ADHD, autism, and other neurodivergent conditions, that can make a person more likely to stretch the truth. To stop lying and gain more trust:

• Separate the Lie from the Person
• Don’t Take Lying Personally
• Obtain Attention
• Get Curious
• Check In




PS. Need support embracing honesty, transparency, and trust?

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we'll begin with an actionable game plan now!


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