ADHD and Lying: Why ADHD Kids Lie
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. At least 6 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Most people associate ADHD with hyperactivity; however, this condition comes with many symptoms that affect the daily lives of individuals. One of the most intriguing discoveries is that there seems to be a connection between ADHD and lying.
People have noticed that children and adults with ADHD tend to tell lies more often than others and wonder if compulsive lying is a symptom of ADHD. If you want to know why ADHD children tend to lie constantly and if it is a symptom of ADHD, continue reading.
Understanding ADHD Symptoms
ADHD stands for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a prevalent mental health disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals' behavior, making them more impulsive, hyperactive, and unable to focus. Individuals with ADHD lack the cognitive skills needed to complete tasks that involve memory, organization, and attention.
ADHD was previously known as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) because hyperactivity is not a common symptom of those with the disorder. Individuals with ADD were divided into two categories: ADD with hyperactivity and ADD without hyperactivity.
However, in 1986, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) combined the two variations of ADD into one and renamed the disorder ADHD.
The root causes of ADHD are unknown; however, studies suggest that genetics and some environmental factors may play a role. ADHD is usually diagnosed before the age of 12. There are three types of ADHD, and they include:
Individuals with predominantly inattentive ADHD have difficulties in paying attention and focusing. They do not display any hyperactive behaviors.
Individuals with this type of ADHD display hyperactive and impulsive behaviors but do not have problems paying attention. Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is the least common type of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Combination of Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive
Some individuals have all the symptoms of ADHD including hyperactivity, impulsivity, and distractibility. According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, combination ADHD is the most common type.
Is Lying a Symptom of ADHD?
Hyperactivity, distractibility, and impulsivity are not the only symptoms of ADHD. Children with ADHD may tend to blurt out lies more often than other neurotypical children. Even though lying habitually is common among children with ADHD, it is considered more of a coping mechanism than a symptom.
Children with ADHD struggle with the common symptoms of the disorder and as a result may feel constantly forced to lie. Therefore, lying is caused by the symptoms of ADHD rather than the disorder itself.
The Relationship Between ADHD and Lying
All in all, dishonesty is not a symptom of ADHD. Instead, an ADHD child lies as a result of the symptoms of ADHD. The ADHD brain is quite different from a neurotypical one. Consequently, children with ADHD lack certain executive functioning skills, leading them to life problems that force them to choose dishonesty over honesty.
Why Kids with ADHD Lie
It is totally normal for kids to make little white lies, especially during their first few years of life. That is because they tend to live in a world of fantasy. However, kids with ADHD may lie often and continue to do so into their adult lives.
Neurotypical children lie less often because they do not make the same number of mistakes children with ADHD make, and they are great at analyzing the consequences of their actions. Children with ADHD lie may lie for several reasons including:
The impulsive lie is a result of a major symptom of ADHD, impulsiveness. ADHD causes problems with executive function, as a result, individuals with ADHD may be more impulsive than neurotypical individuals. For example, Jack, a teen with ADHD, tells his parents that he is going to school. He sees an old friend on his way to school and instead of going to school, he goes to the mall with his friend. His sister realizes he is not at school.
When he went back home, his parents asked him how was school, and he said it was great. His parents become furious with him for lying. However, Jack lies to hide his impulsivity. He simply lacks the skill to keep himself from doing impulsive things.
Kids with ADHD tend to also get distracted easily and forget what they have been told. They may make up stories simply because they forgot what actually happened and what they were supposed to do.
ADHD kids may also find it difficult to organize thoughts in their head and recall when events have occurred, as a result, they may report false information unintentionally.
Fear of Punishment
They may lie to avoid being punished for minor mistakes caused by the symptoms of ADHD like irresponsibility and inattention. Neurotypical children lie too to avoid being punished. However, since children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder don’t connect consequences with actions easily, they tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly.
Sensitivity to Criticism
Children with ADHD may lie to avoid criticism and low self-esteem. According to the ADHD Centre, 99 percent of individuals with ADHD also have another condition called Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) which causes an extreme emotional reaction to criticism. Lying helps them avoid the emotional pain they feel when being criticized.
Want of Attention
Many kids want attention whether it is positive or negative. All kids including those with ADHD realize that lying attracts a lot of attention. Therefore, they start to lie more.
Compulsive Lying and ADHD
According to Good Therapy, compulsive liars are those who tend to lie frequently and sometimes for no reason. Compulsive lying is usually a symptom of a personality disorder like antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder.
It is evident that children with ADHD lie frequently; however, they do not do it for no reason. They lie to hide the symptoms they struggle with daily. Luckily, there are a few steps that can be taken to prevent ADHD kids from lying compulsively.
5 Strategies to Help Kids with ADHD Stop Lying
It is crucial for parents to help children with ADHD develop the important skills needed to avoid lying because if the dishonesty continues, it will cause problems at home and school. Many ADHD children may continue to lie constantly if they receive no help with the symptoms of ADHD at a young age. Here are 5 steps to help kids with ADHD stop lying.
1. Find out the reasons for the lies
The first step to helping children avoid lying is understanding the reasons for the lies. Parents should always look for the reason for the dishonesty before taking any action. The child may be lying because of a lack of emotional control, impulsiveness, the inability to focus, distractibility, need for attention, or the inability to accept criticism.
2. React with empathy
Parents should talk to them about how lying is unacceptable. However, at the same time, parents should show them that they understand why they were dishonest and how they are going to help them avoid telling lies in the future. It is crucial for parents to never call their children liars. Labeling children liars can make them believe they are in fact liars and should continue to lie. The right way to react to a lie is to simply remind the child of the consequences of lying.
3. Avoid telling little white lies as parents
Children with ADHD learn from their surroundings just as neurotypical children. Parents tend to regularly tell little white lies to get out of awkward situations or avoid getting others upset. A child tends to pick up on those lies quickly, and this causes the child to lie more often. Therefore, parents should avoid lying regularly and be good role models for their children.
4. Remember, all children lie
There is a fine line between reality and imagination during childhood; therefore, all children tend to lie. Children also hate being punished and learn quickly that lying is an effective way to avoid it. Therefore, parents should be able to realize when their child’s dishonesty is a problem by considering how often it occurs and for what reason. Not every lie deserves a punishment.
5. Treat other ADHD symptoms
Parents should try to find solutions for the problems that cause their children to lie.
If a child struggles with completing tasks
Parents should divide the task into smaller tasks. They should praise the child every time he/she completes a task. This is a great way to help children with ADHD complete homework assignments and avoid having to lie about completing them.
If a child struggles with criticism and low self-esteem
Parents should talk to him/her about asking for help when needed. Children should never feel ashamed for losing something or getting distracted.
If a child struggles with impulse control
Parents should remind the child of the past consequences of lying. Children with ADHD lack certain executive functioning skills. It is difficult for them to connect between actions and consequences. Therefore, reminding them frequently of the consequences would help them avoid certain actions including lying.
Can ADHD Medication Help with Compulsive Lying?
Some parents consider a lifetime ADHD treatment with medications to help minimize the intensity of symptoms. ADHD medications can help stop symptoms of impulsivity and distractibility which as a consequence would decrease dishonesty.
However, according to Cleveland Clinic, ADHD medications have side effects including loss of appetite, upset stomach, weight loss, fatigue, insomnia, etc... Not all children may experience these symptoms. Parents should talk to their child’s healthcare provider to learn more about ADHD medications.
Managing Kids with ADHD and Lying
By helping ADHD children find solutions to the problems that arise from ADHD symptoms, parents may be able to prevent their children from falling into habitual lying. Parents should never call their children liars but instead should continue to help them build the skills needed to stop lying.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022a, August 9). Data and statistics about ADHD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, August 9). What is ADHD?. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
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