Adult ADHD and Lying Compulsively
Lies and lying begin to evolve into a problem when they are done with higher frequency and higher intensity. Someone lying by saying they really like the soup you made for dinner is much different than saying they have no idea what happened to the money in your purse.
Some people in your life will be more prone to lying, while others will maintain a high level of honesty and integrity.
So, what is the difference? What makes some people extremely honest and others lie excessively? What is compulsive lying and how is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) associated with it?
Lying and ADHD
It is difficult to say people with ADHD lie more than people without ADHD, but people with ADHD face different challenges that make telling an untruth more likely. Instead of thinking of ADHD as one diagnosis, think of it as a collection of unwanted symptoms including:
These factors will heavily influence the level of lying the person with ADHD exhibits. Someone with poor attention is more prone to make a statement without thinking about it first.
For example, you could ask them a question they are not fully paying attention to. They will respond without any awareness of doing so. Later, they may deny their previous statement, not remember their response, or fail to acknowledge any aspect of the conversation.
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.
Since impulsivity and hyperactivity tend to increase the speed of the response, there is a greater chance the response will be inaccurate and technically a lie.
Compulsive and Pathological Lying
Just because someone lies frequently does not mean they are compulsive liars. A compulsion is a repetitive behavior performed in response to an obsession, like in the example of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
In this case, the lies are a result of the influence of the obsessions. An example would be someone obsessed with seeking the approval of others, or someone obsessed with presenting a desirable image of themselves to the community.
These people would use lying to maintain their standing and reduce the anxiety or fear associated with people learning the truth. People who lie compulsively would not like the experience of lying, but will continue to do so due to perceived risks of not lying.
Pathological lying is another situation completely. Someone who lies in a pathological way will enjoy the process, as the lies are a means of manipulating people and gaining control and power over their environment. People most likely to lie pathologically will be those with a personality disorder like:
These people are aware of their lies and the potential impact they will have on people in their life.
ADHD Lying Solutions
Know the Source
Because of the symptom overlap, it can be confusing to know the source of the lying. This step is crucial, though, as there is a huge difference between ADHD lying and OCD or personality disorder lying.
Effective treatments will vary widely as well. Fortunately, success will be more likely with lying rooted in ADHD than in OCD or personality disorders.
Establish Your Expectations
As mentioned previously, modifying your expectations will have an impact on your view of the one telling the lies. Your expectations must be practical and realistic to have any chance of victory in this situation.
Gain the Attention
Anyone will struggle to give a good answer to a question when distracted. Watching TV or scrolling through social media will harm concentration, listening skills and attention.
If you want to increase the odds of producing a truthful response, you must reduce or eliminate the distractions. A good way to accomplish this is by turning off all stimulation and making clear and direct eye contact with the person.
Slow It Down
When someone has ADHD, they are more likely to blurt out an answer with little thought. This is true for children in a classroom and for adults at work or in relationships.
If you want to ask someone with ADHD a question you think might produce an impulsive lie, give them extra time. Instead of believing the extra time will give them the opportunity to think of a lie, believe they will be more likely to think of the truth.
Sometimes, the truth is not so obvious. If you have ADHD and someone asks you a question, ask for a few moments to consider your response. Make them aware of your needs and the benefits of waiting for you.
Just be sure to note the need to respond, so you don’t forget altogether. Using a timer is a great way to accomplish this.
If you are the not the person with ADHD, asking “Did you say…” is an appropriate means of double-checking the content expressed to check for lies and changing stories. Rather than try to catch someone in a lie, try to catch them in the truth, since they might not be sure of what they said previously.
If you are the person with ADHD, you can say, “Did you ask me this before? What did I say?” as a means of fact-checking your previous statements. Again, this is not a way to be sneaking or underhanded. It is a way to be more clear and consistent.
Surely there is a link between ADHD and lying. Your job is to thoroughly analyze the lies to assure you know the source, since other mental health disorders can influence the level of lies significantly.
If analysis points to ADHD, take the appropriate steps to set yourself or the person with ADHD up for success. By doing this, the lies can shrink while the relationship quality surges.