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Why Do Adults With ADHD Tend To Make Excuses?

Harold Robert Meyer/The ADD Resource Center addrc.org 11/01/2023

Adults with ADHD often face unique challenges in their daily lives, which can lead to the tendency to make excuses that may not always be believable. These challenges can lead to frustration and a need to explain their difficulties through excuses.

Common challenges faced by adults with ADHD

Adults with ADHD encounter various challenges that can contribute to their excuse-making tendencies. One common challenge is difficulty with time management. ADHD often impairs the individual’s ability to estimate how long a task will take, resulting in poor planning and a tendency to underestimate time constraints. This can lead to missed deadlines and the “need” to come up with explanations for the delay.

Another challenge is impulsivity, which can cause adults with ADHD to act on immediate desires without considering the consequences. This impulsive behavior can lead to poor decision-making and the “need” to justify their actions through excuses. Additionally, adults with ADHD may struggle with maintaining focus and attention, making it difficult to stay engaged in tasks or conversations. This can result in unfinished projects or a lack of follow-through, leading to the need for explanations.

The psychology behind making excuses

The psychology behind making excuses is complex and can vary from person to person. The underlying reasons behind their excuse-making tendencies can be attributed to a combination of factors. One factor is the fear of judgment and criticism. They may worry about being perceived as lazy, unreliable, or unintelligent. To avoid negative judgments, they may resort to making excuses as a way to explain their difficulties or shortcomings.

Another psychological factor is the desire to protect their self-esteem. Adults with ADHD may experience feelings of shame or guilt when they are unable to meet real or self imposed expectations or fulfill responsibilities. Making excuses can serve as a defense mechanism to protect their self-esteem and avoid feelings of inadequacy. By providing explanations for their behavior, they can maintain a sense of control and preserve their self-image.

Avoiding telling the truth is easier than receiving another lecture on why something they did was “wrong.”

Why adults with ADHD tend to make excuses

Adults with ADHD tend to make excuses as a coping mechanism for their daily challenges. The difficulties associated with ADHD, such as inattention, impulsivity, and poor time management, can lead to a pattern of excuse-making. These individuals may feel the need to justify their actions or lack thereof in order to avoid negative judgment and preserve their self-esteem.

Furthermore, adults with ADHD may struggle with self-awareness. They may not fully recognize or understand the impact of their symptoms on their behavior and relationships. This lack of awareness can contribute to the tendency to make excuses, as they may not realize the true reasons behind their difficulties. By attributing their struggles to external factors, they can avoid confronting their ADHD-related challenges directly.

Impact of excuse-making on relationships and self-esteem

The constant excuse-making by adults with ADHD can have a significant impact on their relationships and self-esteem. When excuses are repeatedly made, trust and reliability can be compromised, leading to strained relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Others may perceive the excuses as dishonest or unreliable, creating tension and frustration in interpersonal interactions.

Excuse-making can also have a detrimental effect on the self-esteem of adults with ADHD. Constantly relying on excuses to explain their behavior can reinforce negative beliefs about themselves, further lowering their self-confidence. They may begin to doubt their abilities and feel a sense of shame or embarrassment about their ADHD-related challenges. This negative self-perception can hinder personal growth and lead to a cycle of excuse-making as a means of self-preservation.

Strategies to overcome excuse-making tendencies

While it may be challenging, there are strategies that adults with ADHD can employ to overcome their excuse-making tendencies. One effective approach is to develop self-awareness and acceptance of their ADHD. By understanding their symptoms and how they impact their behavior, individuals can begin to take responsibility for their actions and make positive changes.

Practicing effective communication is another important strategy. Instead of resorting to excuses, adults with ADHD can learn to express their challenges and limitations (when and where appropriate) openly and honestly. By having open conversations with others, they can foster understanding and empathy, which can help reduce the need for making excuses.

Creating structured routines and utilizing organizational tools can also be beneficial. Adults with ADHD can set clear goals, break tasks into manageable steps, and use reminders and timers to stay on track. These strategies can enhance time management skills and minimize the need for excuses.

Seeking professional help for ADHD

Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be particularly beneficial in addressing excuse-making tendencies. CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop more effective coping strategies. It can also provide a safe space for individuals to explore their feelings and develop self-compassion. Additionally, working with an ADHD coach, such as those at the ADD Resource Center can be extremely beneficial.

Empathy and understanding in dealing with adults with ADHD

It is important for family, friends, and colleagues to approach interactions with adults with ADHD with empathy and understanding. Instead of immediately dismissing excuses, it is helpful to consider the underlying challenges that the individual may be facing. By showing patience and support, others can contribute to a more inclusive and accepting environment for individuals with ADHD.

Educating oneself about ADHD can also foster empathy and understanding. Learning about the symptoms and challenges associated with the disorder can provide insights into the experiences of adults with ADHD. This knowledge can help reduce judgment and increase compassion, leading to more meaningful and supportive relationships.


Adults with ADHD often face unique challenges that can contribute to their tendency to make excuses. Understanding the underlying psychology behind excuse-making and its impact on relationships and self-esteem is crucial in finding effective strategies to overcome this pattern. By seeking professional help, practicing effective communication, and fostering empathy and understanding, adults with ADHD can develop healthier coping mechanisms and enhance their overall well-being. It is through these efforts that individuals with ADHD can thrive and be better understood by those around them.

Harold Robert Meyer/ADD Resource Center ADRC.org 11/01/2023


Articles on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.

This information may not be complete, accurate, independently verified or up-to-date, so be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any action.

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