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ADHD and Gullibility – Part II

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In ADHD and Gullibility – Part I I shared an incident where I nearly got caught by a telephone scam artist. Those of us with ADHD might be smart, but unfortunately that doesn’t inoculate us against being taken advantage of.

In today’s post I’ll explain why we can be sitting ducks for practical jokers,  scammers, and con-artists, and what to do about it.

Missing social cues

As kids, a lot of us with ADHD were either drowning in social awkwardness; having too much fun splashing in the pool; or too busy fantasizing about sailing the seven seas to have learned to read social cues.

As adults, unless someone throws us the lifeline of an ADHD diagnosis, we tend to be less socially sophisticated than our savvy non-ADHD counterparts. A tone of voice, a facial expression, or telling body language can be clues we don’t pick up on, letting fraudsters know we’re easy to pick on.

A legacy of self-doubt

Even though kids with ADHD might be intelligent and intuitive, they’re often told that their perceptions are wrong. This happens even when they’re more clued in than others.

At a young age, we learn to doubt ourselves. This is one of the most damaging legacies of late-diagnosed ADHD.

Until we learn to trust ourselves again, we’ll question ourselves as I did with the telephone scam artist. My mind said,This is a scam. But my confidence wavered when I was confronted by an aggressive verbal assault.

Getting carried away

ADHD enthusiasm and imagination can work for or against us. If caught off guard, we can get sucked into a good story. With our creative imaginations engaged, we get swept away on a wave of adrenaline and dopamine. Fun, but not good if we’re being spun.

Misplaced generosity of spirit

If we’ve been bullied, shamed, or blamed, we’re loathe to do the same to others. We want to give the benefit of the doubt that we never got. This too can backfire. If we’re so focused on setting aside judgment and not hurting anyone’s feelings, we can be blinded to the evidence until it’s too late and we’ve been bilked.

Wanting to be accepted

Research shows girls with ADHD are more likely to be rejected by their peers. Without an ADHD diagnosis and treatment, this can lead to women who are people-pleasers, vying for acceptance. We can become easy targets for users, saying yes when we should have said no. We can be gullible and naïve when we’re too focused on helping others whose motives are not in our best interest.

The antidote

Take heart! You too can rehabilitate from sucker to street-smart. Here are a few transformation tips.

ADHD Medication

People with ADHD have racing thoughts. Unlike others, we’re unable to put on the brakes, even when we should. ADHD medication can give us that tiny pause that lets us come to our senses before we get taken by a con artist or take on an unwanted commitment.

ADHD medications can also help us focus, enabling us to be more observant, more consistently. Either on our own, or with help from improv classes, books like What Does Everyone Know That I Don’t? Social Skills Help for Adults with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) by Michele Novotni and Randy Petersen, therapy, and other methods, we can finally catch up on our social skills.

Self-esteem repair

If ADHD has pummeled your self-confidence and self-esteem, it’s essential to re-build.

Meditation, martial arts, therapy, self-help books, good friends and supportive family – whatever it takes, learn to love and accept yourself – including your ADHD. With self-esteem restored, it will be harder for others to stomp on you. With self-confidence, you’ll be better able to speak up against – or hang up on – scammers.

Learn to laugh at yourself

If I’ve publicly displayed my naivete or been caught by my gullibility, I try to see – and share – the humor in my gaffe. This is a great tip for most ADHD-related blunders. Social anxiety, fear of failure, emotional hypersensitivity – all these and more can keep us on edge. Learning to lighten up makes  life not just more bearable, but more fun. Paradoxically, being less vulnerable to ridicule, you’ll be less likely to trip up.

Listen to your intuition

Getting back in touch with our spidey-sense can give us an edge in reading people and situations (intuition is not the same as social skills, but it can give us some of the same advantages).

Here’s an ADHD treatment triple threat: restored self-confidence plus new and improved abilities to read social cues plus the ability to listen to, and act upon, your intuition. If you’ve got all three, you might as well quit your day job and become a  superhero, using your powers to stop scammers in their tracks.

You may not be foolproof if you take these tips, but at least you won’t be so easily fooled.


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ADHD and Gullibility – Part II

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). ADHD and Gullibility – Part II. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Feb 2014
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