Lying is the act of giving information while believing it to be untrue, with the intention of deceiving by doing so. It is very common in social interactions among humans. A pathological liar is someone who lies compulsively with no intent or gain or benefit. This type of lying is different than other forms of non-pathological lying, where the lie is often beneficial in some way.
Pathological lying is usually a symptom of underlying mental health, psychological, and personality disorders.
It is viewed as a coping mechanism developed in early childhood and is often associated with some other type of mental health disorder like an antisocial personality disorder. It could be that they lie to avoid something traumatic that happened in their lives, such as abuse, or the condition may be genetic.
If you encounter such attributes, know that it’s not personal: While it can certainly be hard not to take it personally, it’s important to remember that a person who lies pathologically may not necessarily be aware of it or intend to do it. They may even have underlying mental health conditions that are motivating their behavior. Suggest that the person seek mental health treatment for their condition and offer whatever resources and support that you can. Avoid being judgmental; instead, let them know that you’re concerned about them.
When you confront the person about their lies, they may deny it or respond with more lies. Avoid losing your temper. If you’re upset, let them know that you don’t want to interact with them if they’re not being honest with you. As it can be difficult to trust the words of a person who lies pathologically, “one of the most effective things you can do is read the person’s actions. Actions don’t lie, and over time you’ll spot patterns that will help you predict their future behavior,” says Daramus.
It’s important to set boundaries in your relationship with the person, to protect yourself. If they don’t have a lot of insight or willingness to change, you might have to set boundaries with yourself about how much you’ll give to that relationship. However, if you are unable to cope with the person’s lies, you can end your relationship with them. While this can be difficult if they’re your family member or close friend, it is important to let them know that their actions will have consequences if they do not desist from it.
Pathological lying is a possible symptom of certain personality disorders, including:
- borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
- antisocial personality disorder (APD)
While most people tell the occasional fib, some people lie more frequently and even unconsciously, says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.
TYPES OF LIES
Everyone lies occasionally, but it’s a conscious decision. They are often referred to as white lies. The everyday white lie is usually out of kindness (to be polite and spare people’s feelings), to get out of trouble or to escape a social situation.
Compulsive lying is not the same as pathological lying. A person who lies compulsively simply lies without thought or control. Compulsive lying is often purely out of habit. It is thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary and routine.
Characteristics of Compulsive Liars
Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, telling the truth is awkward and uncomfortable, while lying feels right and comes naturally which is an automatic response that is hard to break and one that takes its toll on a relationship.
Compulsive liars may or may not experience a mental disorder. Usually, it is observed that people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder resort to lying compulsively. It is easy to avoid confrontations with truth, hence they stick to lying.
Compulsive liars lie because of several reasons. However, it may always be easy to find out if they are lying because their stories usually do not add up. They are also obvious and display the classic lying behaviors, such as avoiding eye contact, breaking out into a sweat, and tripping over their words or rambling.
They make lies up spontaneously and don’t do much thinking, they prefer to tell the sorts of lies that they think people want to hear. They know the difference between reality and lies. They are more likely to admit to lying when confronted, but this does not necessarily stop them from lying.
The success of the treatment depends upon whether the person actually agrees that they are a ‘compulsive liar’ or a ‘pathological liar.’ The treatment options may include:
- Repeated counseling
- Antipsychotic medications
Family support goes a long way in overcoming this habit, , along with the treatment.
The treatment options may sometimes be combined, depending on the underlying psychiatric condition.
A pathological liar lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little awareness. They may do it unconsciously and may not even realize they’re lying in the moment, although they can often tell afterward. Moreover, they may not care, as long as it serves their purpose.
A key feature of a pathological lie is that it has no obvious motivation. It is usually possible to determine why someone has told a lie, such as to benefit themselves or avoid an embarrassing or stressful social situation, but lying pathologically occurs for no clear reason and does not seem to benefit the individual.
It is unclear whether a person who pathologically lies is aware of their deceit or is capable of thinking rationally about their lies. Like people who lie compulsively, people who lie pathologically sometimes lie without specific intent, but they may also lie for a purpose. It’s still pathological because it hurts or manipulates people, and there are healthier ways to achieve the same goal. For example, a person who lies pathologically may lie to establish status; however, there are other ways to do that.
Paramus notes that if you’re dealing with some who lies all the time, you’ll always be in a state of uncertainty.
Dealing with a pathological liar takes a lot of patience. No one likes being lied to. According to a 2016 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, lying is a self-perpetuating cycle. The researchers examined the brains of the participants to determine what happens when someone tells a lie. They found that the more a person lies, the easier it becomes for them to tell a lie, making them more likely to lie.