Why Do People Tell Lies Habitually? What do you call someone who keeps lying? Is pathological lying a psychological disorder? So why pathological lying? How does one live with a pathological liar? Can a pathological lying be treated?
Lying can take different forms, ranging from little white lies to deliberate omissions. Majority of people tell lies occasionally. And their reasons include avoid offending someone, protecting oneself from harm, prevent feeling guilty, to avoid issues and punishment, etc.
But when lying becomes frequent, habitual and compulsive, pathological lying is born.
What do you call someone who keeps lying?
Some people frequently tell lies to the point that it affects them in all spheres of life. These spheres of life include socially, at work or school, financially, etc. So why do people tell lies habitually? These are habitual liars and they are called pathological liars. Or in the words of a slang, it is said that such people can lie for Africa.
Is pathological lying a psychological disorder?
Pathological lying is persistent, it is pervasive, and a compulsive form of lying excessively. And this type of behavior makes the person have problems in functioning, social, occupational, etc.
A pathological liar is fully aware that he is lying and he does it intentionally. Pathological lying is different from telling a white lie which is intended to protect the other person’s feelings. But in pathological lying, the person consistently lies for no reason and lying is a way of life or a habit. And he doesn’t care about the consequences.
This type of liars start lying quit early in life, and this behaviour of theirs peaks by late adolescence. And research has shown that these people are also dishonest in other ways, for example, being fraudulent.
So yes, pathological lying is a psychological disorder but not a psychiatric disorder. It is different from a delusional disorder, psychotic or depressive disorders where people can make statements that are not true. In psychiatric issues, the person is not aware that what he is saying is wrong or not true.
These liars fabricate stories to make them sound real and hope that people will believe them. Then more lies are added to backup the original lies. But unfortunately for them, their lies are easily disproved.
They have no reason to lie, yet they lie and they don’t care about the consequences. For such people, lying is almost a lifelong issue, for which people know them.
Because they tell more lies to cover their old lies, they easily end up contradicting themselves. And to get people to believe them, they tell long and dramatic stories and add details that cannot be verified.
So they are good story tellers. Their stories or lies are geared towards being admired and acceptance by others. And many times they even believe these stories or lies they tell.
To be good liars, they have good personal relationship and speak eloquently so as to engage with others when speaking. They are very creative and think very fast and they may lack good eye contact when lying. Such people are very manipulative.
Pathological liars tell a lot of stories about themselves that portray them as heroes. Their stories may also make others believe that they are victims of abuse, so as to gain sympathy from others. When asked questions of clarifications, they give vague answers.
And if they have to tell the same story another time, they will give a different version. If one attempts to point out their flaws in the story, they will quickly say that they are not good at story telling. In actual fact, being dishonest makes them feel comfort and secure.
So why pathological lying?
That is, why do people tell lies habitually? Actually, people lie for a whole lot of reasons. And even those suffering from different types of mental illness tell lies, which they are not conscious of. For example someone suffering from depression may lie, by claiming that she killed someone. This is actually a delusion of guilt. It is not the same as pathological lying.
Also certain people with mental illness or neurological illness may confabulate. For example, people with alcohol issues, dementia, schizophrenia, etc. Confabulation occurs when a person with a neuropsychiatric disorder has gaps concerning an incident. So he fills in the gaps with false stories. It is actually false memory and it is not intended to be a form of deceit.
People that lie pathologically have low self esteem and a false sense of self. Most often these people are very unhappy about themselves.
Pathological lying is seen more in persons with certain personalities. These include narcissistic personality disorder and dissocial personality disorder. Also persons with histrionic personality disorder can be pathological liars.
Those who believe in social status can become pathological liars in order to maintain a status quo. This occurs more in an environment where deception creates advantages. So if a community has no consequences for lying, certain people may think that it is more beneficial to lie.
In the brain of pathological liars, they have more white matter than grey matter, especially at the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal part of the brain is used for thinking, intelligence, judgment, abstraction, etc.
This excess of white matter, help pathological liars to master the art of deceit. They also have high verbal skills. And because they have less grey matter, they cannot understand moral issues.
Actually, because such liars start early to tell lies, these frequent lies change their brain structure. So having changed their brain structure, they can now maintain their deceitful lifestyle.
How does one live with a pathological liar?
Being in a relationship with a pathological liar can be quite frustrating. When trust is broken, it can be hard to rebuild.
Due to these trust issues, most relationships and friendships with pathological liars break down or fail. Pathological lying can even lead to legal issues.
The levels of dishonesty that occurs in these relationships can dangerously affect the well-being of family and friends. The person lying is distressed by his behaviour and the behaviour poses a risk to the person and to others. For the pathological liar, he is constantly worrying, lest someone discovers his lies.
Most pathological liars get angry when you angrily challenge their lies. So the best thing is to remain calm and don’t lose your temper in the face of their lies.
Then let him know that you know that he has just told a lie. Do so in a calm manner. But his first reaction will be denial about his lies or throw a tantrum. Remain firm and end the discussion.
You can let them know that you are concerned about their wellbeing and suggest treatment. Most often, the person will accuse you of labeling him as “mad.” But try to encourage him the best that you can to get treatment.
Know that you could be dealing with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder or one with dissocial personality disorder. So it is up to you to know if you have the resilience to handle such people. Pathological liars have abuse tendencies and criminal tendencies.
Can a pathological lying be treated?
Treatment is received from a clinical psychologist, because there are no medicines for this. And psychotherapy is the best treatment. But this treatment will only be possible if he acknowledges that he has a problem and that he needs help.
Forcing the person into therapy will make treatment difficult, because he will lie to the therapist. And if the therapist points out his lies, he will refuse to admit them.
Medication from a psychiatrist can be added if there are psychiatric issues such as depression, anxiety, etc. These psychiatric issues usually complicate pathological lying.
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