Pathological Liars: How to Identify, Help, and Prevent It from Happening
Telling the occasional white lie doesn’t change who your are and it doesn’t make you a bad person. However, there are some people who relate to the world solely through lies, who feel the need to lie for no reason. These people are called compulsive or pathological liars, and below you’ll see how to identify one, and how to help them if you do.
Aside from some ethical and moral problems, lying isn’t really a problem. The problem takes shape when telling a lie is out of our control, when we need to lie to feel good. This is a type of addictive behavior. Pathological liars might not even know when they’re telling a lie, and probably won’t recognize that they’ve lied.
What is a Mythomania?
Mythomania, or a pathological liar, is a person who lies, hides, or exaggerates the truth without thinking and without gaining anything form it. The aren’t able to control it and they can’t stop. Mythomania can be related to several personality disorders including severe ones like psychopaths. Pathological liars are subconsciously looking for attention and admiration from those around them, and are hoping to get people to look up to them and think they’re “cool”. This is the reason most of their lies are personal lies. They lie for the sake of lying, without thinking about the consequences of what they say.
Why do compulsive liars lie?
In general, people lie or tell “half-truths” to benefit them in some way, whether it be about coming home before curfew or not breaking the priceless vase. This is why lying is a reinforcing behavior. It clearly keeps us from getting into deeper trouble, so why not tell a lie and get out of it?
The negative effects from lying may or may not ever happen, as others may never even find out about the lie. They may also find out much later, which loses some of the negativity and makes whatever punishment that comes later seem much less important. However it happens, it’s very probably that this lying behavior happens more than once.
Aside from trying to avoid negative consequences, these people lie to get attention and affection. They exaggerate, embellish, or make up a “reality” that they’ve created in order to seem more interesting. However, this only works in the short-term, because with time, people around them will start catching them in lies and distance themselves.
1- When a pathological liar is caught in a difficult situation, they get stressed.
2- They use another lie to “solve the problem”, and their stress subsides, reinforcing their behavior. On one hand, their stress subsides, and on the other, their problem “disappears”
3-Through this reinforcement (or “benefits”) (getting attention and avoiding uncomfortable situations), this lying behavior becomes a habit over time.
Compulsive liars are generally insecure and have low self-esteem. They aren’t very social, and they don’t know how to talk to people without lying. They don’t feel interesting enough, which is why they alter reality to make themselves look better.
They are addicted to lying. They can’t stop lying even if they wanted to, or it will leave them to feel defenseless. Over time, this addiction will become stronger and stronger, and their ability to control their behavior will become more and more difficult.
How can you tell if someone is a pathological liar?
Your friend who likes to embellish his stories isn’t necessarily a pathological liar. Lying pathologically is an addiction, they lie constantly because it’s a habit that they do without realizing it.
We usually catch on to these lies because things don’t quite add up or they seem too far-fetched, but when you confront the liar, they’re cool and collected, not nervous. They might be inexpressive and control their actions. If they look nervous, they’re not a pathological liar.
These people don’t lie to reap benefits or keep something from happening, but it’s possible that their habit started this way (and the subconscious search for approval). They lie systematically, without any apparent reason, which is another way to tell a simple lie from a pathological liar.
Some common aspects of pathological liars are:
- Lies are believable and may have truthful elements. For example: a person has stomach flu but may exaggerate and tell a co-worker its a serious illness like cancer.
- They tend to always show the person lying in a positive light.
- Pathological liars can continue to lie for long periods of time. People who have long term affairs tend to start lying and may become pathological due to the pleasure of keeping the secret.
How can you help a pathological liar?
How can you help a compulsive liar? It’s not as easy as you might think, because part of overcoming any addiction is recognizing that you have one, and pathological liars don’t recognize their problem. Trying to get them to change or bringing them to a psychologist won’t help, because if they don’t think they have a problem, they won’t want to get treatment.
It’s important to show them that you know that they have a problem and try to get them to understand that overcoming their addiction will improve their quality of life. Once they are able to recognize that they have a problem, you can try to have them see a professional, but be careful not to push them.
How can you keep your kids from becoming pathological liars?
This disorder generally starts in adolescence, which is why it’s important to teach your children good values.
It is especially important to raise their self-esteem and talk to them kindly. Tell them when they’ve done a good job and reinforce their good behavior. Remind them that having people like them isn’t the most important thing, but that having morals and treating others nicely can go a long way.
If anyone you know tends to lie a lot don’t rush into any conclusions, remember to always be objective and never push anyone into getting help when they don’t want to.
Hope you enjoyed the article, feel free to leave a comment below.
Molly is a writer specialized in health and psychology. She is passionate about neuroscience and how the brain works, and is constantly looking for new content from interesting sources. Molly is happy to give or take advice, and is always working to educate and inspire.