1. What is a pathological liar?
A pathological liar is someone who has made lying a regular habit. They can lie about both small, incidental topics, as well as create elaborate stories. The chronic need to lie about a vast genre of topics is what differentiates white lies from pathological lying.
2. What causes pathological lying?
There are several root causes for someone to develop the compulsion of pathological lying. On one side of the spectrum are people with deep feelings of inadequacy, which drives their need to create a false narrative about themselves. On the opposite side of that spectrum are individuals with either Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). They lie to play emotional games with the people around them. In addition, they derive entertainment out of fooling unsuspecting victims with their lies. The diagnostic criteria for both NPD and ASPD include a grandiose sense of self. Lying helps their internal need to be seen as better than other people or the victim when it suits the pathological liar’s specific set of circumstances.
3. How can someone spot a pathological liar?
Pathological lying can be initially tricky to spot. The depth and detail of the lies often cover the lack of truth to their story. Pathological liars will go to elaborate lengths to falsify details of events that never took place. They also include small nuggets of actual events but spin the entire story to be viewed from a very different angle than the truth. Looking for the pattern of actions not aligning with words helps to spot a pathological liar. Over time, their mask always begins to fall.
Time is the pathological liar’s worst enemy.
4. How can a target cope with a pathological liar?
The best way to cope with a pathological liar is not to be associated with them. Put as much distance as possible. If being in contact is needed, begin documenting all conversations. A pathological liar loves to use gaslighting to confuse their victims, especially when caught in a lie. Once the truth comes out, the liar will spin a new story in an attempt not to have their scam fully revealed.
5. Can pathological lying be treated?
If trauma, anxiety, or depression are causes of pathological lying, therapeutic help is available to address the underlying issue. With guidance, the compulsion to lie can be overcome, and new relational skills developed. However, therapy has proven ineffective if the pathological lying is due to Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Anti-Social Personality Disorder. These individuals rarely stay in counseling long enough to fully address their lack of empathy and attachment with others.
The Take-Away: Pathological lying will end if the individual fully recognizes their bend towards chronic dishonesty and is willing to engage in individual counseling to learn new relational skills.