It hurts when you find out that somebody lied to you. But it hurts even more when you find out that someone has been lying to you repeatedly. Although almost everyone lies once in a while, sometimes exaggerating facts, omitting little details, or telling a completely different story, a few people may be called pathological liars, who always twist the truth, no matter how simple or seemingly unimportant it may be. How can one tell if he is dealing with a pathological liar?
What Is a Pathological Liar?
A pathological liar lies compulsively and impulsively, almost without thinking about the consequences of his action. He lies regularly on a spontaneous basis even if he gains no benefit from it, or even if he traps himself into it. A pathological liar cannot control his impulse to lie and it is usually a self-defeating trait.
Causes of Pathological lying
One may develop into a pathological liar because of:
- A personality disorder (sociopathic, histrionic, narcissistic, or borderline personality)
- Dysfunctional families
- Physical or sexual abuse during childhood
- Substance abuse
- Disorders in impulse control (pathological gambling, kleptomania, compulsive shopping)
- Neuropsychological abnormalities (learning disabilities, mental retardation, etc.)
- Suggestible or accommodating personality traits
Signs of Pathological lying
- Masked smiling
- Lacks head movement
- Increased movements or self-adapters (such as playing with an object, scratching the head, etc.)
- Increased or heightened voice pitch
- Slow speech
- Increased use of pause fillers (such as “uh”, “hm”, or “er”)
- Nonverbal behavior does not match communication methods (hand movements do not match the spoken words)
How to Detect a Pathological Liar
Here are some ways on how you can detect someone who is a pathological liar:
1. Is He/She Trying to Get Attention?
A pathological liar wants to be in the limelight or center of attention and lying reinforces his feeling of being important. Some possibilities include:
- Sympathy attention. The liar wants everybody to know his story and exaggerates details to get sympathy from anybody who can hear him, whether it is because of a small or a big problem or incidence in his life.
- Wants to feel important. This person wants to feel that he is superior to others and lets them know he has a better experience or accomplishment, whether it is a personal or professional aspect.
- Feels bored. This individual is usually bored when there is no drama in his life, so he fabricates lies that may hurt or affect other people.
- Insecurity. Pathological liars are usually insecure and they feel they must make up lies about their accomplishments or events in their life to become worthy of attention.
2. Does He Have Harmful Secret Habits?
People who lie habitually may be hiding a secret habit such as an alcohol problem or drug addiction. They may be engaged in obsessive behaviors like online gaming or hiding an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. They may also have a personality disorder such as narcissistic, bipolar, or borderline personalities. These pathological liars need professional help in the form of group counseling or therapy to treat their behaviors as well their lying problem.
3. How does He React When He Is Caught Lying?
The pathological liar reacts very negatively when busted for telling a lie by:
- Being extremely defensive. He may try to blame someone else.
- Fabricating yet another lie. The pathological liar covers up the original fib to make sure that his reputation remains intact by telling a bigger lie.
- Becoming vindictive. They may react with anger or rage and may retaliate. However, others may become upset at being caught by someone close and may react with tearfulness.
4. Is He even Living in the Real World?
Pathological liars typically have trouble maintaining consistency in their life and do not live in reality. This may include signs such as:
- Changing jobs often. The pathological liar has difficulty holding on to a job because they either are busted for fibbing or are not able to handle ordinary tasks because they bluff their way into a job.
- Cannot hold steady relationships. Interpersonal relationships fail because of lying and unrealistic expectations. Although they often attract new relationships because of lying, they have trouble maintaining them.
- Estrangement from family. Family members may become tired of supporting or being close to a pathological liar and he may become alienated.