There is a subtle difference between a pathological and compulsive liar, although it is possible to be both. The pathological liar will repeat a lie over and again, even when they know they’ve been found out. Conversely, a compulsive liar will usually admit to lying and come up with an excuse for it.
Pathological liars are so charming and practised in the art of deceit few people can detect they are lying. However, if confronted they won’t be sorry! They are wholly selfish and will never consider how damaging or hurtful their lies may be to their victims.
It’s usually pathological liars who, when they fail lie detector tests, insist the polygraph is wrong. They’ll deny they have lied, even when there is other evidence to prove they have.
Whilst most white lies are often told so as not to offend or hurt another’s feelings, pathological lies have no real purpose. Sometimes these liars go so far as to incriminate themselves making it difficult to understand why they have lied at all.
Why someone lies pathologically is often unknown, to the audience and the liar. According to Psych Central, a pathological liar appears to lie for no apparent reason or personal gain. In fact, the chronic lying seems to be a pointless habit, one which is incredibly frustrating for family, friends, and coworkers. The Psychiatric Times defines pathological lying as a “long history — maybe lifelong history —of frequent and repeated lying for which no apparent psychological motive or external benefit can be discerned.”
Hart believes that pathological lying should be talked about the same way we talk about other psychopathologies.
“Whether we’re talking about mood disorders, like depression, or anxiety disorders, we say that they are pathological because they are statistically aberrant,” Hart said. “Usually something is happening a lot or not enough.”
The way, then, to define any psychopathology, including pathological lying, Hart explained, is with four criteria:
behavior that occurs with atypical frequency or violates social norms
behavior that causes dysfunction
behavior that causes distress
behavior that poses risk of harm or danger.
Then there is also the “tripartite theory of lying,” which addresses when people lie.
Whatever you’re getting in installments, whether it’s the truth or just lies upon lies, it’s just not conducive to a mutually respectful, loving, caring, trustworthy relationship, romantic or otherwise. It’s also bloody exhausting!
Being truthful with somebody isn’t something that we can just decide to take out an installment plan option and what a person forgets when they’re drip-feeding, is that it’s unfair and actually quite manipulative to hold a person by deception. Sure, sometimes the truth hurts and potentially leads to consequences but it doesn’t mean that we’re any less entitled to the truth plus, we can get on with recovering and moving forward when we have the truth, whereas the pain of lies and deception not only hurts deeply, often affecting our sense of self due to us often doubting ourselves and inadvertently crossing our own boundaries, but drip-feeding costs the person in question their integrity, something that they’d still have, if they ostepped up and did the mature thing and were upfront with the truth instead of trying to avoid or even outright escape natural consequences.
Remember, if you’re getting what you’re taking to be the truth in installments, that person’s also lying by installment and this means in the ‘Debit and Credit Trust System’, experience is actually teaching you that your trust account with this person is in the red and no further extensions should be granted.
Therapists always approach counseling with the belief that they’re dealing with two people who both want to work together and find resolution. However, with a narcissist, their only concern is their image and being right, not in finding common ground to grow from, which makes progress next to impossible
However, both compulsive lying and pathological lying are usually a symptom of a bigger issue, such as:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Addiction or Substance Abuse
Borderline Personality Disorder
Compulsive liars can be hurtful to people around them, especially those who are close to them, like friends and partners. Because they can be manipulative and controlling, they often manipulate the emotions of those who care about them. If the lying is a symptom of a bigger disorder, they might lack empathy so they cannot see how their lies are hurtful and destructive. They could be serial cheaters or even mentally and emotionally abusive. Above all, they are untrustworthy.
If you’re trying to decide if someone you know is a pathological liar, here are some traits to look for:
The lies are elaborate. Earlier when I said it was exhausting to pick apart what was fact and what was fiction, it’s mostly because of how elaborate the lies are. Typically, a pathological liar will weave truth into the lie.
The lies make the liar look good, or even like a victim. If a pathological liar is telling you a story involving multiple people, he will typically look like the hero, or as if he is being treated unfairly and doesn’t deserve it. This could be due to low self-esteem. Part of why a pathological liar lies is because they feel they deserve attention. They’ll do whatever it takes to get to be in the spotlight. For this same reason, they’ll also get defensive if they get caught in a lie and blame someone else.
The lies aren’t original. Sometimes, pathological liars retell other peoples’ stories but change the narrative so it sounds like it happened to them! If a story sounds familiar, don’t dismiss it. There’s a good chance you truly have heard it before.
Liars avoid questions that might get them caught. When a pathological liar is confronted with questions, they tend to avoid them at all costs. They’re manipulative and may even convince you they already answered your question. They may also dodge your question entirely by feigning offense to the question. Liars will also manipulate you in whatever ways necessary to always stay one step ahead.
They over-compensate with eye contact. While most liars would avoid eye contact, pathological liars will go out of their way to maintain deep eye contact in order to appear more convincing. Sometimes, a pathological liar’s pupils will dilate as they lie.
They seem overly laid back. Generally when someone lies, they may be fidgety and anxious. But when a pathological liar speaks, even if repeating someone’s story you heard earlier that day, they seem laid back and not at all concerned about getting caught.
Their pitch changes and their smile is insincere. Depending on the person, a pathological liar’s voice may get higher or lower when they are being dishonest. They could also be overly thirsty and require water while lying, as the stress from lying causes adrenaline to constrict the vocal chords. A pathological liar also smiles differently from a truthful person. When someone is genuinely happy, a person smiles with their whole face; their eyes crinkle and the corners of their mouth stretch. But a liar only smiles with their mouth.
They may have a history of other problematic habits. A history of substance abuse, eating disorders, anger, etc. may be good indicators that a person has the capacity to be a pathological liar.
They’re delusional. Pathological liars live in their own world. They believe parts of their lies are true and tend to exaggerate the importance of basic occurrences.
They aren’t good at relationships. Not surprisingly, pathological liars have unstable relationships, both romantic and professional. Typically a pathological liar is estranged from their family, too.
They jump from job to job. Pathological liars tend to have lengthy resumes. Their jobs are short-term because they tend to burn bridges with employers and coworkers alike.
A pathological liar is an individual who chronically tells grandiose lies that may stretch or exceed the limits of believability. While most people lie or at least bend the truth occasionally, pathological liars do so habitually. Whether or not pathological lying should be considered a distinct psychological disorder is still debated within the medical and academic
Pathological liars habitually lie in order to gain attention or sympathy.
The lies told by pathological liars are typically grandiose or fantastic in scope.
Pathological liars are always the heroes, heroines, or victims of the stories they concoct.
Normal Lies vs. Pathological Lies
Most people occasionally tell “normal” lies as a defense mechanism to avoid the consequences of the truth (e.g. “It was like that when I found it.”) When a lie is told to cheer up a friend or to spare another person’s feelings (e.g. “Your haircut looks great!”), it may be considered a strategy for facilitating positive contact.
In contrast, pathological lies have no social value and are often outlandish. They can have devastatingly negative impacts on those who tell them. As the size and frequency of their lies progress, pathological liars often lose the trust of their friends and family. Eventually, their friendships and relationships fail. In extreme cases, pathological lying can lead to legal problems, such as libel and fraud. https://ea013c2a3720e02f0072b032389f37ca.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Pathological Liars vs. Compulsive Liars
Though often used interchangeably, the terms “pathological liar” and “compulsive liar” are different. Pathological and compulsive liars both make a habit of telling lies, but they have different motives for doing so. null
Pathological liars are generally motivated by a desire to gain attention or sympathy. On the other hand, compulsive liars have no recognizable motive for lying and will do so no matter the situation at the time. They are not lying in an attempt to avoid trouble or gain some advantage over others. Actually, compulsive liars may feel powerless to stop themselves from telling lies.
History and Origins of Pathological Lying
While lying—the act of intentionally making an untrue statement—is as old as the human race, the behavior of pathological lying was first documented in medical literature by German psychiatrist Anton Delbrueck in 1891. In his studies, Delbrueck observed that many of the lies his patients told were so fantastically over-the-top that the disorder belonged in a new category he called “pseudologia phantastica.”
Writing in a 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, American psychiatrist Dr. Charles Dike further defined pathological lying as “falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, may be extensive and very complicated, and may manifest over a period of years or even a lifetime, in the absence of definite insanity, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy.”
Traits and Signs of Pathological Liars
Pathological liars are driven by definite, typically identifiable motives such as bolstering their ego or self-esteem, seeking sympathy, justifying feelings of guilt, or living out a fantasy. Others may lie simply to alleviate their boredom by creating drama.null
In 1915, pioneering psychiatrist William Healy, M.D. wrote “All pathological liars have a purpose, i.e., to decorate their own person, to tell something interesting, and an ego motive is always present. They all lie about something they wish to possess or be.”
Keeping in mind that they typically tell their lies for purposes of self-gratification, here are some common identifying traits of pathological liars.
Their stories are fantastically outlandish: If the first thing you think is “No way!”, you may be listening to a tale told by a pathological liar. Their stories often depict fantastic circumstances in which they possess great wealth, power, bravery, and fame. They tend to be classic “name-droppers,” claiming to be close friends with famous people they may have never met.
They are always the hero or victim: Pathological liars are always the stars of their stories. Seeking adulation, they are always heroes or heroines, never villains or antagonists. Seeking sympathy, they are always the hopelessly suffering victims of outrageous circumstances.
They really believe it: The old adage “if you tell a lie often enough, you start to believe it” holds true for pathological liars. They sometimes come to believe their stories so completely that at some point they lose awareness of the fact that they are lying. As a result, pathological liars can seem aloof or self-centered, with little concern for others.
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