What Leads to Compulsive Lying? A Guide to Understanding

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Regardless of how we would like to perceive it, lying can be considered a universal human experience. This is applicable in both good and bad instances. Maybe you told your friend that you like their haircut to prevent their feelings from getting hurt. Or you told your boss that you have managed to land your dream job, whereas, in reality, you haven’t.

The bottom line is that lying has been known to take various forms, being told for multiple reasons. The main point is to identify whether your lies are becoming compulsive or not. In that case, not only do we have to get to the root of the main problem, but we also provide help and guidance about how we can overcome it. This article will aim to do just that.

What Constitutes Compulsive Lying?

Compulsive lying has been found to vary entirely from the little white lies that are told occasionally. The concerning part is that these lies are also said regularly. This leads to a loss of control over the person telling the lies. As such, compulsive lying is also known as pathological lying.

According to research, lying in itself would be considered normal psychological behaviour. When you think about your situation, I’m sure you’ll be able to come across at least one instance when you’ve told a small or white lie. 

On the other hand, as with compulsive lying, it tends to deviate from traditional lies. This means that a compulsive liar will construct fantastical and impressive tales with the main intention of appearing impressive. 

The problem tends to become further complicated when people participate in the lies by throwing in questions of their own. This means the narrator would then have to continue adding details to keep up with their lies. Over time, it could become difficult to remain organized, allowing situations to spiral out of control.

The sad part is that compulsive lying has not yet been recognized as a mental health or psychological condition. Even then, we would find it to be prevalent.

In the current scenario, it may look like compulsive lying would serve the liar’s purpose to gain social attention and popularity. However, the people who have done it have also experienced psychological distress, claiming that they felt that lying deterred their ability to function in work or social situations. In addition, they also believed that this kind of behaviour was a risk for themselves and those around them.

Causes Of Compulsive Lying

Even though a more significant amount of research would need to be conducted regarding unveiling the causes of compulsive lying, we would still be able to provide you with a list to begin with. Look below at some of the leading causes of compulsive lying identified by researchers.

  1. Antisocial personality disorder: The lies would be told for fun or manipulation
  2. Borderline personality disorder: The individual would be experiencing problems with maintaining emotional stability and also mood instability
  3. Confabulation: This would be described as a particular disorder where people tend to develop false memories, but not necessarily out of the intention for lying
  4. Factitious disorder: This is a disorder where an individual would intentionally cause psychiatric or physical symptoms of a particular illness. This is done so that they can receive medical attention and care. The shocking part is that the individual can do this to themselves or others, 
  5. Malingering: This would include exaggerating an existing illness or making up a new one to gain your benefit. However, this would not be considered to be a mental health disorder
  6. Narcissistic personality disorder: In this kind of disorder, lying would be done to increase one’s self-importance

How to Deal With a Compulsive Liar

The experts have shared some helpful strategies for dealing with compulsive liars.

Don’t Take the Individual Seriously or the Situation Personally

First, when you realize that a person close to you is lying to you, one of the first things you would do is start wondering. This means you are trying to think back and figure out whether you have done something wrong or your behaviour had anything to do with it.

However, the expert suggests avoiding taking the lies personally. It’s equally important to remember that the compulsion to lie tends to reflect more on the liar than on you.

Explain to the Liars About the Impact the Lies Are Having Upon You

On the off-chance that you get to catch the liar in the act, the initial reaction would be to get angry and frustrated. That is precisely the reaction that you should not be going for. Instead, you can talk to them openly and explain how their lies are detrimental to you.

Encourage Them to Seek Treatment and Help

Try to broach the topic of visiting a mental healthcare provider and encourage them to seek help. These people are trained professionals who can help the compulsive liar understand why they are lying in the first place and diagnose whether there is an underlying mental disorder. This can eventually help develop healthier coping mechanisms in the long term.

Set Firm Boundaries With Compulsive Liars

It would also be essential to set firm boundaries with the compulsive liar and consciously maintain them. All this needs to be done to protect yourself. However, if the person’s compulsion to lie is quite strong, the boundaries that you have laid down may not prove to be effective. You’ll understand this when you see the person continuously lying to you.

Final Thoughts

Even though no specific treatment exists for compulsive lying because it is not a recognized mental health condition, you shouldn’t be disheartened. After all, there are several other ways and strategies that you can undertake to not only expose the liar in the act but also protect your mental health and sanity.


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