Is Pathological Lying Linked to Mental Disorders?

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Pathological lying is a complex and often misunderstood behaviour that can have severe consequences for the liar and those around them. Many people wonder whether pathological lying is simply a bad habit or if it qualifies as a mental disorder. 

In this article, we’ll explore the nature of pathological lying, its potential classification as a mental disorder, and the impact it can have on individuals and their relationships.

What is Pathological Lying?

Pathological lying, or pseudologia fantastica or mythomania, involves compulsively telling lies without obvious benefit or reason. Unlike ordinary lies, often motivated by a desire to avoid trouble or gain an advantage, pathological lies can seem pointless and maybe elaborate and exquisite. This behaviour usually begins in childhood or adolescence and can continue into adulthood, becoming deeply ingrained in the individual’s personality.

Characteristics of Pathological Lying

Frequent and Persistent Lying

Pathological liars lie more frequently than the average person. Their lying is habitual and often compulsive. This means they may lie even without a clear benefit or reason.

Elaborate and Detailed Lies

Pathological liars’ lies are often complex and detailed, which can make them seem more believable. They may involve intricate stories that are hard to disprove immediately.

Dramatic and Grandiose Fabrications

Pathological lies often exhibit a dramatic or grandiose quality. This includes claims of having achieved incredible feats or having extraordinary experiences. These fabrications can make the liar appear more interesting or impressive.

Lying About Mundane Matters

Unlike typical lying which usually involves significant or self-serving situations, pathological liars may lie about trivial matters. They often fabricate stories about everyday events. This leads to mistrust and confusion among those around them.

Lies That Are Easily Disproven

Pathological liars often tell lies that can easily be exposed as false. Yet they continue to lie despite being caught. This persistence can be baffling to others. It may damage their credibility.

Lack of Clear Motive

The lies told by pathological liars often lack clear motives. They are not necessarily lying to gain something or avoid trouble. This makes the behaviour more puzzling.

Believing Their Lies

Some pathological liars may start to believe their fabrications. This blurs the line between reality and fiction. This self-deception can make it difficult for them to distinguish truth from lies.

Difficulty Admitting the Truth

Even when confronted with evidence pathological liars may find it challenging to admit the truth. They may continue to defend lies. They might also create new ones to cover up the initial falsehood.

Impact on Relationships

Pathological lying can severely damage personal and professional relationships. Trust is eroded, and friends, family, and colleagues may distance themselves from the liar.

Psychological Distress

The constant need to fabricate stories and keep track of lies can create significant stress for the pathological liar. Over time, this can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety.

Psychological Theories Behind Pathological Lying

As earlier pointed out, there are various approaches to understanding pathological lying and various psychological theories. Others feel it has close connections with personality disorders that patients may be hiding from the public, like Narcissistic or Borderline personality disorder. 

Lying can be seen as a way of maintaining self-esteem. People lie to avoid the embarrassment of being exposed to their abilities or lack of them. Others recommend it as an impulse control disorder, where it is hard for a person to refrain from lying even when the action would be against their own best interest.

Is Pathological Lying a Mental Disorder?

The current state of diagnosing pathological lying is still in debate on whether it is part of mental illness or not among practitioners. It can be mentioned that pathological lying is not considered an independent mental disorder nowadays, like the DSM-5. It is usually accompanied by other psychiatric diseases. 

It is classified as a subtype of anxiety; by some people, it should be considered a distinct disorder. There is a big difference between the normal telling of lies and pathological lying, which has specific features. The consequences of self-employment can be seen as having a massive influence over the course of the individual’s life.

The Role of Memory and Self-Deception

Memory Distortion

Pathological liars may experience memory distortions. They genuinely remember false events as if they were true. This phenomenon makes it difficult for them to differentiate between reality and fiction.


Some pathological liars may engage in self-deception. They convince themselves that their lies are true. This self-deception can be a coping mechanism. It helps protect their self-esteem. Or it helps to escape from a less desirable reality.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced when holding contradictory beliefs or behaviours. It may play a role in pathological lying. Liars may create new lies to reduce the dissonance. This exists between their actions and their self-image.

Impact on Treatment

The presence of memory distortion and self-deception complicates the treatment of pathological lying. Therapy may need to focus. Therapists should help individuals recognise and confront their false beliefs. Additionally, they need to address distorted memories.

Diagnosing and Treating Pathological Lying

Psychological Evaluation

To diagnose pathological lying, one has to take a psychological test from a mental health specialist. Such an evaluation assists in determining potential causal factors that may be contributing to the act of lying.

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the treatments that is often used in treating pathological lying. Instead, it is on making the participants identify their habit of lying and find better ways of dealing with their problems.

Addressing Underlying Conditions

It may also entail a treatment of any causes of this behavior such as personality disorders or impulse control disorders.

Building Awareness

One of the important tasks in treatment of the disorder is to make the liar concentrate on his or her actions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy might also come in handy in the sense that it can assist a person in recognizing the consequences of lying and how not to lie.

Support Systems

Friends and family support can help in treatment, during this stage it may be important to seek support from friends and family. Regular support helps the individual to be on toes and more focused on changing their behavior patterns.


Pathological lying is a complex behaviour that poses significant challenges for those affected and their loved ones. It is not currently classified as a distinct mental disorder. It is often associated with various psychiatric conditions. Understanding the nature of pathological lying can help. Seeking appropriate treatment can also aid individuals in managing this behaviour. Improved relationships and well-being are possible outcomes. If you or someone you know struggles with compulsive lying, seeking professional help is crucial. Healing and better mental health can follow.

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