What Makes Someone a Pathological Liar? Explained

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Lying is a habit that is often developed at an early age. By this time, our brain has been created so that we have a potent and versatile tool. With the help of language, we can use it to play with reality and change the outcome of a particular situation.

With time, we soon begin to understand that lying is a bad habit. On the other hand, some people go on to become pathological liars. This means that no matter what, they can’t stop themselves from spreading misinformation about other people and even themselves. Even though the psychological reasons for becoming a pathological liar seem to be a mystery, experts have deemed it to be a disorder. Furthermore, pathological lying could also be considered an underlying symptom of personality disorders like narcissism and psychopathy. This might stem from a defect in the neurological wiring regarding what normal humans tend to feel: empathy and compassion. Since psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists have what is known as an empathy-deficit disorder, they don’t tend to feel empathy in the same way that ordinary people would.

Hence, this article will discuss at great length pathological liars, their causes, and how you can effectively cope with this complex group of people.

Who Are Pathological Liars?

The whole concept of lying entails making a false statement with the intention of deceiving someone. This would most often be done for personal gain. On the other hand, a person who is known to lie pathologically tends to lie routinely without any clear benefit to themselves.

One of the key features of pathological liars is lying without any apparent benefit or motivation behind it. Deciphering a motive is often straightforward. Someone could lie to avoid a stressful or embarrassing social situation or to benefit themselves. Conversely, pathological lying tends to take place without benefitting the individual or having no apparent reason behind it.

However, scientists and research experts have yet to determine whether an individual who would be pathologically lying would be aware of their lies or even be capable of rationally thinking about them.

It is for pathological lying that it becomes difficult for these individuals to socialise successfully. This can eventually lead to immense interpersonal problems with colleagues and loved ones.

Causes Of Pathological Lying

With minimal research in this area, uncovering the causes of pathological lying seems unknown. It has even become difficult to distinguish whether pathological lying can be considered a condition in its own right or an underlying symptom of another mental health condition.

Even then, some attempts have been made to discover more about the causes of pathological lying. Some of the most discussed ones are highlighted below.

Factitious Disorder

Factitious disorder, which would also be more commonly known as Munchausen’s syndrome, would be considered a condition where an individual would be mentally or physically acting ill, even though, in reality, they are not ill.

This kind of disorder seems to be most prevalent when someone is lying about another individual suffering from an illness. Sadly, this condition has also been found to be most common among mothers who are faking a disease either to their doctor or to their children.

Personality Disorders

Pathological lying has also been found to be a likely symptom of particular personality disorders. These include:

  1. Antisocial personality disorder (APD)
  2. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
  3. Borderline personality disorder (BPD).

BPD refers to a condition that specific individuals suffer from, making it difficult for them to keep their emotions in check. People with this particular disorder may experience extreme mood swings, lack a stable sense of self, and feel increased insecurity and instability.

In the case of NPD, it would be the constant need for special treatment and admiration, along with enjoying fantasies of gaining great importance.

As for APD, researchers seem to be in a quandary about this. In theory, although pathological lying may occur in people with APD, individuals also typically tend to lie for pleasure or personal gain.

This means that a person with NPD or BPD might lie in an attempt to distort reality to match the current range of emotions that they are experiencing.

Frontotemporal Dementia

This is referred to as a form of dementia that tends to affect the temporal and frontal brain regions, causing changes in language and behaviour.

How To Effectively Deal With A Pathological Liar

The task of coping with a pathological liar would indeed be a monumental one. This is because forming and then maintaining a relationship with a pathological liar could take up immense patience and time on your part.

Maintain A Fine Distinction Between Expectation And Reality

The task of coping with a pathological liar would indeed be a monumental one. This is because forming and then maintaining a relationship with a pathological liar could take up immense patience and time on your part.


Maintain A Fine Distinction Between Expectation And Reality

One of the most important things to remember when dealing with a pathological liar is to consider their side of the story. This means always keeping in mind that the liar does not intend any actual harm to you, nor would they benefit from these lies. As such, the best approach would be to avoid blaming or angrily responding to the lies being blatantly told to your face.

Symptom of an Underlying Mental Condition

It might also be helpful to remember that pathological lying could be a sign of an underlying mental health condition. As such, you could try talking to the person about any other symptoms they might suffer. This could lead them to seek help from a therapist.

Bottom Line

That being said, pathological lying is a condition that medical experts have not formally recognised. This means that formal treatment has yet to be created for it. Furthermore, telling pathological lies does not have any lasting benefit for anyone involved; it could be detrimental to others. Hence, the most important thing to remember is that lying is a compulsive habit. Thus, the person who is pathologically lying does it to better themselves.

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