Pathological or Compulsive Lying

What Is Pathological or Compulsive Lying?    


We all lie during our lifetime and anyone who tells you they have never lied is guilty of doing just that.  It’s believed that the average person will tell one or two lies a day and might hear as many as a hundred.  Most of these will be what people refer to as “white lies,” which are generally harmless, especially in circumstances where they either feel embarrassed or don’t want to embarrass someone else or hurt their feelings.  This kind of lying should not be confused with compulsive or pathological lying, which is far more serious.  There are three different types of liars:

·      Natural liars, the most common type, who don’t believe the lies they tell, but it comes naturally to them

·      Compulsive liars, feel uncomfortable when they tell the truth so lying feels natural to them whether it’s a small or large lie

·      Pathological liars, tend to be cunning, selfish and manipulative and their lying is often a sign of a mental health condition

Compulsive Liars

Compulsive liars lie out of habit, they often lie to avoid confrontation but tend not to be cunning or manipulative.  It can be easy to catch them out as they’re lies aren’t always consistent. They tend to avoid eye contact and might appear nervous when lying, they will be more likely to admit to a lie when confronted and know the difference between what is true and what is a lie.  Their lies are spontaneous and don’t appear to benefit them in any way.

Pathological Liars

Pathological liars often lie as a coping method which they develop during childhood.  Their lies often benefit them and they have little regard for the feelings of other people. They believe their lies, which can be complex, are true.  Confident at lying and difficult to catch out in a lie, when confronted they will deny they are lying and can become defensive.


Lying can be a symptom of several mental health conditions including:

·      Antisocial personality disorder

·      Trauma

·      Histrionic personality disorder

·      Abuse

·      Narcissistic personality disorder

·      Head injuries

·      Borderline Personality disorder

Professional Help

People who lie will often deny it or refuse to believe that there is a problem but it can have a negative effect on their lives and relationships.  If lying is causing you problems you should initially seek help from your doctor.

They can assess you to see if your lying is a symptom of an undiagnosed mental health condition.  Dependant on their diagnosis they may prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, more than likely they will refer you to a mental health professional.

Therapy can only work if you are able to accept that you have a problem and acknowledge that you need help.  It can be challenging as often people would rather lie to a therapist than address their behaviours.  Therapies can include family therapy as support from family members will be a part of overcoming your lying.  Psychotherapy can help you to understand why you lie and if this is a symptom of a mental health condition help you to overcome or manage the condition long term.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.

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