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What is Pathological Lying?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

For many people, a liar is a liar. Such a person may be described as a compulsive liar, a habitual liar, or a pathological liar. There are, however, some who have outlined differences between the types. Pathological lying is a controversial subject without an exact psychiatric definition. The problem is commonly described as the habit of lying to get one’s way while not considering the feelings or rights of others.

Pathological lying has not been widely researched, documented, or categorized by the psychiatric community. This contributes to the controversy, since elements surrounding the problem are often not agreed upon. It is believed, however, that this type of lying is equally common among males and females. There is also a general consensus, that in most cases, the problem develops early and continues throughout life.

Pathological lying can put a huge strain on personal relationships.
Pathological lying can put a huge strain on personal relationships.

The exact reason that pathological liars behave the way that they do is not entirely clear. Some believe they do it for specific motives, such as the desire to paint a certain picture of themselves. They also may lie for any purpose that benefits them, such as to get sympathy, money, or a promotion. Those who support this definition believe these people see little value in truth. They also believe the pathological liar is very conscious of his decisions to provide false information, so he realizes what is true and what is not.

Pathological lying can be treated through therapy.
Pathological lying can be treated through therapy.

There is an opposing view that points out that pathological lying is often done for no solid reason. Some people are often incapable of managing their fictitious stories, which is how others often recognize that there is a problem. As a result, these people suffer more negative consequences from their actions than benefits. People who support this view believe that pathological liars cannot control the habit. They also believe many of these liars believe their lies to the extent of being delusional.

Pathological liars often hurt themselves as much as they hurt those around them.
Pathological liars often hurt themselves as much as they hurt those around them.

In either case, it has been observed that this form of lying often involves stories that could be real. A liar does not generally concoct stories of flying cows. Instead, he may tell a lie about an accomplishment or pretend to have a disease. In some cases, the lies are formulated around some degree of truth.

Pathological lying is not generally recognized as a psychological disorder, but it is commonly viewed as an indication of one. These include antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. When this is the case, there is usually little hope for solving the problem without addressing the underlying disorder.

A parent who is a compulsive liar can cause great detriment to a young child.
A parent who is a compulsive liar can cause great detriment to a young child.

Lying can have adverse effects on all sorts of relationships, such as parent and child, boss and employee, or boyfriend and girlfriend. This is especially true in relationships where people are not bound to the liars. A pathological liar may, therefore, have an intimate relationship history that includes many partners and a work history that includes many jobs.

Pathological liars may resort to anger if they are confronted.
Pathological liars may resort to anger if they are confronted.

Directly confronting someone who may be a pathological liar is often as frustrating as dealing with the lies. These people are often defensive and may use anger to ward off the person who confronts them. They may also stack one lie on top of another, causing the fictitious story to grow increasingly complex. The problem often goes unaddressed because pathological liars generally refuse to acknowledge their behavior, and those who do admit they have a problem will not seek treatment.

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Discussion Comments


I know someone who is very good at lying but also is a spendthrift. She can't live without money and has to steal, falsify documents, fool people for the sake of money. Are these behaviors related?

She is now on trial for several counts of fraud through falsification of documents. She can be very very convincing in her lies. Her family members believe her and defend her instead of realizing that something is very wrong with her.


I want to commend those of you who are questioning why you lie -- and asking for help.

It is understandable that others who are lied to become angry once they realize it. However, to suggest people leave those people and turn their backs on them due to their lying is crap. They need help. Get them help, but please, do not suggest a parent leave their spouse for lying until all avenues of remediation and help are investigated.

Lying is a way to prevent dealing with consequences for most. In that, it is indeed, manipulation. Obviously that needs to be met with remediation or intervention. For some, it is a way to avoid having to divulge things they do not feel are needed in certain social situations. For example, a person may stop socializing due to job loss. In this economy, it is known to be a horrible time to land another job. The long held stigma against the unemployed comes with presumptions that are painfully inaccurate and insult the person. So when a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend are invited out but are not employed, they may not wish to go, but after being prodded and tensely pushed, they finally do, only to be met by, “What do you do for a living?” questions. Trust me when I say that such questions are painful and most wish to avoid them, so they lie.

For some people, like kids, it’s less painful to tell the truth when the consequences may be met with harsh criticism -- something children wish to avoid and worry about losing a parent’s love over. This is especially true when the parent lacks the abilities for positive shaping and role modeling. Those same parents may also have mental health problems that, left untreated, make consequences biased and frightening for a small kid.

It’s easy to see why a child grows into a life of lies.

My father is a narcissist. He lies about the most ridiculous crap just to avoid the other person's reaction. If he respected others, he would allow them to have a reaction and not manipulate them into believing the lie. He always wants to be right to avoid looking unaccomplished or lesser than. He can never be wrong, nor is he empathetic. If he were, he would not lie. Lying about every aspect is easier than not being in control of others for him. When I say the lies are freaking ridiculous, I truly mean it. At 89, I doubt he will change. But, I also know when he is lying and I will act accordingly. I don’t need to confront him because it ends up in rage as it does with most narcissists, many of whom become dangerous.

That is the most dangerous type of person to confront: a pathological narcissist or sociopath. They have no conscience, so their reaction is validated to them to protect their bottom line: control and the rewards of steering the outcomes of others to feed their narcissistic supply.

I dated a chiropractor whom I met through a dating site. I have never met a more deluded person who maintained a mask of sanity while lawsuits and girlfriends suffered at his hands behind closed doors. This guy was exclusive with me -- so he said -- and made up every lie to justify why he was still on the dating site a year post dating, as well as being active on there.

I asked why and he denied it. Yet there he was again and again, promising to take down his profile but he never did. His payoff was for himself and rewarding him with sex from women, as well as new clients and attention. He would never stay with one woman and was a confirmed bachelor into his 50s. His ex wife of more than two years left him with a newborn after trying to love him and his lies. Now his child is exhibiting major dysfunctions on a social basis. It’s so sad.

I later met another person who works with him, and he referred to him as a "whore." I never mentioned how I met him nor said anything negative. He asked how I knew him and I told him we dated. At that point, he called him a whore and said it was with me along with everyone else who had dated him. He couldn't commit to any single person and lied to them. It was pathological. Lawsuits and so forth indicated far more serious situations regarding his lies.

Bottom line? Protect yourself. Get help if you have a spouse or child affected by such a person. If you have this problem, please know there is help for you. You just have to proactively seek it and follow through. Thanks!


@anon139878: We are experiencing the same pain. I felt when I read your post that I had written it myself. My wife and I totally understand. Our 20 year old daughter just left home this past Sunday for third time now, for no reason at all. She has very little and has alienated all of her friends from her lying to be with one of her boyfriends. She has so many opportunities in her life but continues to destroy them and her relationships with her lying. We have lived this for several years now. The stories I could tell...

All I can tell you is stay close to your faith, pray, pray and then pray again. Never stop loving, no matter what happens. If you have a younger child, focus all your attention on them. Do not let this destroy you! It will get better. We will get through this!


My husband lies about everything. He lies to co-workers about what he did over the weekend, will tell someone else in his business that he was going skiing over the holidays when he actually was home; will comment to someone that he was at a dinner party with someone that person knows when he was not. He will lie to me about so many things I have lost count. I don't understand why.


These posts are sad.


I have read all of these posts and I know I need help too, for I am also a liar. When I was small, I began lying, but it escalated about five years ago. When my friends would invite me out, I would make up lies because I didn’t have many going out clothes and was afraid they would laugh at me. I never invited them over at my house because it was old. I lied about living in a big house, too.

As the years went by, I started to lie about being in relationships. I lied so well that they never questioned me and even felt sorry for me when I told them my heartbreak stories. I would wear two pairs of jeans/skirts/tights to make me look thick and like I had big buttocks. I did this every day because my body is hideous. I lied about my family. I lied about simple things. If my mom told me to do something and later asked why I didn’t, I would tell her I didn’t hear.

This situation got so bad that I believed the lies myself, to some extent. And recently, my best friend had been questioning me about a previous relationship that I told her about. I got all defensive and told her I thought she was my friend and asked how could she doubt me. After that confrontation, she apologized to me. I lie about going places when I don’t even leave my house. I even began to write down things I told her so I won’t forget them because my mind is filled of so many lies.

Why I do this, you ask? It’s to be “perfect”. All I ever wanted to do is fit in but I never did, so I started lying, which helped me to achieve my motives. More so, I loved the attention and envious feelings from others because they wanted to live my life. It was a feeling of “existence”, yes -- that I exist to people in this world, that I’m loved by someone, and they took the time to listen to me, unlike my family. I felt secure in these lies. But everything is ending and now I want out. I’m sick of living a double life, I’m so disgusted at myself, I can’t even look at myself in the mirror because all I’ll see are my imperfections. I’m totally worthless without my mask. I’m garbage.

I beg for help silently, hoping someone will notice and rescue me. I pray to God to help me, but he won’t. I want to be that girl I used to be when I was small, not a liar for the rest of my life. I’m afraid also of what people would think about me, who have trusted me. Will they leave my side or stand by me? I cry myself to sleep at what my life has become. I disagree with some of you that we don’t want help. Yes we do, but just don’t know how to ask for it. It’s not that we don’t want your help; it’s our pride that weakens us.


@anon72388: This sounds exactly like my wife. She also lied to me from day one and about all of the things listed above. I always felt something was off about her but I dismissed my feelings because I love her still. Once her first huge lie became apparent, I started questioning everything she said and noticed lies after lies after lies.

Her stories became more and more incoherent and transparent as her condition got worse. First, she gave me explanations for her actions and lies that sounded fairly reasonable. But even after admitting some of her lies, she started piling more lies on top of each other.

Whenever I confronted her about her lies she got furious and refused to communicate, attacking me instead about random things. That, or she broke down in tears until my empathy took over.

At this point I am considering ending our marriage because, frankly, I don't see her ever getting better. I've tried supporting her, telling her it's okay to be who she is and that there is no need to lie to me, I've tried every possible thing. But it seems she would rather hold on to her lies than our marriage so there is little left for me to do.

The revelation of her as a compulsive liar is shocking. You think you know someone and then realize she is a completely different person and that you've been love with a mask, a person that does not exist. This, I tell you, is one of the scariest things a person can encounter in a relationship.


I think that I am a one of these liars who is described here. I am scared. I have suffered from depression for many years and I have fabricated a story in my head and somehow convinced myself it is the truth. This has been going on for many years.

My greatest concern is that I am in a relationship and we are deeply in love with each other, but he doesn't know the complete truth about me and I'm scared to tell him. I lied to him when we first started talking and did not really believe we would be anything more, and it didn't go that way. I'm awakening from this horrible nightmare I have created for myself and I need help.

How can I fix this? My partner works in the defense force. How do I fix this?


I hate liars. Last year, my best friend and I were doing a part time job in a call center to make some money to pay our college fees. There was a guy who used to call my friend three or four times a day. At first she had no feelings toward him, but after two weeks, she started to lie about him. She refused to tell me what was happening between them. One day I checked her messages, and I was shocked. The guy said he was in love with her and she was in love with him. His messages were filled with love and he talked about his mother’s death and his personal life. It was enough to make any simple girl to fall in love with him.

I found it unreal; how can a guy be so good and loving? I asked her several questions about him, whether they were dating, etc., etc, and she told me that she had never met him, and she doesn’t even know how he looks like, and she was going to meet him the next week. I was scared. I knew that the guy was lying to her. How can you possibly be in love with someone you have never seen in your life? But she was crazy in love. She thought she had the guy of her dreams. I told her not to go, and we also had several fights, but in the end she listened to me, and she didn’t go.

The next day, she tried to call him. He talked weird, and he was very rude. He was changed overnight. He seemed not so interested, he told her that he would call her later and he never called. She waited for weeks but he never did call, Whenever she called him, he would say “I will call you later.”

One day, she got tired and said she wanted to break up him, but he refused to, and told her that he was going to call her back, but he never did. After some days waiting for his call, she was upset and looked so tired. She told me how she had been fooled, and how she feels about the entire thing.

After four days, we found the guy on Facebook with a new girlfriend -- and he looked like a donkey. I’m thankful that she didn’t go to meet him. She is so beautiful. She has green eyes and she has everything, but she doesn’t think like me. She is more angry now and she can’t forget a thing about him. She is great girl. She stood by me when there was no one for me, and now I can’t stand to see her in pain. She is a simple girl like me. She keeps asking me one question, “Why he didn’t call me? He told me loved me more than his life. What went wrong?” I don’t have an answer. Please someone, help me.


I'm just realizing my boyfriend is a pathological liar. He lies to feel accomplished in his own pathetic existence. He has no job, and lied about getting paid for doing work for a relative.

He hurts the people close to him, and consistently tries to look good for the ones that really don't care about him. What can be done? I just hope he can see what a fool he is being very soon. It's embarrassing!


I can't believe I have been born to a pathological liar. They really put you in a tough spot. It's your parent, so you love them, but they hurt you and lie and lie about you. I can't ever tell her how I feel she will get mad at me, she won't accept the truth.

I can't believe that my own mom has done some of the things that she has to me. But I'm thankful that I do not live with her anymore and that soon she will be out of my life completely. She can live in her world by herself because almost everyone she meets, she drives away.


I used to lie a lot when I was younger to paint a better picture of myself in others' eyes. I wanted to be one of the cool people. Then I realized I didn't care that much of what people thought of me. The cool people were nasty anyway. When they found out I was lying, they got even nastier as a group and actually tried to wreck my life. I am happy just being me now. I am a geek and I don't care!


Do some digging on Narcissists: NPD, Anti-Social - APD (e.g. Sociopath, Psychopath) and Borderline - BPD. These all are some very seriously dangerous people to remain around. It can take a long time to discover their true nature, but they generally are extremely well practiced liars. Be careful and get away from them.

I pray that there are no children involved. I just discovered the true extent of insanity that I've been married to for ten years now and am simply trying to keep my six and seven year old girls safe from whatever this woman is. I'm sure glad that I now know what I'm really dealing with.

Wish me luck in carefully gathering evidence for my attorneys. Please pray for me and my girls and good luck to you all!


My father is a compulsive/pathological liar with no sense of reality. I'm finally done with him and so is my sister. He was a drug addict, married 5 times by the time I was 15, jailed numerous times, lost his doctors license, went broke, lost it all. One wife died with 1/2 oz cocaine in a car wreck, etc.

I called him a terrible father and he freaked out and told me how great he was. He lies about every little thing and tells me I don't know what is true. Do people lie to themselves for so long they believe the life they want to?


I have a good friend who is a pathological liar. I met him at church in January and by March we became pals. By May, I started seeing the lies. By July I noticed that this was a very serious problem.

So, after gathering info from the internet, I confronted him with the lies in September. Of course, he became defensive and hasn't spoken to me since. He was at church this weekend and he actually spoke to me and told yet another whopper of a lie.

He leads a double life on a social networking site, and has actually developed a relationship with someone on there. They are supposed to actually meet in person for New Years! She knows the online person, who is the exact opposite of the real person. Maybe after this chance meeting blows up in his face, he'll seek help - that's my prayer!


I sometimes lie only to save time because if I begin to tell the real thing, no one would believe and it will prolong the misery of explaining too many details.

I don't however, lie about things which affects someone else. It's duty of care concept, I think. If I know any of my lies would affect someone, I don't think I'd be able to sleep at night.

However, I have recently gone no contact with a liar who I think is such an experienced liar that he believes his own lies. His defensiveness and too much explanation just gave it away.


Dissociation can play a big role in whether or not a person believes their own lies or not.


This is pretty incredible. I think I'm a pathological liar as well, and I really hate myself for it. Every day I promise myself I won't lie, but I do anyway. Even about the strangest and most inane of things!

I really wish there would be more information on the internet about how to deal with pathological lying. I've found an abundance of information on how people can deal with loved ones who lie, but very little on the illness itself. Does anyone know if there is any information?


@ anon143542: The only thing that you can do is to leave. You can't help her, she will drain you and your kids. Your kids might blame you later for doing nothing when you had the ability to do so. If she finds someone else better, she will leave you in a heartbeat.

Now about the kids: If you want them, you are going to have to document every single lie that she tells and collect evidence. Do not tell her, since guys have the tendency to leave evidence lying around for women to find. Leave it at work. Do not leave it at home.

Tell someone you can trust, who will not tell her, but will help you. Talk to a lawyer and ask how much evidence you will need to get away with the kids.

I'm sorry I cannot give you the answers you want, but there is no help for her. Do not ever think that she will change for you, she does not hurt, she does not feel, unless it's about her. Do not make the mistake of trying to change her. You (we) are not God and we cannot determine when someone changes. Good luck.


-@ anon72388: As you stated, they lie about everything, so yes even about loving someone. They will not reveal themselves and the person you married is not the person he really is. He hates himself and is trying to hide it.

I don't know what you want to hear. You are asking a lot of questions and you already know the answer to them. Once you cover for him, you are doomed. Your relatives will find out and you will pay the price for lying. That is what he wants. You will get isolated and will not leave him. He will not change since they do not have a conscience.

Be brave and leave this man, and tell relatives and friends. How many years of your life will you put in him? How many years will you hope?

He will not change, because he does not want to and you cover for him. Do you really love this man or do you love the way he makes you feel, that you are needed by someone? Leave!


My wife is pathological liar! She lies for no reason, no matter what. Even when you caught her red-handed, she lies again. No shame, no regret, she always finds a reason.

She lies to her kids, to me as her husband and people around her. She managed to make crazy debts from her parents, banks, mortgage companies and her friends, and she is managing to take money from other people now. I do not know what to do with that. She is controlling freak as well. She is lazy as hell even to herself. She looks more mental than like a normal person. What should I do about this?


My daughter has left home. She has left her family. We have had no contact with her for over four months. I have not seen her in over six months. She has changed her phone number, her address and her job so that we can not find her.

She was found out to be a complete liar about everything her senior year of high school. I guess you could say she was lying way before that, but it was in her senior year that she just lied on top of lies until it all caught up with her. Once confronted, she lied more, and was found out, she fled. She left on Christmas day.

She went so far as to be homeless, to keep her lies looking real. She told everyone we threw her out of the house on Christmas. She bought a car and got into several accidents with it. I fear she has suffered head trauma, which makes this even worse.

I am worried for her health and her safety. She has made up so many lies about her family that most of them do not want anything to do with her. She has said she hates me the most and that I am the reason she is staying away from all of us. I have not done anything to this child but love her.

I fear she is on drugs and living in a bad situation. I pray she wakes up from this nightmare and sees that it is her family that loves her, no matter what, and not the strangers in her life that she lies to, that will be there for her when it counts. I am afraid I will die of a broken heart over this. I have no way to contact her and find out if she is OK.

I have an awful feeling in my stomach every day and fear she is in trouble. I want to help her and I do not know how. I know she needs help. I can feel it in my gut.

How do you find someone who does not want to be found and give them the medical help they need? She is 19 years old. She was an honor student with perfect attendance. She has had several head injuries from sports and most recently, car accidents. She suffered from a concussion right before her first semester at college from a car accident. That is when the lying became uncontrollable. She finished her semester with a 2.59 GPA which was wonderful but she left school after winter break and has not returned.

She has had over four car accidents since and her car has been sold for scrap metal. Her life is a mess compared to where she was going a year ago. And I can not help her because she does not want my help. What can I do to save her? Please, I must do something.

I cannot have her living out there without a family. We have so many wonderful things happening in our family this new year and she needs to come and be a part of it, or she will regret it her whole life. Please help us.


There is a certain point in my life, when I decided to start to lie, but I didn't know that it was lying. What I wanted to accomplish was to become a better person.

For that, I lied about my feelings, my thoughts, my fears, my worries, and my wishes, but I didn't know that I was lying to myself and others. More accurately, it's denying.

Why did I do that? Because I thought, to become a better person, I had to do what great people do, like imitate their ways of talking, handling difficult situations, and being independent of others. It's like always being the best. That's what I mean.

I felt bad if I came late to my relatives' house, and they have to serve me something, so I had to lie and say I wasn't hungry. I told stories that I could have handled the situation facing some thugs better, if only I decided to do it soon enough.

As a result, I am now feeling like I am soulless and have no wishes in life. In fact, I was a very good student at middle school before. But this problem has made my study take longer than it should and with only below average points. I wish I had never started lying.


I am 20 years old and I'm either a compulsive liar or a pathological liar. I have been in a relationship for almost two years and he has caught me in many lies. I keep promising him I won't lie and he keeps taking me back and finally today, he said it was the last straw. I told him I need help and he told me I don't need help for lying -- just to tell the truth.

I have lied ever since I can remember. I used to make up stories when I was young to make people notice me or feel bad for me -- I think pretty much to get the attention I was missing at home. I don't want to live like this anymore. I'm hurting the guy of my dreams, I'm hurting my family, I'm hurting his family, and most of all I am hurting myself.

I don't know where to turn with no insurance. Maybe someone on here can help me find help, please!


After reading all of the posts I realize that I am a pathological liar. I do not even want to be labeled as a liar but it is the reality of m current life. I am 36 years old and I have lied since I was young. After reading through this blog I began to see the signs and symptom of the greater issue.

The greater issue is my lying and how it affected my family and me. My wife is getting ready to leave me because of my lies and I can't even begin to tell you how gut wrenching it feels that my wife of 16 years wants to leave me. She told me that she doesn't want a divorce but that she needs some space from me.

I have lied on my job about a promotion that I doctored and was caught doing it. I lied to my wife several times about infidelity and just plain stupid stuff, like unnecessary lying.

I really despise the person that I have become and don't want to lose my family which are those who matter the most to me. I am very scared and nervous about my future because I don't understand why I just can't tell the truth.

If you have any advice for me, then please help me.


After reading all these comments, I have now worked out that i too, am a pathological liar. i can't help it sometimes. it's as if it's to get me out of crappy situations, which everyone does a little, but other times it can be really bad. Just this morning i told someone that I'm self harming again, but that's a lie. I'm not and i got the urge to lie in this little sentence, well paragraph.

i do it so i don't look stupid. i have no confidence and hate myself but i have an amazing father who cares about me.

i guess I'm scared to be told I'm a nutter and need to be locked up!

the truth is, i think the sooner I'm locked up the safer everyone i care for will be. i hate not being able to say this to anyone but they will really think i am crazy. how should i tell someone. who do i got to -- a shrink?

trust me guys, i hate this and the fact of the matter is I'm going to carry on. i can't stop now. I'm 16, my name is Abbi and i have even lied about what my name is before. I hate this.


My husband is a pathological liar. He has lied about everything from the first day I met him. He lied about his types of employment, his situation with his daughter and ex, his past marriage in which I had no idea about, houses he said he owned, his relationship with his family and absolutely anything and everything!

I found out as his lies just became out of control and I started to question myself: Is this for real? I found out all his lies by spying, searching and questioning everything. He got very defensive when I started to question him so I made sure that when I was ready to face him I had all the facts and I confronted him with love and calmness.

He admitted to his problem and told me as much as he wanted to about his lying and past, however, I know about things he still did not tell me and still lied about that day!

Knowing all these things I still stayed with him and I married him. He told me he would never lie to me again. Haha! He has lied to me again and again and again since then!

I catch him out every time as I just know him too well. Most of the times I don't even bother confronting him, as I know he will lie about lying.

We have children together and I'm so worried about what type of role model he will be to them. Will they learn the art of lying from their father? will they hate him for lying? I have to lie to my family and friends to cover his lies, this makes me feel horrible as I myself am a very honest person.

However I love him and feel the need to protect him from their judgments. I love my husband with all my heart and soul but I often wonder to myself: who is this man I am married to?

It affects me deeply and I sit and cry almost every day about it and I just wish there was a way I could help him, I wish I could trust my husband but I can't.

How will I ever know if he really does love me or am I just being lied to about that, too? How will I ever know if he will be a faithful husband?

I know he still lies every day and it's tearing me up inside!

To all of you who are pathological liars: you are hurting the ones who love you and we love you for who you are not who you want to pretend to be. How long I will be able to deal with this before I up and leave? I don't know but I'm starting to feel that this marriage will somehow not last forever.

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