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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.