Home Mind & Brain Identifying a Pathological Liar Isn’t a Piece of Cake. Here Are Some Signs to Watch Out for

Identifying a Pathological Liar Isn’t a Piece of Cake. Here Are Some Signs to Watch Out for

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In the intriguing world of psychology, the term ‘pathological liar’ often surfaces, conjuring images of mysterious characters weaving tales taller than London’s Shard. But beyond the cinematic intrigue, pathological lying is a serious psychological issue that merits understanding and compassion.

Pathological lying, or pseudologia fantastica, refers to an enduring pattern of chronic or compulsive lying, often without apparent benefit or reason. Unlike the occasional fibs most individuals tell, pathological lying is a pervasive and long-term pattern. Such lies may seem believable initially, but scrutiny often reveals their inconsistency or implausibility.

People might mistake pathological liars as individuals merely fond of spinning tall tales. However, there’s more to it than simply a flare for dramatic narratives. This behavioural anomaly often stems from underlying psychological disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder. It’s crucial to recognise the pathological lying as part of a broader psychological landscape, rather than as an isolated quirk.

But what drives someone to lie pathologically? It’s a question that psychologists have wrestled with for years. Some believe it is a defensive mechanism to protect one’s self-esteem or to evade punishment. Others posit that it may result from the person’s desire for attention or admiration. In many cases, pathological liars may not even recognise their falsehoods as lies, but rather perceive them as their reality.

Identifying a pathological liar isn’t a piece of cake. They’re often charismatic, skilled storytellers, and their lies can seem exceptionally believable. However, some tell-tale signs can help spot them. For instance, their stories often change over time, or they might have a history of duplicitous behaviour. They may also seem oddly comfortable when caught in a lie, exhibiting minimal signs of guilt or remorse.

Navigating relationships with pathological liars can be challenging. It is common to feel frustration, betrayal, or confusion. Nevertheless, it’s important to approach these individuals with understanding and empathy. Remember, pathological lying is typically symptomatic of more profound psychological issues. While it’s acceptable to express your feelings of hurt or mistrust, one should avoid shaming or berating the individual, as this could potentially exacerbate their psychological distress.

If you suspect that a loved one is a pathological liar, it might be helpful to seek professional assistance. Psychologists or therapists can provide tools and strategies to manage the situation effectively. In some cases, the person might benefit from psychotherapy or medication, depending on the associated psychological condition.

It’s essential to safeguard your emotional health. Maintain healthy boundaries and don’t hesitate to seek help for yourself if needed. Dealing with a pathological liar can be emotionally draining, so ensure to care for your mental well-being throughout the process.

Pathological lying is a complex psychological issue that requires understanding, empathy, and professional assistance. It is more than just an unusual habit; it is often an indicator of deeper mental health issues. By seeking to understand and empathise with pathological liars, we can help to de-stigmatise mental health conditions, promote healing, and foster healthier relationships.


Harley Matthews is a part-time psychologist, full-time wanderer, and observer of human behaviour, sharing insights from the road less travelled.

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