Am I a Compulsive Liar?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I lie about things all the time. I make up things and tell people that that is what happened to me. I have told my boyfriend i was raped and severely abused as a child and i lie about things i don’t need to lie about. I had a bit of a tough up bringing with a lot of conflict but not as bad as i tell people. I am wondering if there is a name for this and if there is anything i can do about it? I don’t know why i do it.

A. If you lie about things or situations that are not true, this makes you an untruthful person who tells lies. Some people may call your behavior pathological lying. Lying is not a disorder per se but it is associated in some cases with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

With regard to your situation, we know based on your letter, that you lie about insignificant matters as well as major life events. I can’t know for certain why you lie but I can speculate that you do it because it may gain you some form of attention. Perhaps you like getting attention and you have found that if you tell sad stories about your upbringing people feel pity for you and you like this type of focus. This would be a form of manipulation (actually all lying is a form of manipulation). People also tell lies to give others the impression that they are better than they actually are, to “prop” themselves up, to avoid getting punished or for some other personal gain. There may be other reasons why you lie that I have not described here.

Lying is a moral issue and more practically, it’s not easy to maintain your lies. One lie leads to another and most people who lie have difficulty remembering what they lied about. In this respect it is easy to get caught lying and if those who you are lying to find out you stand to lose a great deal of credibility among those individuals. For both moral and pragmatic reasons, your lying needs to stop.

If you can’t stop this behavior on your own, then I would strongly suggest that you seek professional help. In therapy, you may be able to uncover the reason for lying and more importantly, learn how to stop this behavior. This is a problem that needs immediate attention. If you can “quit while you’re ahead” meaning that no one has yet to learn that you compulsively lie, then you may be able to maintain your relationships. As soon as the people who you have lied to realize what you are doing you may lose their friendship. Professional help, if you’re honest and willing to make an effort to change, can help immensely. I would suggest that you try it.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Sep 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Am I a Compulsive Liar?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/09/08/am-i-a-compulsive-liar/