Why can’t she stop lying?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello,

I really, truly believe that I have a problem, but I have no one to talk to about it.

I lie; much more than I should. I am a 16 year old girl, and though I’d like to consider myself mature for my age, I make up these stupid lies, to the point where I have basically created a whole identity that isn’t even me anymore. I have always sort of charmed my way out of things with white lies, but I have NEVER lied about anything to this degree before now.

It started getting bad about a year ago. I was feeling pretty bad about myself, and I had grown distant from my friends. My parents were away, so I planned an elaborate trip to another city which is over 50 miles away– and I planned to go by myself. However, I ended up not going and chickening out, but I told my friends that I went anyways.

I proceeded to tell them that I had gotten hopelessly lost and didn’t have enough money for a taxi, when a stranger helped find me a ride to the station. This stranger was handsome (of course), but I described him in a way that made it sound realistic to them. I told them that he went to the art school there, and that although I was distrustful at first, that he seemed like a very genuine guy. His name was Andrew, and he was 20. This was all a lie of course.

As weeks went on, I would avoid my friends on weekends, and then when monday would come around, I would tell them that I was gone visiting this fictitious guy. All of my friends believed me, and I got used to weaving this fantasy person in my life. He wasn’t perfect, he had flaws too and we had problems. I told them we fought a lot because he thought I had a thing for his friend, random things like that. Every lie I told, although it sounds ridiculous written down, was very believable. I feel very bad about it afterwards, but I was very good at manipulating them to believe me even though they never actually met this person. Lying was becoming very natural. Most liars lose track of the lies they have told, but I never have.

Then I REALLY started to lie too much. I obtained a wrist injury, purely by accident– but I told my closest friend that “the guy I was seeing” grabbed me too hard. Now I am lying about physical abuse… What is wrong with me?! My lies are becoming dangerous, and I KNOW that, but I can’t seem to stop it.

Lying is an automatic response now, as if I truly believe in my lies– but I don’t! Basically, I really feel that this is all spiraling out of control. I don’t even know why I did this to begin with. It’s actually gotten to the point where it’s almost like he DOES exist to me. I automatically integrate this fictitious person in my life. I KNOW it’s not real, but it’s like I am starting to actually convince myself that he is. It’s getting out of proportion, and I can’t stop! It just… happens somehow. I feel like a horrible person, but I’ve been totally programmed to just LIE about it– but only about this double life.

I’m so frustrated with myself. I have taken AP psychology before, I’ve tried analyzing myself. I don’t feel like I have a lying disorder– it’s more like I have identity issues? I live in my dream fantasy world quite often, and now I’m starting to incorporate it too much into the real world in the form of lies.

I don’t know how to stop– I WANT to stop, but I don’t want to come clean about everything, because all that would do is make my friends think I’m insane. Maybe I am? I don’t know what to do!

I guess what I really need advice on, is the reason why I have created this double life? I feel like no one knows the real me anymore. This huge lie has become too much of my identity to other people.

Thank you for reading all of this.

A: And thank you for writing. It takes courage to face up to a situation like this. You answered your own question. You created this alternative life initially because you felt bad about yourself and you didn’t think your real life was very interesting. Being creative and intelligent, you made up an alternative life that seemed much, much more exciting. For awhile, it was also kind of exciting to see how much lying you could get away with. The energy that comes from playing with “danger” gave a little zing to your life.

The problem is that these things begin to take on a life of their own. What began as a way to help yourself has now turned into an even bigger problem. That’s where you find yourself now. If you tell your friends the truth, you risk losing them. If you don’t stop lying, you will feel worse and worse about yourself. So you avoid the issue as much as you can. But there’s a cost to putting off the truth. Yes, you don’t risk the friendships. But you also do feel worse and your self-esteem sinks even lower. Your system isn’t working any more.

Writing your email was your first step in making the situation better. It took courage to put all that information in one place. It took courage to be that honest. Writing was a small step but an important one because it shows that a part of you has the strength to make change.

The next step is to get some support for yourself. You’re probably going to need someone to be a sounding board as you figure out how to make things right. A counselor can offer you non-judgmental support and perhaps some practical advice. She or he can also help you remember all the positive parts of you that you may have forgotten because you are so distressed. Getting in touch with the positive will help rebuild your self-esteem and will give you the strength you need to get things back to normal.

Please take that next step. You’re worth it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 May 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Why can’t she stop lying?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/05/why-cant-she-stop-lying/