Lying and Manipulating Others: What’s Wrong?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am 18 and a freshman in college. Since I have been here, I have become increasingly socially isolated. The only person I talk to is my roommate, and we are not close. In the past I have attempted suicide a few times, but I am not sure if my attempts were serious. I have been diagnosed on and off with OCD, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. However, I feel like I have a problem that no one has addressed.

I think part of my problem is with my personality. I lie quite often and usually for no significant gain. I sometimes lead people to certain conclusions about me that aren’t true, simply because I can. And other times I don’t mean to do it and it just happens.

I can have an incredibly high opinion of myself and then literally the next minute feel that I am not worth the space I take up. Often, I am very paranoid about the possibility of people talking about me. I take a lot of the things I hear people say about others and think they are about me. I don’t seem to have a good grasp on social norms or how to speak with people in a way that keeps a conversation going. I am awful at making friends.

I don’t believe in automatic respect for anyone, which occasionally was a problem with teachers while I was in grade school. Sometimes, while arguing with authority figures I realize that what I am saying or doing will lead to consequences for me later on, but I can’t stop myself because I feel very certain that I am right in my actions.

A lot of people in my life, that I think I am being honest with, claim that I manipulate them, although I don’t feel that I do. I don’t feel close to many people. And with the few I do, I still don’t trust them. I’ve been told on occasion that I have unfriendly body language, although I am not usually aware of this.

Anyway, I really hope to get some answers as to what my problem is out of this slew of symptoms. I would really like to know what this all means. I Don’t Know What’s Wrong With Me.

A. Lying can be associated with certain personality disorders, though not always. The difference depends on why someone is lying. In my experience, non-personality disorder based lying is done for a purpose. It is usually to make someone appear to be better in some way. That type of lying is often tied to self-image problems.

Alternatively, individuals who have personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder often lie for the purpose of manipulation. Individuals with narcissistic or antisocial disorders might also lie because “they can.”

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • having the need or the expectation of constant praise and to be admired by others;
  • disregard for other people’s emotions or feelings;
  • exaggeration of one’s talents or life achievements;
  • inflated sense of self-importance; and
  • takes advantage of others to pursue his or her goals.

Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include:

  • lack of guilt or remorse;
  • difficulty with authority figures which often leads to breaking the law;
  • lack of empathy;
  • being good at manipulating others’ emotions; and
  • having a certain knack for being witty or charming.

Diagnosis over the Internet is difficult. It seems that you may have symptoms of both of the aforementioned disorders but only an in-person evaluation can determine that with certainty. My recommendation would be to have a psychological evaluation by a mental health professional. He or she will have the opportunity to gather a great deal of information about your current symptoms and both your personal and family history. That type of information is needed to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Seeing a mental health professional would also be advantageous because it affords you the opportunity to share your concerns with an objective party who would determine if your observations about your behavior are accurate. For instance, you stated that you do not seem to have a good grasp on social norms. That may or may not be the case.

The “find help” tab can assist you in locating a mental health professional in your community. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Feb 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Lying and Manipulating Others: What’s Wrong?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/02/01/lying-and-manipulating-others-whats-wrong/