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.
According to Wikipedia, “defining characteristics of pathological lying include 1. An internal motive for the behavior can be discerned clinically: e.g., long-lasting extortion or habitual spousal battery might cause a person to lie repeatedly, without the lying being a pathological symptom. 2. The stories told tend toward presenting the liar favorably. The liar “decorates their own person” by telling stories that present them as the hero or the victim. For example, the person might be presented as being fantastically brave, as knowing or being related to many famous people, or as having great power, position, or wealth.”
“Some psychiatrists distinguish compulsive from pathological lying, while others consider them equivalent; yet others deny the existence of compulsive lying altogether; this remains an area of considerable controversy.”
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 why you feel compelled to lie, 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.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on September 8, 2008.