Alongside its other effects on your life, OCD can involve a difficult relationship with honesty and feelings of responsibility.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that involves having repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that cause anxiety and distress.
These obsessions and compulsions can lead you to experience intrusive thoughts, wash your hands frequently, or triple-check door locks.
Less discussed is the effect that OCD can have on your relationship with honesty — both with yourself and with others.
In some cases, you may feel like you need to lie about your symptoms to friends, co-workers, classmates, or family members. Or, obsessive thoughts could cause you to feel compelled to be completely honest about everything, no matter what.
The idea that OCD makes you or a loved one more likely to compulsively lie is generally false. It’s much more typical for people with OCD to struggle with a compulsive need to tell the truth, sometimes called “compulsive honesty.”
It’s important to understand what “compulsive lying” is and is not.
Compulsive lying is when someone purposefully says things they know to be false as a habit, and often without a clear reason. This is different from the compulsions that occur in OCD.
Compulsive lying, also called “pathological lying” or mythomania, is not a mental health diagnosis. It can sometimes appear in medical conditions, but isn’t currently defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).
Some researchers have called for a clearer clinical definition of this symptom.
When someone appears to be lying excessively, it may be important to rule out delusions — false beliefs that a person believes to be true, even when presented with contrary evidence.
OCD is a highly stigmatized mental health condition. Because of this, you might find it difficult to talk openly about your symptoms for fear that others won’t understand. This means you might not be entirely honest with others about your experiences.
It’s important to note that this is OK — as with many mental health conditions, it’s OK for you to decide how much to disclose, and to whom, depending on what feels most comfortable.
Scrupulosity is a possible symptom of OCD where you become overly concerned with thoughts or actions that may be violations of moral or religious beliefs. This can involve obsessions about being totally honest at all times, and sometimes, a fear of lying.
Scrupulosity can arise in several ways, and may include:
- feeling a need to be completely honest, all the time
- excessive concerns about breaking rules or getting into trouble
- obsessive thoughts about being a “good” person
Some common compulsions associated with scrupulosity are:
- feeling a need to confess sins or moral shortcomings
- constantly repeating “good” words to cancel out “bad” thoughts
- self-punishment for moral failings
- excessive apologizing for perceived wrong doings
- cleansing behaviors connected to washing away sin or moral shortcomings
- seeking reassurance from others about morality or religious nature
- reviewing acts in your mind to ensure they were moral or religious
Hyper-responsibility is the belief that you’re directly responsible for causing mental, emotional, or physical harm to another person. In short, it’s the belief that you have more control over the people and world around you than you actually do.
Some people live with OCD and hyper-responsibility.
Hyper-responsibility can manifest itself in several ways. An article in the “OCD Newsletter” stated that the compulsion could look like this:
A person bumps into another while walking down the street. Most people would continue walking and likely forget about the incident within a few minutes. Someone who lives with OCD and hyper-responsibility may continue to think about bumping into that person for the rest of the day or longer. They may agonize over accidentally causing internal damage or other issues to the person.
Feeling overly responsible for what happens to other people can lead to a fear of lying in case it harms another person. This might mean you feel the need to be completely honest, and avoid saying things that you don’t know to be 100% true.
If you or a loved one is living with OCD, there are many treatment options available.
According to the
- Therapy. Exposure response prevention (ERP) therapy, a type of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), is highly recommended for OCD. In this therapy, you’re exposed to known triggers in a controlled environment and are prevented from engaging in any compulsions related to the trigger.
- Medications. The most commonly used medications for OCD are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), though a doctor may also suggest using an antipsychotic medication.
If you’re living with OCD, there are a few self-care steps you can try in addition to formal treatment. They can include:
- Joining a support group: The International OCD Foundation offers a list of support groups here.
- Exercising regularly: Research has shown this can reduce symptoms by at least
There are several mental health conditions that may cause you or a loved one to be a bit more dishonest than usual.
There are many possible reasons behind this. For instance, to make sense of your emotions, or hide symptoms that you’d rather people didn’t know about.
This may occur in various mental health conditions, including:
- borderline personality disorder
- bipolar disorder
- impulse control issues
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- substance use disorder
- narcissistic personality disorder
Sometimes, people habitually lie without a clear motivation, which can ultimately be harmful to them and others.
If you’re living with OCD, you’re not alone.
If you’re facing challenges with your emotions, compulsions, or treatment, you may find talking with others helpful. You can find a list of potential support groups to join here.
Some other steps you can take include:
- Finding a doctor or therapist. The International OCD Foundation resource directory can help you find services, doctors, and support groups in an area near you.
- Educate yourself. The more you know, the better you can start to manage your symptoms. You can use this directory of multimedia resources and books to get started. You may find that including your family or friends can help you too.
- Use an app. If you have easy access to a smartphone, tablet, or other device, you may find that using an OCD app may help. The IOCDF offers a list of helpful apps you can download on your phone or tablet.