Telling a little white lie to your child every now and then is certainly not a bad thing. In some cases, namely that of Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, bending the truth can inspire a sense of wonder in a kid’s mind – and keep them on their best behaviour if they know presents under the tree are at stake. Other times, fibbing is simply the only way to get stubborn, critical young minds to move in the right direction.
Using “alternative facts” as a parenting device, however, can occasionally misfire. If your young detective catches you in a…
Ever hear this: “Don’t lie, your nose will grow!” or “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”? One of the basic lessons of our childhood was to never tell a lie. We all know we shouldn’t lie, yet we seem to do it anyway. In fact, you’ve probably already lied today. Shaking your head “no”? Could be another lie. Research shows that most people tell 1 to 2 lies a day!1
We always make excuses for our lies, too. “It’s not pathological lying, it’s a simple white lie.” “I said it so I wouldn’t hurt their feelings.” “I didn’t want to get in trouble.” So, what’s the big deal if everybody else is doing it? Well, as it turns out, lying could be affecting your brain and body.
When you lie, your brain is overwhelmed
Lots of research has been conducted about the health effects of pathological lying and guess what? It could be detrimental to your health.
According to Arthur Markman, Ph.D., the very second that lie leaves your lips, your body releases cortisol into your brain. Just a few minutes later and your memory goes into overdrive trying to remember both the lie and the truth. Decision making becomes more difficult and you could even project your discomfort as anger. This is all in the first 10 minutes!2
When you lie, your stress increases
After these initial reactions, you may start to feel worried about your lie – or about being caught lying. To deal with this feeling, you might try to make up for the lie…
likes a liar. It doesn’t take a statistic to know that is a fact. For the most part, spotting a liar is simple, and we can easily disassociate with that person. But sometimes the person who lies, and lies often, is a relative. While everyone lies at some point, trying to love someone who lies in a chronic way can be challenging. This means they lie almost as a reflex. A chronic liar is a compulsive liar, or someone who lies out of habit as a natural way to respond to questions. Most of the time, the lies are pointless and it can be difficult to understand why they felt a lie was necessary. Thankfully chronic liars are not dangerous or manipulative, but certainly frustrating 1.
It can be difficult to spot when love is involved
Sometimes the lies may be so grandiose that it’s obvious a person is lying. Other times, it can be difficult to spot because you are so personally involved. For the person doing the lying, it can provide an escape from discomfort and help them to feel safe. More so, chronic lying is usually a symptom of a personality disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.
Confrontation typically feels like the right thing to do if you’re suspicious that your loved one is lying, but that can be tricky. In fact, there isn’t much reward in doing this, as they will most likely continue to lie and the strained relationship will only get worse. With the hesitation to confront someone you think it lying, you can start to feel paranoid and wonder if you’re being overly-suspicious. No relationship can function in this scenario.
It’s like you aren’t worth the truth
When you are in love with or related to a chronic liar, it is not just frustrating, it’s hurtful. It can make you feel like you aren’t worth the truth, and that impacts every aspect of a relationship. More so, it becomes impossible to trust that person, since you know he/she lies compulsively. For the liar, chronic lying is an addictive behavior that provides comfort, but for the one being lied to, it provides pain and confusion. Because of these factors, a healthy relationship is very hard to accomplish.
Though it may provide a release to the liar, it will never feel comforting to be lied to. In fact, it can make you so jaded that you could start to wonder if everyone is lying to you. It can make you feel crazy and weak. Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S says is well 2:
…it’s the destruction of relationship trust caused by the constant lying, deflecting, secret keeping, and misplaced blame. And this pain is exacerbated if/when the innocent partner is made to feel as if he or she is misperceiving reality and therefore crazy, weak, damaged, etc. In other words, it’s not the [chronic lying] that…
I went to college with a guy who was always saying things that seemed untruthful. He didn’t say anything remarkable – it wasn’t like he was talking about the time he went unicorn hunting or something, but he just didn’t seem sincere. There were even times I was almost certain he was recycling his roommate’s stories. It was incredibly frustrating for me and anyone who held a discussion with him, because there was a constant feeling of needing to chase down the truth to separate it from the fabrication. It was exhausting!
There’s a good chance you’ve met someone like that, too. I don’t know about you, but I finally went out of my way to avoid that person in order to get out of having to speak to him; I just didn’t have the energy to smile and nod and pretend he didn’t seem like a complete pathological liar. But I always wondered if it exhausted him, too.
Pathological liars lie for the sake of lying.
Pathological lying is a medical condition in which a person lies all the time, seemingly for no reason at all.1 This is different from someone who lies from time to time; that’s called being human. Even clinicians have to rule out other things, like delusions or false memories, before determining someone is a pathological liar.
Pathological lies differ from other lies.
There are white lies, or lies that are told in order to be helpful. There are pathological lies, or lies told constantly as if without thought. And there are compulsive lies. Though pathological lying is compulsive, most experts agree it shouldn’t be confused with compulsive lying.
Compulsive lying is the habit of lying uncontrollably about anything, no matter how big or small. Both pathological liars and compulsive liars may lie habitually due to a history of abuse or other personal damage, but both may also lie for absolutely no reason! In fact, people who lie compulsively may continue to lie, even after being caught in a lie.
Even if you’re honest, you should care.
Some pathological lying can signal emotional disorders.2 One example of this would be in the case of an individual who is abused lying to avoid more abuse. But sometimes pathological liars are dishonest for very different reasons.
Some research suggests that pathological lying is associated with a specific neurological pattern involving minor memory deficit as well as impaired frontal lobes which can negatively effect the way an individual evaluates information. So even though speaking with a pathological liar can be tiring and annoying, it’s helpful to recognize whether something is actually mentally wrong with the individual, or if they simply lie so often they no longer recognize the truth.
Anyone can pick out a pathological liar.
If you’re trying to decide if someone you know is a pathological liar, here are some traits to look for:
The lies are elaborate. Earlier when I said it was exhausting to pick apart what was fact and what…