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…