On 29th November 2022, Derek, from the YouTube channel “More Plates More Dates,” published a series of emails from Brain Johnson, aka “The Liver King,” where Brian discusses your steroid use to a trainer. Why do we care about that? Because Brian spent over 18 months building a public persona that he was a natural athlete. The news of Brian being on the juice sent shockwaves through the social media community.

Brian is 5’7″ and 200 lbs. He is a monster of a man, with huge muscles and very low body fat. One look at him, and the first thing that goes through your mind is that he’s juiced to the gills. However, despite going on the world’s biggest podcast platforms where he was challenged to admit using steroids, Brian retained his steadfastness in his natural physique – and he did it a lot.

Brian lied to the faces of millions of people on podcasts and his fans on social media without ever blinking an eye. To say it plainly, the man is a pathological liar. We’re not going to spend this article discussing the Liver King and his steroid use, but it’s an apt example of the toxic head space of pathological liars and what they’re capable of doing to others.

This post explores how to uncover pathological liars and if it’s possible to do so with a lie detector test.

Understanding the Different Types of Liars

There are several different classifications of liars. For instance, you tell your boss that you’re left for work because you had a flat tire when you overslept, which is very different from Brian Johnson spending 18 months lying daily to everyone around him.

Chances are, you don’t lie to your boss like that every day. It’s a one-off thing you occasionally do to avoid getting in trouble. In fact, you probably felt guilty about telling your boss the fib, and maybe it even kept you up at night as you tossed and turned thinking about your deception.

So, what’s the difference between your small on-off lie and someone like the Liver King? Let’s unpack the different types of liars we’ll encounter in life.


Everyday “White” Lies

White lies – we’re all guilty of telling them. The reality is no one has ever gone through life without telling a lie from time to time. In fact, research shows that in a ten-minute conversation with someone you don’t know, you’re likely to tell at least one lie, and maybe two or three, depending on the situation.

“White” lies are innocent lies. We say them because we don’t want to do or say something that might offend another person or have them think differently of us. These lies are similar to bluffing your way into a winning hand in a poker game. They’re innocent, and no one gets hurt.

Everyone tells white lies. For instance, a woman asks her boyfriend if he thinks she looks fat in this dress, and he replies with, “no, you look gorgeous,” despite thinking that yes, she looks a bit plump. In this case, telling a lie avoids hurting her feelings and possibly starting an argument in the process. Sometimes, honesty isn’t always the best policy.

We all lie, and most of the time, we’re telling white lies that don’t really make much difference to the social contract. If you get caught out, so what? It’s not going to make much difference in your life. Most people always tell white lies, and they don’t lose any sleep over it.

However, the same individual might have difficulty telling a big lie. For instance, they get in a car accident, severely injuring another person. When the officer on the scene asked the driver if they were talking on their cellphone at the time of the accident, they replied with no.

In reality, they were talking on the phone, and their distracted state was responsible for causing the accident. The person lied because they felt they had to do it to avoid punishment for their bad behavior. However, that person might not be used to telling lies of such magnitude.

As a result, they find themselves losing sleep over the next few days. They suddenly start feeling sensations of anxiety over their dishonesty, and they develop digestive distress that makes their life miserable. These are all real-world symptoms that occur from the stress of realizing we lied about something, which has severe ramifications in your life.


Compulsive Liars

Compulsive lying is a bit different from telling white lies. Individuals that are compulsive liars are in a different headspace. They’re prone to embellishing facts or exaggerating claims. They’ll lie to position themselves as the leader or the best person in the room at a given task or subject. For instance, you get very sick from COVID and relay your experience to a group of friends at a get-together after you recover.

We all have that one friend who tries to insist that they were far sicker than you when they got COVID. The same person also seems to have better experiences with the same events encountered by others. In short, they always have to one-up others to make themselves look more important.

A compulsive liars will use the chance to reinvent themselves whenever they get the chance. For instance, they might move to Europe and create a new group of friends in the ex-pat community in Portugal. When questioned about what they were doing in the US, the person may say they managed a car dealership, although the truth is they were just a salesman on the showroom floor.

These individuals are usually good at lying, and they don’t feel any remorse about it. However, if they get caught out, they feel shame, and they’ll admit to their bad behavior. However, in most cases, they never go undetected because they’re so comfortable with lying that they incorporate it into their daily lives.

While these individuals might lie to cover their tracks, they generally fold under questioning. If they do get caught, they admit to their transgression. After being caught in the lie, they may change their behavior or remove themselves from social groups because they feel embarrassed.


Pathological Liars

Then we have the pathological liar. For the sake of continuity, we’ll keep with Brian Johnson, the Liver King. Brian seems to show no remorse despite being clearly busted for his steroid use. He issued a 6-minute video on his Instagram where he implied he didn’t tell people about his steroid use because he didn’t want it to detract from his message of how he lives, eats, and trains.

He had the chance to come clean, but instead of saying it was his selfish choice to lie, he said he did it for all the suicidal young men who are feeling stress, anxiety and dealing with infertility. He projected his transgressions onto others to hide his true reasons for his steroid use.

He claimed he was using a doctor-prescribed “Hormone Replacement Therapy” (HRT). He also said this was the first time he was using steroids, and he was clean for 36 years before deciding to take on the persona of “the Liver King.” None of this is true. The emails clearly indicate he was using drugs not prescribed for HRT but rather compounds specifically designed for competitive bodybuilding.

He also used language that experts consider showing he has a long history of using these substances. He had the choice to come clean, but instead, he used it to bury himself deeper in the lie by telling more lies. That’s the difference between a compulsive and a pathological liar. The pathological lie keeps the lie going after they’re caught.

Brian continues to lie and feels no remorse because he knows what is at stake if he does come clean. His $100-million business is at risk of crumbling to the ground as he loses his fan base, and he opens himself to lawsuits as people sue him for making false claims and misrepresenting himself and his brands.

Pathological liars feel no remorse about their lies, regardless of the size of the lie. They’re fine with lying and don’t lose any sleep over it. They don’t develop any stress-related symptoms from the guilt of living with a lie. This is because, in most cases, they believe their own lies. They see what they say as the truth despite being nothing but falsehoods.


A Science-Based Understanding of Lying

Unfortunately, there isn’t much medical investigation into the causes or effects of pathological lying. Medical experts cannot determine if the community should classify it as a mental illness.

Some psychologists think the pathological liar might have different brain chemistry and neural wiring than a normal person. They lack the physical and psychological Responses that display signs of guilt to their behavior.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows research with conclusions that pathological liars display a 22% to 26% increase in white matter in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. At the same time, these individuals also exhibit a reduction of between 36% to 42% in prefrontal grey/white matter ratio compared with normal and antisocial control groups.

The team took brain scans of pathological liars and normal people, concluding that the increase in white matter and decrease in the grey matter may indicate the pathological liar has a cognitive capability of telling lies. In other words, they don’t have the same neurological response to lying, and that might explain why they don’t experience feelings of guilt or physiological symptoms of living with regret.


What Causes a Person to Become a Pathological liar?

Some medical professionals believe there is a link between pathological lying and mental health. According to experts, mental health conditions are associated with pathological lying patterns.

  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – Lying to avoid abandonment or rejection.
  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) – Lying for sympathy or recognition.
  • Munchausen syndrome or factitious disorder – Lying to appear ill.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) – Lying to manipulate others.

Some pathological liars may have instances of childhood trauma. They developed the behavior as a coping mechanism to help them overcome situations in their life where they felt they had no control. These individuals may be abused as children or emotionally neglected and criticized.


What are the Top Signs You’re Dealing with a Pathological Liar?

You might be a pathological liar if you exhibit signs of the following behavior patterns.

  • You lie indiscriminately on a range of topics.
  • You lie about minor events in your life.
  • You don’t feel guilty about lying or being caught lying.
  • You experience a thrill when you get away with telling lies.
  • You continue to lie despite being caught.

One of the more common signs of pathological lying is an individual who constantly embellishes the truth. They tell outlandish stories about abnormal or extreme events in their life. Pathological liars often exhibit the following behaviors when telling lies.

  • They give unrequested and extensive details of accounts of their life.
  • They provide dramatic, colorful, and fantastical narratives.
  • They repeatedly make changes to their story.
  • They display signs of anxiety when telling lies.
  • They get defensive when you confront them about their lying.
  • They dodge questions and provide vague answers.
  • They have different recollections of events from others.
  • They tell other people’s stories as their own.


Can Pathological Liars Beat a Polygraph Test?

The issue with pathological liars and polygraph tests comes from the “fight-or-flight” response. You see, in normal people that are unaccustomed to telling lies, we experience stress response when questioned about our lying.

During a polygraph, a person sits in a chair, and the polygraph examiner connects them to equipment that monitors their heart and respiration rate, blood pressure, and skin reactions. Some examiners may also use equipment to measure abnormal muscular responses as well.

When a normal person enters the exam, their nervous system is on edge. They know they are being questioned and uncovering lies. The examiner asks them questions, and if they ask where the person is to lie, they feel a shock wave through their body as the fight-or-flight response comes into action.

This stress reaction occurs because the sympathetic nervous system interprets it as a life-or-death situation. As a result, the sympathetic nervous system calls for the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys to flood the bloodstream with the hormone cortisol. When this occurs, we go into the fight-or-flight response.

Our heart rate increases, blood pressure, goes up, our skin sweats, and we breathe hard and shift around because we feel uneasy. The polygraph instrumentation provides this feedback to the software used by the examiner. The examiner has specialized training to interpret these responses and measure them against the normal baseline of our reactions to the truth.

It’s very hard for anyone to beat a polygraph because they must have total control over the fight-or-flight response. That means they need to control the autonomic part of the sympathetic nervous system, which is impossible for the average person.

However, things are different with a pathological liar. Pathological liars don’t feel the same initiation of the fight-or-flight response. They believe their lies and think what they say is the truth. So, they don’t get the same reaction from the sympathetic nervous system as a normal person.

Asa result, it makes it harder for the examiner to pick up any variation in their physiological response because there isn’t any change in their vital signs when they lie.


Polygraph Questioning and Pathological Liars – It’s All About the Examiner

Considering this problem of the pathological liar being able to convince themselves they’re telling the truth, there’s little the instrumentation can do to pick up their lies. So, in this case, it’s up to the examiner. The examiner will record the session on camera and review the footage later. During the test, they are usually focused on their screen, watching your physiological response.

However, when reviewing the footage, they monitor the vital signs less. Instead, they’ll be looking at your body language and facial expressions. While pathological liars may not show any response in the fight-or-flight response, they might show indications of subtle changes to their body language and facial expressions.

The examiner has extensive training in monitoring body language for deceptive behavioral responses. If the liar indicates that they aren’t telling the truth, the examiner will pick up on it. However, it comes down to the examiner’s experience. Those with many years in the field and thousands of interviews behind them will be harder to fool.


The Verdict – Can a Polygraph Uncover a Pathological Liar?

From the evidence suggested above, catching a pathological liar using a polygraph test may or may not be possible. These individuals are hardened liars; in most cases, they believe their own lies. It’s like their brain reshapes their reality to make the lie into a truth.

So, when a person thinks their answer is truthful, they don’t create the same fight-or-flight response that normal people receive when they lie. As a result, the instrumentation and software used in the polygraph might not pick up any difference in their physiological indications of the stress response, assuming that the person must be telling the truth.

While a skilled examiner might be talented enough to pick up on the signs of the person lying, they might also miss them. The examiner might be inexperienced, or the pathological liar is so adept at lying that they don’t experience any physiological response in their body language or facial expressions showing that they’re lying.

So, the conclusion is a mixed bag. Is it possible to uncover pathological liars with a polygraph? Well, maybe, but it depends on the merits of the case. Each of them could be very different from one individual to the next.

Are You a Pathological Liar?

Pathological lying can seriously impact your relationships and daily life. If you frequently lie without clear reasons or feel unable to stop, it’s worth examining this behavior.

Take our Pathological Liar Test, an online self-assessment designed to help you understand your lying habits. Gain insights into your tendencies and their potential consequences.

Benefits of the Online Test:

  • Increase self-awareness.
  • Recognize the impacts of pathological lying.
  • Take steps towards managing this behavior.

This test is for self-reflection and not a substitute for professional advice. If concerned, seek help from a mental health professional.

Start your journey to honesty by taking the Pathological Liar Test now.

Uncover the Truth with a Professional Lie Detector Test – Our Carefully Vetted Examiners Ensure Your Peace of Mind.