Have you ever lied, even though you don’t have to? Everyone does it occasionally, so don’t beat yourself up about it. However, some people do it more often than others, and if you make a habit out of it, it could become a serious problem in your life.
Habitual liars, like those with compulsive and pathological lying, lose the trust of the people around them if their friends and family find out they’re always lying. If someone you know lies constantly, it becomes hard to believe what they say about anything.
You begin to disregard everything they have to say, and you can’t interpret whether they’re lying or telling the truth. So, why do people lie when they don’t have to? Let’s examine this behavior and the differences between compulsive and pathological lying.
Why Do Some People Lie for No Apparent Reason?
We all tell lies; it’s just a part of life. When was the last time you lied to someone? Chances are it wasn’t that long ago. While most of us value honesty in others, sometimes, we choose to see past this need for the truth and decide to lie to the people around us.
Most of us understand when someone has to lie to cover something up. We might not agree with it, but we’re willing to forgive them because it’s not a common character trait they display. But what about people who lie to others for no apparent reason?
Sometimes, it’s challenging to discern the difference between someone who lies occasionally and a person who does it habitually. These individuals have a condition called “mythomania.” That’s right, it’s a clinical term to describe someone who constantly lies for no good reason.
Most of us feel a sense of guilt or shame when we lie, but these individuals don’t experience the same emotions when they lie. Their lies don’t keep them up at night, and they have no compulsion to confess their dishonesty.
Is It Normal Lying Behavior or Mythomania?
Mythomania describes the tendency for people to lie compulsively. Most of us tell white lies occasionally; these untruths don’t have any impact on our psyche. Most of the time, we tell fibs to avoid hurting other people’s feelings.
For instance, we might lie if our partner asks us if we think they’re fat. We might think they could stand to lose a few pounds, but we lie and tell them we think they look great and there’s no need for them to change. This strategy prevents us from getting into a conflict after we hurt their feelings.
Or you might bluff in a poker game. You’re lying about the cards you hold so you can get a competitive edge in the game and come out the victor. It’s not a serious lie, and it’s not like you’re cheating; it’s just part of the game.
People who have mythomania lie compulsively. They decide to lie even when they don’t have any reason to do so. They might develop this behavior because they struggle to relate to others, and they need to create lies to form a level of engagement with others in their lives.
6 Reasons Why People Lie Even When They Don’t Have To
People with a mythomania disorder don’t lie for the average reasons the rest of us do, like avoiding punishment. They lie because they have an internal dialogue and mental process, causing them to adopt this behavior.
Essentially, they lie to achieve a sense of emotional balance in their life, thereby improving their self-image and how they perceive themselves. Most people won’t even pick up on these lies unless they have a deep relationship with the person.
Let’s look at six reasons these individuals choose to lie when they don’t have any reason to.
#1 They Feel a Loss of Control
When people lie compulsively, they make up stories because they have control of reality. The liar takes control of the story’s events and narrative, relaying them in a fantastic way that seems appealing to the listener. They avoid telling details and facts that others can easily research, maintaining direction in situations where they feel out of control.
#2 For Approval & Acceptance
One of the common reasons people lie is to gain acceptance from others. They could lie to their family, peer group, or colleagues. The need to be liked and accepted is a powerful motivator for people to lie, and in most cases, there’s no pressure for these individuals to provoke the person into lying. Instead, they feel the continual urge to lie to gain the approval of others around them.
#3 To Substantiate Other Lies
This is where the situation gets complex. A person might lie to their friends and claim they make a lot of money. They might do so even though their friends are not interested in their economic status. They’re understandably shocked when the friend circle discovers the truth about the person lying about their finances.
They never admired people earning more money than them, so why would the person lie to them? It turns out that the lie doesn’t have any origin in the person feeling pressured to make the statement that they earn more money than others. Instead, it revolves around the internal judgment of the liar.
The liar feels that making lots of money is the hallmark of a successful person, and they want to appear successful to their peers, causing them to lie, even though the lie doesn’t have any effect outside of their own thoughts.
#4 To Continue a Lie
Sometimes, compulsive liars lie to cover up other lies. The lie might have been going on for a while, and they continue the behavior because they have no other choice.
#5 They Don’t See It as a Bad Thing
Most compulsive liars don’t see anything wrong with lying to other people. Reality consists of words passing through filters of mental processing, physical perception, and memory capacity. These internal processes interact with the outside world being further from the truth than we would like.
For this reason, two people’s versions of events can be wildly different from each other. However, one of the individuals telling their story might be blatantly lying. They assume that their lies aren’t harming others, so they don’t feel there’s any problem with them embellishing the details.
#6 To Shape Their Reality
The old saying, “say a lie enough, and it eventually becomes the truth,” rings true in this case. Many compulsive liars will perpetuate their lies because if they tell them enough times, more people will reflect on how they want to see the story in real life.
Understanding Lying Behavior – The Compulsive Liar Vs. the Pathological Liar
There is a big difference between compulsive and pathological liars. Let’s unpack the differences between them.
Characteristics of the Compulsive Liar
The compulsive liar lies out of habit. They’ll tell big or small fibs and find telling the truth makes them uncomfortable. Some psychiatrists believe compulsive lying behavior starts in childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood.
These individuals found themselves in environments where lying was routine and necessary, and they stuck to lying to avoid truthful confrontations. Compulsive liars may or may not have a mental illness contributing to their behavior.
However, research shows that people with mental disorders like ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder are more likely to develop into compulsive liars. Unlike pathological liars, compulsive liars aren’t manipulative or cunning in their attempts to lie to others.
They lie as an automatic response because it’s what they’re used to doing when interacting with others. However, their stories usually don’t add up. They also display the classic body language associated with lying, such as avoiding eye contact and tripping over their words.
They know that lying is wrong and understand the difference between right and wrong with their behavior. In most cases, when confronted about their lies, they will admit them. They’ll also feel shame if someone discovers them lying.
Characteristics of the Pathological Liar
The pathological liar is very different from the compulsive type. This liar lies to manipulate others into getting their way in life. They lie without awareness of their actions, and some psychiatrists believe it’s a coping mechanism they develop as children.
In some instances, pathological liars also have anti-social personality disorders or narcissistic personality disorders. The pathological liar usually has a goal and purpose when lying to others. They don’t respect other people’s rights or feelings as long as it gets them what they want.
This cunning approach to lying means that they often believe the lies they tell and don’t experience the same psychological and physiological feedback as normal people do when they tell lies. There’s no shame or guilt involved with telling lies according to their personal beliefs. As a result, these individuals are very hard to spot, and uncovering their lies is challenging.
They’re very challenging for lie detector tests to spot. Since they don’t experience any emotions around lying, they don’t launch the fight-or-flight response others experience when lying. The polygraph examiner uses the fight-or-flight mode to detect deception in the examinee’s answers. However, when they don’t have anything to look at on their screen, they can’t tell that the pathological liar is lying to them.
They’re hard to catch in the act of lying, and they don’t exhibit the body language associated with lying. Pathological liars can look you in the eyes and lie to you without showing any signs of aberrant behavior. If you confront a pathological liar about their lies, they will never admit to lying.
What are the Causes of Compulsive Lying Behavior?
Psychiatrists don’t view compulsive lying as a standalone diagnosis. There is no mention of compulsive lying in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as a separate mental health disorder. However, compulsive lying does appear as a component of several other conditions, such as the following.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Impulse control problems.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD).
- Substance abuse or dependency.
- Narcissistic personality disorder.
- Borderline personality disorder.
In most cases, people with psychosis don’t exhibit traits of compulsive lying. They understand that what they’re doing is wrong, and that makes them not distanced from reality. People may also become compulsive liars if they have past trauma, especially in childhood.
Despite the short-term benefits of lying, compulsive liars usually always experience problems with their behavior in the long run, especially when trying to form relationships with others. People don’t like to be lied to, and when they discover the dishonesty of the compulsive liar, they find it hard to trust them again.
Are there Treatments for Compulsive & Pathological Lying Behavior?
People who lie compulsively should seek help from a qualified and experienced therapist. The therapy sessions can help them understand their behavior and how it affects people around them. The therapist can also help uncover underlying mental disorders that may contribute to the conduct or past trauma responsible for the development of habitual lying practices.
However, the compulsive liar may find treatment difficult. Due to their behavior, they may feel compelled to lie to their therapist, and they slow the treatment progress, requiring many sessions to experience a breakthrough.
In some cases, the need to lie may be like an addiction to the compulsive liar. However, if they follow their treatment schedule and learn to open up to their therapist, it’s for them to make progress with their sessions.
When the compulsive liar’s behavior begins to interfere with their romantic or personal relationships, there’s always the option of couples counseling. However, most people that discover their partner is a habitual liar are more inclined to leave them to find another person they can trust rather than live in a lie.
Strategies involving behavioral modification, such as role-play, are useful in therapy sessions to gauge progress and promote change in the patient. Breaking the habit of compulsive lying is challenging for any therapist. However, with enough effort and time, the patient may experience the breakthrough they need to get them to change their behavior.