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Pathological Lying: How Is It Different From White Lies?

Pathological Lying: How Is It Different From White Lies?
While the condition hasn’t earned a clinical name yet but doctors have started recognizing it as a sign of other diagnosable conditions like personality disorders

People who might lie pathologically or compulsively don't have a conscious motive that they are aware of

Written by Kashish Sharma |Published : December 2, 2022 1:21 PM IST

Lying has made things easy for us and that is why each one of us might engage in the behaviour from time to time. We might lie to a teacher that we forgot the homework at home or we might lie to a friend that we might be busy when we are invited to an event we don't wish to attend. In all these cases, we have a clear motive, it could be to avoid social embarrassment or to not hurt somebody else's feelings. Some seasoned liars might fabricate great stories to attain financial or political gains. However, when a person lies without any known reason and when they are not able to tell the motive for which they have been lying, then this condition might become pathological.

Pathological lying is often a sign of some underlying mental health condition. People who might lie pathologically or compulsively don't have a conscious motive that they are aware of. While not much research has been done into the cause root of this behaviour but efforts have been put to differentiate normal lying from pathological.

Why do people lie without conscious motive?

Mythomania or pseudologia fantastica are some names for compulsive or habitual lying. While the condition hasn't earned a clinical name yet but doctors have started recognizing it as a sign of other diagnosable conditions like personality disorders. Lying like other compulsive thoughts can become a habit that one cannot seem to overcome. The following are some health conditions that could prompt this behaviour-

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  1. People having antisocial or borderline personality disorder might engage in lying to avoid rejection or abandonment at a subconscious level. This concept is controversial as many experts do recognize a psychological motive in this condition.
  2. There might be conditions like Factitious disorders (Munchausen's Syndrome) where a person might feign his own or a loved one's illness. This too can happen because of many underlying conditions like childhood abuse or neglect, personality disorders, depression, substance abuse and others.
  3. Sometimes a person might engage in lying in some kind of dementia (especially those that affect the frontal and temporal parts of the brain).
  4. Sometimes it could be a sign of underlying compulsive disorder. Some people might have existed in environments where lying was essential for their well-being. Their lies are usually not very dramatic but rather very small but automatic. Sometimes even if they don't like it, they might lie because speaking the truth can make them feel uncomfortable.

How to spot pathological liars?

Pathological lying often presents itself as a pattern that has continued for a long. Pathological lies are told continuously and frequently. Such liars often frame stories that make them either heroes or victims. The following might be a few examples-

  1. They might create false histories. They might talk about experiences that might have never happened to them.
  2. They might claim to have some serious illness
  3. They might portray themselves as friends to celebrities or other famous people
  4. To make their stories believable, they might go into deep details.
  5. They might have different versions of the same tale
  6. They can lie about a wide range of topics
  7. Their narratives are often very dramatic
  8. They don't fear being caught or if somebody rechecks
  9. They might retell other people's stories as their own.