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Pathological Lying Doesn't Mean You Want to Lie

When you hear the term “pathological liar,” you might imagine a person who enjoys lying, or wants to manipulate others by making up stories. These assumptions many people make aren’t necessarily true. These individuals don’t mean to lie intentionally.

Why do they lie?

You may be reading this and wondering, “If they don’t want to lie, then why do they do it?” Let’s unpack the reasons these individuals lie. If you engage in pathological lying or if you believe someone you know is a pathological liar, it’s a problem that needs attention; however, isn’t hopeless. It’s possible to stop the cycle of telling lies and learn to be honest with those around you, no matter what the consequences.

Low Self Esteem

Many people who pathologically lie have low self-esteem. If you are a pathological or compulsive liar, you might lie to please others. You might believe the truth will disappoint a person, so you tell a lie instead. When you lie, it can take a toll on friendships. You say what you believe the people around you want to hear. Some people lie to escape reality or to cover up something that they’re ashamed they’ve done. Some people who compulsively or pathologically lie don’t understand why they started lying. There are many reasons why a people lie, but one thing we know is true: living in a world of lies is painful. Despite the pain, most people who lie want to stop lying, but it’s not that simple.

The cycle of lies

Once a person tells a lie, the cycle begins; the first untruth leads to more and more. I once met a woman who claimed she had an illness, but it wasn’t true. Once she told people she was sick, she had to make up more lies to make her story believable. She was terrified they would find out that she was not ill. Furthermore, she was afraid her friends and family would be angry at her if they discovered she was lying. The woman pretended to have symptoms of the illness and claimed that she took pills to manage them. None of these things were true, but she couldn’t stop lying. At that point, she believed she was too deep in the cycle of lies to come clean. She was miserable and overwhelmed and felt guilty about her behavior.

You want to stop lying but it seems impossible

If you’re stuck in a cycle of lies, it’s hard to get out. Just like the woman faking an illness, you aren’t lying because you want to do it. You’re used to a pattern of behavior. If you’ve been making up lies for a long time, it’s habitual. Lying can become a compulsive behavior, which makes it difficult to stop. You might be so used to lying that it feels like breathing. You don’t mean to deceive people and you want to quit doing it. You regret the lies you tell afterward, and you recognize that you need help.

You’re not “bad” because you struggle with lying

I want you to know that being stuck in a cycle of lies doesn’t make you a bad person. When you choose to stop pathologically lying it’s going to be a brutally challenging process; it’s will take time to stop lying, and start telling the truth.

Get help

There are many ways a therapist or counselor can work with someone who lies. Counseling can help you identify why you lie, and you and your therapist can work on a treatment plan to stop. If you lie because you have low self-esteem, your counselor can help you strengthen your self-esteem. Learning to be confident in yourself can help you stop lying because you won’t see a need for it. If you started lying to hide your flaws, your therapist could help you through that, too.

Whether you work with a mental health professional in person or online, it will help you to discover your true self. Your therapist believes in you and will help you break free from the cycle of lying. You’ll be able to be yourself, and start telling the truth genuinely.

Getty photo by nensuria

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