We all occasionally lie. Most of the time, it’s a small lie that doesn’t have much of an effect, and sometimes it’s a big lie that can end up hurting you or others in some way. However, we all know that lying, in general, isn’t a good thing to do, and we try not to make it a habit. But for some people, lying becomes second nature or even a way of life.
You might have come across a compulsive liar at some point in your life. Maybe they were a work colleague or a friend or even a partner. Compulsive lying, also known as pseudologia fantastica, pathological lying, and mythomania, describes a condition in which an individual lies habitually and often for no reason at all.
Not only do compulsive liars bend the truth about issues large and small, they take comfort in it. Lying feels right to a compulsive liar. Telling the truth, on the other hand, is difficult and uncomfortable  , so lying becomes an addiction.
What’s Distinctive of a Compulsive Liar
- They lie frequently, about anything. Even something that makes no difference whether they lie about it or not.
- They seek attention. They might use lies as a way to get attention.
- Their stories always change. This is because they can’t remember all the lies they’ve told.
- They refuse to admit they’re lying when confronted, even when it has been proven they are. They also may become angry when caught lying  .
- Sometimes you can identify a compulsive liar by their body language. They may not be able to look you in the eye when lying, they could be fidgety, they could have closed off body language, like keeping their arms crossed, and they might even start to sweat. However, body language is not a reliable way of identifying a compulsive liar because, if they’re an experienced liar, they may not do any of these things.
If you’ve had experience with a compulsive liar, you were probably puzzled at why they felt the need to lie so much.
The Secret Behind the Rise of Every Compulsive Liar
- Admiration and Popularity. They want rewards and admiration without actually working for it. They want to gain attention and popularity. The person usually has feelings of low self esteem and inadequacy, and admiration and popularity is craved because it temporarily boosts their self esteem and makes them feel less inadequate. So they tell lies to help feed that craving.
- Control and Manipulation. They use lies to gain control where they normally wouldn’t have control and to manipulate others around them into doing what they want. The lying continues because of the thrill of getting away with the manipulation or seeing that their attempt to gain control worked. They might also need to keep lying to keep the control and manipulation going.
- Low Self Esteem. The underlying reason a person might want admiration and popularity or to gain control is usually because of low self esteem. They feel down about themselves so they lie or make up stories in order to make themselves look better to other people. They are constantly afraid that they will be rejected by people so they exaggerate their good qualities or make up things about themselves that they think will make them look good to others.
- Pathological Lying. Although compulsive lying and pathological lying are often used interchangeably, sometimes pathological lying is viewed as a slightly different disorder. The difference between the two is that a pathological liar will lie for absolutely no reason, and do so very convincingly  . If a person does not lie because of low self esteem, or in order to gain popularity, admiration, control or manipulation, then they might be diagnosed as a pathological liar, rather than a compulsive liar. A pathological liar is also often a sociopath who lacks empathy, and they lie just because they can.
However, both compulsive lying and pathological lying are usually a symptom of a bigger issue, such as:
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
- Bipolar Disorder
- Addiction or Substance Abuse
- Borderline Personality Disorder
Compulsive liars can be hurtful to people around them, especially those who are close to them, like friends and partners. Because they can be manipulative and controlling, they often manipulate the emotions of those who care about them. If the lying is a symptom of a bigger disorder, they might lack empathy so they cannot see how their lies are hurtful and destructive. They could be serial cheaters or even mentally and emotionally abusive. Above all, they are untrustworthy.
How to Win the Game with Compulsive Liar
- Make sure they are actually a compulsive liar. Sometimes people lie but that doesn’t always make them a compulsive liar. In order for someone to be a compulsive liar their lies have to be habitual and excessive. For example, a friend going through financial problems but telling you things are fine because they don’t want you to know, is not compulsive lying. A friend who constantly tells you unnecessary stories, which you often find out are untrue, might be a compulsive liar.
- Try to catch them out in a lie. Pay attention to their story. Stop them when they tell an obvious lie by asking them how what they’re saying could be true. Question them about small contradictions or ask them for specific details when they’re telling a story. This will make them uncomfortable and they might try to change the subject.
- Reassure them. If they are a someone close to you, remember that they are compulsive lying because they likely have self esteem or other issues. Reassure them that you like them for who they are and that they don’t need to impress you. You can also tell them about your own insecurities, letting them know that they aren’t the only ones who feel this way.
- Confront them about their lies. – Make sure that you have proof that they are lying before you go to confront them.Be tactful in the way you confront them as they may get angry or defensive. A compulsive liar might also unconsciously believe their lies, so help them to see the truth instead of outright accusing them of lying. Suggest professional help, let them know that you want to help and that you will support them.
- Stay away from them. A compulsive liar might be unwilling to change or seek help. If that is the case, you will need to decide whether or not you want to stay in their lives and deal with their lies. If it is a person you are not close to or invested in, stay away from them and don’t encourage their stories.