Anyone can pick out a pathological liar.
If you’re trying to decide if someone you know is a pathological liar, here are some traits to look for:
- The lies are elaborate. Earlier when I said it was exhausting to pick apart what was fact and what was fiction, it’s mostly because of how elaborate the lies are. Typically, a pathological liar will weave truth into the lie.
- The lies make the liar look good, or even like a victim. If a pathological liar is telling you a story involving multiple people, he will typically look like the hero, or as if he is being treated unfairly and doesn’t deserve it. This could be due to low self-esteem. Part of why a pathological liar lies is because they feel they deserve attention. They’ll do whatever it takes to get to be in the spotlight. For this same reason, they’ll also get defensive if they get caught in a lie and blame someone else.
- The lies aren’t original. Sometimes, pathological liars retell other peoples’ stories but change the narrative so it sounds like it happened to them! If a story sounds familiar, don’t dismiss it. There’s a good chance you truly have heard it before.
- Liars avoid questions that might get them caught. When a pathological liar is confronted with questions, they tend to avoid them at all costs. They’re manipulative and may even convince you they already answered your question. They may also dodge your question entirely by feigning offense to the question. Liars will also manipulate you in whatever ways necessary to always stay one step ahead.
- They over-compensate with eye contact. While most liars would avoid eye contact, pathological liars will go out of their way to maintain deep eye contact in order to appear more convincing. Sometimes, a pathological liar’s pupils will dilate as they lie.
- They seem overly laid back. Generally when someone lies, they may be fidgety and anxious. But when a pathological liar speaks, even if repeating someone’s story you heard earlier that day, they seem laid back and not at all concerned about getting caught.
- Their pitch changes and their smile is insincere. Depending on the person, a pathological liar’s voice may get higher or lower when they are being dishonest. They could also be overly thirsty and require water while lying, as the stress from lying causes adrenaline to constrict the vocal chords. A pathological liar also smiles differently from a truthful person. When someone is genuinely happy, a person smiles with their whole face; their eyes crinkle and the corners of their mouth stretch. But a liar only smiles with their mouth.
- They may have a history of other problematic habits. A history of substance abuse, eating disorders, anger, etc. may be good indicators that a person has the capacity to be a pathological liar.
- They’re delusional. Pathological liars live in their own world. They believe parts of their lies are true and tend to exaggerate the importance of basic occurrences.
- They aren’t good at relationships. Not surprisingly, pathological liars have unstable relationships, both romantic and professional. Typically a pathological liar is estranged from their family, too.
- They jump from job to job. Pathological liars tend to have lengthy resumes. Their jobs are short-term because they tend to burn bridges with employers and coworkers alike.