Compulsive lying disorder, also known as pseudologia fantastica or mythomania, is a condition that describes the behavior of a habitual liar.
While compulsive lying disorder is actually not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), except as a symptom of factitious disorder, many psychiatrists and psychologists consider it a distinct mental disorder.
In the past two decades countless hours of research and multiple papers have been written regarding this issue, though it remains one of the most under researched psychiatric conditions. Individuals with the disorder simply cannot stop themselves from misrepresenting the truth.
People with the disorder are not able to control their lies and experience no guilt regardless of how the lies may affect themselves and others. The lack of guilt is frequently the result of the fact that the individual becomes so caught up in the lie that they are telling, they begin to believe it themselves. If confronted with a lie they have told in the past or one that they are presently telling, they will be insistent that they are speaking the truth.
Over time, the individual will become so adept at lying that it will be very difficult for others to determine if they are, in fact, telling the truth. There are no exact figures regarding the number of people that suffer from this disorder, but has been found to be equally common in men and women and usually becomes very apparent in the late teens.
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Is your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend a compulsive/pathological liar or a sociopath?
To begin with, it may help to understand the difference between a pathological or compulsive liar and a sociopath (see types of liars).
Ultimately, making this type of distinction may not be that useful. Because in either case, the outcome is typically the same: dealing with a compulsive or pathological liar is very difficult to do. And unfortunately, sociopaths cannot be changed (seelovefraud).
A compulsive liar will resort to telling lies, regardless of the situation. Again, everyone lies from time to time (see when lovers lie), but for a compulsive liar, telling lies is routine. It becomes a habit—a way of life.
Simply put, for a compulsive liar, lying becomes second nature.
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.
Stories Are Impossible to Believe
The Psychiatric Times states compulsive liars will often tell unbelievable stories, and the lies they contain may seem absolutely pointless. In fact, a compulsive liar may even tell lies that are self-incriminating. While almost everyone exaggerates stories sometimes, a pathological liar does it much of the time. If you find yourself with your jaw falling open every time someone tells you a story, it’s probably because it’s not true. If this happens regularly, the person may be a pathological liar.
Individual Has Poor Self-Esteem
According to the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, low self-esteem ranks high among the probable causes of behavioral issues. People with low self-esteem are more likely to demonstrate pathological lying symptoms because they are trying to make themselves feel better about how they look, their accomplishments, and what they have in life. While low self-esteem doesn’t always indicate a pathological liar, if it’s coupled with regular truth-stretching, it could be a signal that this person needs help.