Pathological Lying

Updated: July 23, 2022

Although compulsive or pathological lying is not a disorder, psychiatry considers it a complex psychological problem. Because of its very nature, it’s hard to know how prevalent it is, however, it is thought to affect a small percentage of the population.

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What Is Pathological Lying?

Pseudologia fantastica, better known as compulsive or pathological lying is a condition in which those affected exhibit a chronic pattern of fabrication and dishonesty. Often there is no clear motive or benefit for the elaborate lies that are presented as facts. So, the motivation for lying can be unclear because there is no obvious benefit.


The reasons someone might have started to lie could be due to a need for attention, because of low self-esteem, to avoid some kind of penalty or punishment, or simply to manipulate.


Because pseudologia fantastica is not a disorder, it can exist alongside other mental health conditions. For example, ‘personality disorders’ like antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder, but this is not always the case.

What Are The Symptoms?

Constant Lying

Pathological liars frequently and habitually engage in persistent and frequent lying. This means they can lie about both trivial and significant issues, lies that are small and big, often without any clear or logical reason.

Elaborate Stories

Pathological liars will often tell stories that are quite detailed and complex. This can involve fabricated events, experiences, or accomplishments. These stories can be highly creative and imaginative and can change over time.

Inconsistent Stories

As time goes on, the stories of pathological liars begin to show contradictions and inconsistencies. This can make it hard for them to maintain a consistent and believable account, as their lies compound.

Manipulative Behaviour

People who lie pathologically may do so to gain personally, to influence others, for attention, or to maintain a beneficial reputation or image.

No Remorse

People who lie compulsively might not feel guilty or remorseful about their dishonesty, even when their lies have been exposed. So they may continue to deny and lie and become defensive, even when confronted with evidence.

Strained Relationships

People who lie compulsively will often have problems in their relationships due to the constant lying, lack of trust, and suspicion caused by their lies.

Strong Compulsion

Compulsive relates to compulsion. People who tell lies long enough can start to lie unconsciously because they have a strong compulsion or urge that they may not be aware of or be able to control, even if they are aware.

Superficial Charm

Pathological liars can seem quite charming and charismatic, they will often use this to deceive and manipulate. They can be highly convincing and persuasive, making it hard for people to realise they are being lied to.

What Causes Pathological Lying?

The reasons for pathological lying are not fully understood but certain factors may contribute to its development and will vary from one person to the next.


  • Psychological aspects: Pathological lying may be linked to certain psychological and personality traits. For example, people with low self-esteem, or those who need admiration or attention or wish to project a particular reputation or image. Pathological lying can also exist as part of a personality disorder, as mentioned previously.


  • Lack of impulse control: Some individuals who lie pathologically may be unable to control their impulses. This means the urge to lie is hard to resist so they react without thinking about the implications of their behaviour.


  • Low self-esteem: Those with low self-worth may have an intense need for approval and validation from others. This means they lie to gain attention and sympathy. or admiration, believing their stories will boost their self-esteem or social standing in some way.


  • Coping strategy: In some cases, compulsive lying can be a coping mechanism to help individuals manage underlying psychological or emotional distress. Lying offers avoidance and a temporary escape from facing uncomfortable truths or challenging situations.


  • Environmental factors: This may relate to childhood trauma or dysfunctional family dynamics which can contribute to the development of pathological lying, possibly influencing the need for escape, attention-seeking behaviour, or the learned behaviour of dishonesty.

How Phinity Can Help

At Phinity we will aim to understand the factors involved and offer a tailored approach. For example, we may suggest cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, or a combination based on your needs.


We begin with a comprehensive psychological evaluation to identify underlying factors that have contributed to the development of pathological lying. This happens in a safe and supportive space so you can be open. We facilitate a trusting therapeutic relationship and build an alliance with you so you can be vulnerable and discuss your struggles, first with your therapist, and later with others in your life, to strengthen trust.


Through the process of therapy, you will develop self-awareness and a greater understanding of your cognitive processes, emotions, and behaviour patterns, and gain insights into your difficulties and the reasons that drive your behaviour. This helps you recognise triggers and patterns that lead to lying, and gain awareness of the impact it has on yourself and others. With this understanding, you can explore and learn new ways to cope with any underlying emotional distress or challenges that are identified. We will offer skills and techniques to help manage impulses, regulate emotions, or improve communication and problem-solving skills.


If you experience a mental health condition or personality disorder that plays a role in pathological lying, we will also address this and develop appropriate treatment strategies. If self-esteem is a part of the problem, we will work with you to build a healthier sense of self-worth that is not dependent on deceit or validation from others. This will involve exploring and challenging negative beliefs, developing self-compassion, and developing a more authentic self-image.


We will also teach you ways to prevent relapse by offering strategies that help you manage and minimise lying. This may involve identifying triggers, learning coping skills, and creating a support network.

What Causes Pathological Lying?How Phinity Can Help


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