Compulsive liar symptoms are observed in people who lie rampantly, without giving a second thought to the impact it may have on the future or their relationships.
All of us lie from time to time — either to get out of an uncomfortable situation or to spare someone’s feelings. But we rarely lie for the ‘fun of it’. For one, the fact that lying is wrong has been drilled into our psyche since childhood, and two, the thought of getting caught and facing the consequences of the same discourages us from lying. But then there are certain people who lie all the time, about the most mundane and simple things, and they do it because a habit has set in. These people are known as compulsive liars, and in this article we will try and understand the nuances of this personality disorder and how to identify a compulsive liar.
Who is a Compulsive Liar
Compulsive liars lie because a habit has set in. Lying is their normal reflexive way of reacting to questions. They feel comfortable lying and become tense when speaking the truth. When they lie, they experience a sense of control and they do it to feel good about themselves. It is observed that compulsive lying disorder symptoms develop during childhood. They come about due to situations which have required them to lie (the fear of a punishment, for example) and the habit has thereby set in. With time, this ‘talent’ is honed and gets to a point where telling the truth makes them uncomfortable.
Compulsive lying disorder is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder and is akin to an addiction for many people, just as smoking and drug abuse. Though compulsive liars are often referred to as pathological liars, the two terms are different. Pathological liars are manipulative and cunning and lie to achieve their goals without caring about hurting the feelings of others. Compulsive liars, on the other hand, lie because it is an automatic response to any situation. Compulsive liars are also called habitual or chronic liars.
This disorder has its roots in childhood. We know that all children lie and twist events that have occurred thus exaggerating the story. This is normal behavior in all children and is often traced back to their vivid power of imagination. Lying becomes a matter of concern when the child lies for no apparent reason. This makes the parents distrustful of them and in turn the child becomes more unruly and may take to lying often. It is very important to identify obsessive compulsive lying disorder in children during the early stages to help them deal with the same.
Compulsive liar syndrome comes about mainly due to certain underlying mental illnesses, of which an antisocial personality disorder is seen to be the most common factor. Though it is not always necessary that a person might be suffering from a personality disorder to turn into a compulsive liar. As we have said earlier, it might just be a habit that they have developed.
Compulsive Lying Symptoms
It is not easy to spot the symptoms of a compulsive liar, because the lies are mostly too subtle to catch one’s eye — that, or they have been skillfully presented by the liars. After a certain passage of time though, people who come in close contact with a compulsive liar are able to identify the symptoms.
Anything and Everything
Compulsive liars lie about any and everything, even the seemingly insignificant facts in the bigger scheme of things like what they had for food or the cola they prefer.
There are certain people who need to be the center of attention wherever they go. In order to maintain their high popularity rate, they begin to build attention-seeking white lies. These lies soon become a part of their personalities.
They need to feel validated and superior than others and in order to achieve that, they weave stories of their valor and great deeds. They make up such great stories about themselves, that they lose their charm once the cat is out of the bag. For example, someone claims to have fought a bloody fight with a goon at the local bar, when actually he is known to get scared or has even fainted at the sight of blood.
When a compulsive liar gets caught in his web of lies, he will cook up another story of how he is falsely accused or will deny it totally with another story to back up his claim of innocence and cover up the lies. Another interesting symptom is that these people tend to become nervous when they have to speak the truth.
Same Story, Different Characters
In order to maintain their ‘grandiose life’ in the eyes of others, they have to adopt plagiarism as an integral part of their behavior. While telling one lie after the other, they may not realize that they have told the same lie to the same person, more than once. Each time he tells the same lie, the basic concept remains the same, only the characters, place, date of occurrence, etc. may change.
Low self-esteem is one of the primary reasons for why people turn into compulsive liars. An inferiority complex propels the person to make up stories which makes him/her feel worthy and appreciated.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
This is mostly apparent in compulsive lying disorder in children. Even adults suffering from ADHD with impulsive behavior, exhibit compulsive lying symptoms.
People suffering from bipolar disorder are always suffering from mood swings that range from depression to manic behavior. During the manic period, their impulsive behavior makes way and this forces them to lie through their teeth.
Drug addicts, alcoholics, gamblers, etc. who fall into trouble more often than not, may exhibit these symptoms. They may keep lying to help themselves out of sticky situations, to get out of financial messes and/or to hide the truth about themselves from their family and friends.
Denial of Reality
People who are unable to face the truth, or are living in denial of reality are true compulsive liars. They may turn on an elaborate emotional display that takes the attention away from their lies.
Compulsive Liar Test
There are no specific tests to find a compulsive liar. You need to watch out for the above symptoms to determine whether this disorder is being exhibited. Though one can use the polygraph test, also known as the lie detector test to help get an idea of the same. This test helps measure the physiological responses to the series of questions asked. These responses help decide the symptoms.
If you suspect someone you know lies continuously about anything and everything, then the best thing to do is observe them. You will find they lie regularly and is a habit that they follow at all times. They lie with ease without showing a hint of nervousness. If they show signs of being uncomfortable, then they probably do not come under the bracket of compulsive lying.
The main object of compulsive lying disorder treatment is behavior modification. Before seeking treatment of any kind, it has to be understood that the person who has been recognized with symptoms of compulsive lying needs to want to seek help and undergo treatment. Unless that happens, the treatment is not going to help. The ideal way to go about this is to consult a counselor, who will adopt a number of ways like role-playing or situational skits and thereby help the person discard the habit.
Dealing with a compulsive liar can take a toll on your relationship. Usually, calling the person on his lies is known to lessen the intensity of the same. Or avoiding someone whenever possible will save you from having to deal with their lies. But one cannot avoid someone when they are your spouse, child, parent, sibling or a work partner. In such a case, make sure that you do not react to their lies — which may discourage their habit of compulsive lying. You may calmly explain the problem to them and help them face the truth. Then try suggesting they seek help and tell them you will support them through their treatment.
Recognizing the symptoms of compulsive lying is necessary because it helps you identify a person who exhibits this behavior and you can thereby decide the necessary steps that need to be taken — either to avoid him, or to urge him to undergo treatment. All in all, it will help you improve your relationship with them.