Everyone lies at one point or another. But how do you know if someone you know is a pathological liar? Pathological lying is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, so it is not a technical mental disorder. However, it is considered a symptom of other mental issues. It is important to note the difference between pathological liars and compulsive liars. A compulsive liar merely lies out of habit. It may reach a point where it is uncomfortable to tell the truth. A pathological liar has no regard for the feelings of others. They will lie to get their way, and some have little control over their lying.
Pathological liars will often lie for no reason at all--even if it means that the lie puts themselves in danger. Pathological liars may be suffering from a mental illness such as bipolar disorder or addiction (i.e., drugs or alcohol). They may tell stories that are quite unbelievable, or they may make their own lives sound too good to be true. The stories they tell may change. They may thrive on being the center of attention, and their friends and family members may warn you about the compulsive lying. When you question a pathological liar, he may become defensive and won’t admit to his lies.
Sometimes the environment in which someone grew up in can plant a seed for future pathological lying. It is common for children to lie, but for those forced to lie in order to avoid abuse or who lie out of fear, it can develop into something more as a child grows older. Other disorders that may have pathological lying as a symptom include addiction, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dissociative identity disorder and antisocial personality disorder (or sociopathy).
While pathological liars are capable of leading functional lives, pathological lying has severely damaging effects on the relationships of the pathological liar and the people who surround her. Spouses or friends of pathological liars often end up being ashamed to be around the pathological liar, especially in other company or in the workplace. Pathological liars are at risk of being fired from their job, being alienated from peers and losing friends. Some may even face criminal problems and trouble with the law.
Since pathological lying is for the most part considered a symptom of another disorder, doctors will concentrate on treating the primary disorder first, rather than single out treatment for pathological lying. Medication and psychotherapy are two routes doctors may take, depending on the disorder.
Pathological liars can be frustrating to deal with because it is difficult to tell the difference between truth and lies. You can attempt to suggest they get help, but remember that pathological liars may feel nothing is wrong with them. They may even believe their own lies. It comes down to two other options--either ignore the lies or terminate the relationship with the pathological liar.