- Mental Health
Am I A Pathological Liar?
A little about my background.....
I graduated with my MD/PHD in Psychiatry from MMS (Mayo Medical School) in Rochester, Minnesota. Living in Rochester was a blast - Money Magazine deems it the top city in the world to live. Rochester is darling with it's eclectic mix of art, entertainment, theater and shopping in the city. The greenest lawns roll out into sleepy suburbs surrounding the metropolis. Being located in the Midwest means it has four seasons each year, of which I never tired. I lived at the southwest end on 6th street near the historic district.
I did my dissertation on Pathological liars. I have interviewed people such as Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, John Lovett and James Frey. I hung out with Lea Thompson and Emily Sandberg (both famous actresses). They begged me to go into the movie business but I was much more interested in studying the human mind. I miss them a lot though - and all the fun we had shopping, partying and traveling. We would often jet off on Friday and head off to Tahiti where Lea kept her yacht. I dated a prince for a time - but I promised to never reveal his identity. We knew that we could never be together forever so we savored what time we had, I don't regret a thing! I know what lucky a girl I am.
My dissertation was nominated for a Pulitzer - it was so exciting I didn't even care if it won. What an honor! I learned every detail about pathological liars and my research was ground breaking. I discovered exactly which center of the brain causes people to lie and a drug was developed to block those particular receptors in the brain. This is breaking news and you can tell everyone you heard it here first. There is now a cure for pathological liars!
"The eyes are the gateway to the soul." ~Herman Melville
To be honest now....
Did you believe any of that? Possibly all of it? Every single sentence above is a complete lie. I have never even been to Rochester. That is how pathological liars work. They will tell you small bits of truth embellished with tall tales. Everything is exaggerated. These types of liars do not need a reason to lie. They do not need a reward in any sense of the word. They just lie like other people breathe air.
Pathological liars do know they are lying most of the time. If you caught them in a lie they would feel no need to apologize. They might tell another lie to cover up or validate the first lie, not caring that you both don't believe it. They are not embarrassed to be caught in lies either. They have the ability to look you in the eye and begin weaving even more fantastic webs.
He tells it like it is!
Are you a liar?
One of the most common reasons people lie are fear driven factors. Everyone has heard "the truth hurts" and by experience we know it does - we don't want to hurt other people's feelings so it is impossible to NEVER lie. Everyone lies from time to time. I would notice at different work places - when a person makes a mistake they immediately try to justify why it happened and for fear of getting fired - this person may decide to lie to save their hide. I would consider that self preservation. Those lies are based on the need to survive and fear.
It is normal to lie from time to time, but what about a person who lies all the time? Do you lie about everything? Do you lie about trivial matters such as, "what is your favorite food?" Do you lie as a matter of convenience and often forget all the lies you have already told people? Do you lie and not even understand why you are lying? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions you might be a pathological liar!
Pathological liars will lie - and they usually do know they are lying and have intent. Even if the liar knows in advance they will have negative consequences they will still continue to lie. Pathological lying is habitual for these people - it IS their coping skill to help them get through life. Feelings of low self esteem could be a precursor - they don't feel good enough about their own accomplishments. The answer is to just make themselves look better in your mind's eye by making up more exciting things.
It is normal to tell those small, harmless lies such as "noooooOOOooo that dress does not make you look fat!" Most people feel guilt when they tell lies, even small ones. The pathological liar does not really care about the facades they create or the consequences of telling lies. They do not think about how distructive this behavior can be to others.
Famous lies told on television.
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- Take the PIG Personality Test
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What Causes It?
If you are a pathological liar - it is not your fault. These type of liars tend to have more white matter in their brain and less gray matter. The significance of this is that the white matter in the brain is involved in neurotransmitters and in essence, they have more networks or pathways from the brain to make up lies. Lying is not done without effort - in fact it takes thought and planning to lie. The cognitive processes in the brain help liars to fabricate the lies.
The pre-frontal cortex is part of the brain that is involved in morals and feelings of remorse. The pathological liar often has more activity going on in this region. Structures in the brain are found to be different with an increase of up to approximately 25.7 percent more white matter than the normal human brain. They have been found to have approximately 14% less gray matter in the brain. Pathological liars tend to have a mental illness more frequently than other types of liars.
Compulsive lying can be more of an impulse disorder that is believed to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brains (such as serotonin) or it can be stemmed in childhood development. The cause is debated. One thing that seems to be a common belief among psychologists is that the compulsive liar doesn't always realize they are lying. Treatment with some different drugs have been found to be effective for some of these patients.
Lying can be rooted in childhood. Low self-esteem is a common factor. A child may have come from a home where lying was necessary to survival. Thoughts of telling the truth may cause fear or it feels awkward or uncomfortable to be honest so it is developed earlier in their childhood.
Sociopaths often lie for a reason and they have a goal. Anti-social personalities tend to lie for a benefit of some kind. Not necessarily for monetary rewards either.
Pseudologia Fantastica (mythomania) is also another term coined for liars. These type of liars make up fantasies and they tend to even believe these lies themselves. Their lies can be based on small bits of reality and they are not hallucinations or delusions - they know they are lying although this can present as False Memory Syndrome as well. (The liar believes their own lies). This falls along the lines of daydreaming and it tends to be a mix of fact and fiction.
Faces of a Liar
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The Signs of a Liar...
There are many similarities that liars have in common. These are a few traits that correlate with lying. While you can not ever be sure a person you don't know well is lying - these may be tells to watch out for.
- Disguised smiling
- Lack of head movements
- Pauses in speech such as "uh...oh...ummm"
- Body movements are incongruent with what they are saying, such as - if they say yes and bob their head no? It's a clue that it could be a lie.
- Increase in the pitch of their voice
- Increase in fidgeting and hand gestures
- Body language experts agree that liars tend to often touch or rub their necks, cheeks, face as if comforting themselves through the lie.
- They may scratch their heads or other body parts frequently during a lie
- They do sometimes lack eye contact - but they often look directly into the eyes of the person they are lying right after they tell the lie as if they are "checking" to see if the lie is being bought.
- Pathological liars tend to have increased verbal skills but lower educational skills.
- If a person looks up and to the right - that is indicative of lying behavior (they are looking toward the brain center that is thinking in essence)
- If a person looks up and to the left - it is where memories live in the mind...so they are remembering rather than improvising.
- If a person places an object (such as their briefcase on the table) between themselves and the person they are talking to - this is another tell. It is a way they tend to build barriers between themselves and the person they are lying to.
- Arms crossed, tightly closed hands? Signs of a liar.
- Leaning back when speaking may be a tell - they are putting distance between themselves and the person they are lying to.
- Eyes are shifty - darting from place to place.
- Liars forget the lies they have told so they often contradict themselves.
What to do?
There is no cure for pathological lying. Therapy, and most likely long term, might help but these people usually do not seek treatment. If you must work with someone who lies this way you may want to try to avoid them. Lies can be terribly devestating and destructive to people but confrontation will usually do little to curb the need for that person to stop lying. It is a habitual security blanket they will reach for each time they are not in their comfort zone. Telling the truth is much easier than lying because it is a true memory. Lies are fabricated and much harder to recall.
NOTE: If you read the first paragraph and skipped to the end - please know that everything in the first capsule is a lie! I repeat - I lied like there was no tommorrow and it was hard work. And for goodness sakes don't believe everything you hear!
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- World's Biggest Liar Competition
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