Let me hear your thoughts on the LIAR LIAR in your life: Symptoms of Pathological Lying

Tony Russell's Blog, The Next Half, Jim CareyPlease skim the following article and let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.  How have you handled the “Liar Liar” in your life?


Understand what a pathological liar is. Basically, a pathological liar is someone who tells lies habitually, chronically and compulsively. It has simply become a way of life for this person, to make up things for a variety of reasons and eventually, the truth becomes uncomfortable while weaving whoppers feels right to them.

Determine whether the person’s details and information comes across as consistent every time they tell a story. Find an easy, run-of-the-mill story, such as what the person had for dinner last night. They may tell you pasta and broccoli, but then may tell you and/or others that lobster and champagne was involved. Details and information will constantly change and evolve.

  • Compare and contrast both big and small details. From the number of people in the liar’s story to the actual storyline itself, recall what has changed and how often the details have changed in the story.
  • Keep tally of the cast of characters involved in the story. If, for example, suddenly the third time the story is told, the cops show up, you have to start wondering if he or she is telling the full truth.
  • Recall the frequency of the lies. Pathological liars will lie consistently, which is one thing you can count on––they will lie all the time. Conduct a non-scientific experiment and inquire about certain aspects of the person’s life everyday. Choose something random like what the person ate for dinner or watched on TV the evening before.

Compare stories with mutual friends of both you and the person you suspect of being a pathological liar, to determine if the story has changed or reshaped to accommodate certain personalities. Certain details may be morphed to create drama or draw attention to the liar.

  • Trying to pit friends/family members against each other. If the liar was involved in an argument he or she may change the details so that he or she looks better. Also, he or she may involve other parties, making up information about the other party in order to get more people on his or her side.
  • Trying to avoid trouble. If the liar has done something wrong, he or she will do whatever is necessary to avoid blame––that means fabricating a story and/or pinning culpability on another person.
  • Fabricating a lie in order to gain attention. The main goal with many pathological liars is to gain positive notoriety. From being bored to having low self esteem, the pathological liar’s goal is to look better than everyone else, so that people pay attention and worship their accomplishments.

Consider whether the person is lying to gain attention. Part of the reason the pathological liar feels compelled to lie is because he or she may feel as though being in the spotlight has eluded them. This person feels that he or she should be the center of everyone’s universe and will do what he or she can to make it happen. Upon tasting the spotlight, it becomes self-reinforcing and the lies grow bigger each time just to keep on being the center of attention. Here are some possibilities:

  • Sympathy attention. The pathological liar feels that his or her problems are paramount to what everyone else is experiencing. From a paper cut to being admonished by a boss or teacher, the pathological liar runs around telling his or her story to anyone and everyone, exaggerating the details to ridiculous proportions in order to gain sympathy from anyone within earshot.
  • Wants to feel important. The pathological liar is the king or queen of the “one upper.” Whatever accomplishment you’ve achieved, they done it better. This person always has to feel superior to you at all times, no matter if it’s in the professional or personal arena.
  • Feels bored. Unfortunately, because this person’s life is not rooted in reality, he or she may become easily bored if drama is not swirling around his or her head. As a result, lies may be fabricated in order to amuse or entertain this person, which unfortunately means that other people become involved and possibly hurt as a result.
  • Insecurity. Low self esteem is one of the biggest reasons why people become pathological liars. Whether they consciously recognize it or not, a pathological liar feels that he or she is not important enough as they are so they must make up accomplishments or events to position themselves as worthy.

Look to whether the person has an addiction or secret habits that are potentially harmful. Pathological lying can arise in tandem with wanting to hide an alcoholic or drug addiction, an obsession with doing something too much such as spending time online or gaming, or in relation to a medical condition such as bulimia or anorexia.

  • Part of the therapy needs to address compulsive lying. A compulsive liar can be changed.
  • There may be other personality disorders at issue, such as narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.

Examine the person’s reaction when they’re busted in a lie. The worst thing that can happen to a pathological liar is to be busted for telling the lie.

  • Extreme defensiveness. Expect the person to become extremely defensive, doing whatever he or she can to pin blame on someone else.
  • Quickly fabricating another lie to cover up the original fib. The pathological liar will start the cover-up process quickly to ensure that their reputation remains in tact. This may include a bigger lie than the original fib––which may be quite apparent.
  • Vindictive and may seek revenge. Rage and anger may be another reaction stemming from being “outed”, so expect possible retaliation or vindictive behavior. Alternatively, they may feel upset that they have been caught in the act by someone who cares for them and have a tearful meltdown.

Determine if the person lives in reality. The pathological liar is one who typically does not live in reality and has trouble maintaining any consistency in his or her life. Some signs include:

  • Wandering from job to job. He or she may not be able to hold down a job for a long amount of time due to either being busted for lying or not being able to handle day-to-day mundane tasks because of bluffing their way into the job.
  • Can’t hold a steady relationship. Romantic and interpersonal relationships often fail––this person will typically have a love of his or her life or a best friend for a few months and then will suddenly no longer have contact with that person. Between lies and unrealistic expectations, the pathological liar can often attract a bevy of new relationships but has trouble maintaining them.
  • May be estranged from family. After years of being lied to, family members may not be very supportive or close to this individual.

Please don’t forget to leave me your comments below, and feel free to share this on Facebook & Twitter!


9 thoughts on “Let me hear your thoughts on the LIAR LIAR in your life: Symptoms of Pathological Lying

  1. Julia February 20, 2014 / 9:40 am

    I raised a young girl for five years, long story, I have known her her whole life. I raised her from age 9 to 14. Her stepdad and mom got divorced due to drug addiction – we still have a relationship – but she used to lie all the time. And what was hardest was seeing that she actually believed some of her lies. She tells her mother (now that they’re reunited) crazy stories about when she lived with us, she even tries to tell my kids things that just aren’t true still after five years of not living with us. I see her posts on FB and roll my eyes – they are completely not true. I had her in counseling, I called her out on her lies – the ones I knew she was truly lying to avoid consequences. Her pathological lies just broke my heart. She’s a sweet wonderful girl, happily married and has a son. And while I am not seeing as much of the lies recently, they’re still out there. Sometimes I think it’s out of pure boredom. She isolates herself and whines about being lonely (she’s a stay home mom, hubby works alot), she sees weird medical stuff on FB or whatever and claims she’s had it – miscarriage, bit by a brown recluse spider, had the H1N1 virus but was never sick. She once tried to tell me she broke her leg when she was five. I told her I’d known her since she was six weeks old. I would’ve known if she’d have broken her leg. Then she said “well maybe I dreamt it”
    Our family knows she lies, we either call her out on it or we simply pretend we didn’t see/hear it… don’t give her the attention she’s looking for.


    • Tony Russell February 20, 2014 / 9:49 am

      Julia, thank you for your post. I once had a girlfriend who told me she had cancer and was lying!!


  2. Nancy February 20, 2014 / 10:29 am

    I worked very closely with someone like that and I would just take everything they said with a grain of salt. I learned not to call them out on it as they would just evade the issue or make up more lies. This person had other issues as well and I’m so glad we do not work together any more!


  3. Chris February 20, 2014 / 10:52 am

    The hardest part is when its those you love the most. The last section of this fits my ex to a “T”. I’ve known her since I was a 17 and she was 15. When we finally got together, I was 28 and she had a daughter from a highschool relationship. But I was with the girl I knew from the moment I met her, I would one day marry. After years of nothing more than a great friendship, the relationship happened, and then ended so abruptly. She left with her daughter and left her entire life there with me. All the lies had come to a head. I found out through friends and family the things no one would ever tell me before of her past but also of the things going on while she was with me. She was not the person that I had carried a friendship with over the years through emails, letters, phone calls, and visits home while away overseas. Its been four years since and we communicate some again. Its hard at times to even know what is the truth anymore. Ive helped her out monetarily here and there especially when it comes to her daughter. She knows there isnt anything I wouldnt do to make sure she has everything she needs. We were able to bond and carry on father daughter relationship even after it all ended. But I know she now has a sense of normalcy due to her mothers inability to provide a stable relationship in a home environment. It breaks my heart still.


    • Tony Russell February 20, 2014 / 10:57 am

      Thank you for taking the time to share that on my blog Chris! You sound like an amazing person!


  4. Nancy February 20, 2014 / 1:06 pm

    I am currently living with a compulsive, habitual liar and have come to believe nothing he says unless I can verify it. His stories are so outrageous sometimes and what is sad is that he actually believes them. I just give him “the look” and he instantly becomes defensive, a dead giveaway. I love him but can’t have a normal conversation with him because most of what he says is either embellished upon or downright lying. I have learned to live with it, but don’t know for how much longer. He requires lots of recognition (feel like patting him on the head) by repeating over and over again what he’s done for whomever. I try to avoid asking him to help with something or to have him pay for something. I won’t hear the last of how great he is.


    • Tony Russell February 20, 2014 / 2:10 pm

      Thank you Nancy for your comment. I agree, I believe that the pathological lying is simply an extreme need for attention. The need to always be confirmed and constantly telling others what great things he has done is a dead giveaway for that. A good friend once told me to listen to someone’s stories closely, and if they are always the hero then beware!


  5. Amy Stratton February 20, 2014 / 7:59 pm

    OMG – I worked with a lady for years who had this affliction, if you can call it this, in any case, those of us in the office wanted to write a book because the stories were so crazy. It was always th e office buzz about the real doozy she had come up with. Now that I am not around her I have come to realize just how peaceful the work atmosphere can be!


    • Tony Russell February 20, 2014 / 8:19 pm

      Thanks for the comment Amy! Sometimes the stories are so “out there” it’s difficult to believe they think others will believe them!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s