Is pathological lying a psychological problem?
Lying is not alien to human nature. But what distinguishes a deliberate liar from a pathological or compulsive liar is that deliberate liars know when they are lying but not pathological liars who are not always conscious of doing so.
Pathological lying as the name implies is definitely a psychological problem. It is a disorder wherein the person is unable to control his/her irresistible impulse to lie. The pathological liar lies constantly, regardless of the situation and whether or not it is advantageous to lie! It is a habit with them and lying is often addictive.
Moreover, to make matters worse, pathological liars are usually unable to make a connection between their lying and the consequences of their lying on people around them.
What leads to it/ how is it diagnosed?
The causes are not very clear.
However dysfunctional family patterns, family lying patterns, fear of rejection, fear of disapproval by significant people in one’s life, a sense of inadequacy, very low self esteem, a desire to measure up to a person or persons who are better/ more important/ more privileged than oneself, lying as a defense mechanism to protect oneself from shame/blame/ abandonment, lying to save face, lying to gain attention could be some of the causes of pathological lying.
Pathological lying could be a symptom of underlying disorders like personality disorders, multiple personality disorders.
Can it be treated?
Treatment can be long and difficult primarily because the person denies anything being wrong with him/her. They do not feel the need for help. Consequently the motivation to change is also minimal.
In treatment, attempts to make the patients conscious of their falsehoods could cause them much distress as often the lies are defense mechanisms used to protect their self image. So there is a higher chance of their discontinuing therapy.
What is the line of treatment followed?
Brief, non-technical information would suffice.
Line of treatment could include therapy, medication or both.
Through therapy they could be:
- made to face their fears in the relatively safe environment of therapy
- given techniques and assisted to increase their self esteem
- be helped to deal with their distorted thinking patterns and by replacing their faulty beliefs with realistic beliefs.
How should the family deal with such behaviour?
- The family would be required to deal with such behaviour with understanding and sensitivity. -Role modelling of honest behaviour by the family members would be required.
- The family member who lies should consistently “not be rewarded” ( in psychological and actual terms)for his/her behaviour instead the person should be consistently rewarded for NOT lying.
- Arbitrary and inconsistent punishment of the person who lies would result in the person trying to avoid punishment through lying to avoid the punishment or blame.
- Superficial conformity should not be encouraged or rewarded.
- Warm and close relationships should be developed between the family members.
- There should be open, honest and emotionally expressive communication between them.