“Just like bad eating habits and not engaging in a consistent exercise routine, compulsive lying creates harmful habits.” – Adam Szmerling
Compulsive liars sneak their way into people’s lives without them really knowing it. After all, they’re very good at what they do. But the question that arises in everyone’s minds – why do people resort to compulsive lying?
Counselor, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Adam Szmerling says, “Compulsive lying is typically a superficial cover up of deeper problems, often rooted in attachment issues.”
When a compulsive liar comes into our lives, we may not realize it until it’s far too late. Compulsive liars can often make your life worse, and being able to tell who they are will make it easier to get them out of your life. Getting a compulsive liar out of your life will make you feel much better, just as getting rid of any other toxic person might do. Knowing what you’re looking for is the first step, then being able to remove them from your life will come after.
Here Are 5 Ways To Unmask Compulsive Liars And Get Them Out Of Your Life
1. They lie about everything
This should probably be a no brainer, but it’s pretty much the first thing that anyone notices when starting to uncover a compulsive liar. According to Good Therapy, “People with this condition may simply be more comfortable telling lies than telling the truth. They may lie repeatedly about important as well as unimportant matters.”
They don’t just lie about big things or little things – they lie about literally everything. They’ll lie about things that don’t even matter, like what they had for breakfast or what they did the night before. They may lie about who their parents are, where they went to school, even about things they like. People who are compulsive liars aren’t able to stop lying.
“They may lie to gain personal attention—to appear more admirable or more helpless than they actually are. Even self-harming lies may provide some form of internal gratification,” adds Good Therapy.
2. They don’t have a conscience
Most people get that little guilty feeling in the pit of their stomach when they lie. That is their conscience that is telling them right from wrong and helps guide their morals. On the other hand, compulsive liars don’t have that; otherwise they wouldn’t be able to lie the way they do.
Research has shown that compulsive liars tend not to have this same reaction that non-compulsive liars do, and it’s often paired with a personality disorder of some kind. They lack a conscience that tells them not to lie or makes them feel guilty for doing so. You may notice that they’re able to do other cruel things without feeling bad about it, like making fun of people or spreading rumors.
What about the consequences?
“The very fact that a lie could be found out does not affect the pathological liar. They have an inability to consider the consequences or even fear being found out. It’s as if the pathological liar believes they are smarter than everyone and will never be found out,” says therapist and certified trauma professional Támara Hill, MS, LPC.
3. They’re angry when you question them
If you try to catch a compulsive liar in the act of lying, they immediately become angry with you. In fact, they’ll get so angry that they might shut down entirely, making it seem like you’re the one at fault for questioning them. Even if you have proof that they’re lying, they’ll still act like you’re the one who’s in the wrong. They become angry the minute that their lying is brought into question. Research and science have pointed to a correlation between outbursts of anger and compulsive lying.
4. They change their story
In the same conversation, you may hear six different versions of the exact same story. “Plagiarism is a key factor in the life of a compulsive liar. This often involves twisting and warping stories heard from peers, acquaintances, or movie plotlines into plausible adventures that could have occurred in the liar’s life,” says clinical research coordinator Lexis Clark.
It’s not that they can’t keep it consistent, but rather that they don’t care and can’t keep themselves from continuing to lie. They’re very good at making you believe each new variation of the lie they told before it, because they’re so good at talking that they make even the most outrageous lies sound completely rational and believable.
5. Little lies become huge lies
Something that may have started out as a small lie suddenly turns into a huge one. Something as simple as lying about where they graduated high school may turn into a lie about what college degree they had, complete with fictional professors and classes that they didn’t really take. Compulsive liars tend to start with small lies in order to see if the can get away with it, but before you know it, nothing that this person says is true.
Clinical psychologist and author David J. Ley, Ph.D., says, “It may not feel like it to you, but people who tell lie after lie are often worried about losing the respect of those around them. They want you to like them, be impressed, and value them. And they’re worried that the truth might lead you to reject or shame them.”
A compulsive liar may not stop lying, so trying to get them to stop may be fruitless, however, “… to function effectively in the real world, we also need people to learn to be more honest. Communicating empathy for a person’s desperation can be a valuable tool to give them permission to tell the truth,” adds Dr. Ley.
Apart from trying to motivate a compulsive liar to say the truth and helping them believe that “the truth is not scary, and that the world won’t end when the truth comes out”, the best thing to do is cut them out of your life if they refuse to change.
When a compulsive liar refuses to say the truth, remind yourself that everything they say will be a lie, and not to give in to their manipulative tendencies when they try to get you to stay in their lives. Once you’re free of a compulsive liar, you’ll be able to foster relationships in your life that are positive. There is always something good on the other side of a relationship that is toxic.