When someone lies without a logical reason, it could indicate a pathological liar. You might not always know they are lying to you, but there are signs you can watch for. Knowing the signs can help you recognize a pathological liar in your life so you can handle the situation.

While most people tell white lies or stretch the truth, it doesn’t typically become habitual. On the other hand, a pathological liar lies frequently and might experience a compulsion to do it. They can’t stop lying, even when it creates problems.

These people lie about anything, and it doesn’t always cause issues. They also do it to avoid trouble or make themselves look better. However, sometimes it is harmful, so it’s best to know what to look for.

Sixteen Signs of a Pathological Liar

Some of the behaviors you might notice include the following:

pathological liar

1 – Their Behavior Doesn’t Match Their Words

Pathological liars often contradict themselves through their actions. They’ll say things that don’t align with their lifestyle, or you’ll catch them doing something they talk down on.

2 – They Have No Remorse

They won’t show any remorse when their lies cause issues or hurt someone. They don’t feel bad and will continue telling lies despite the fallout.

3 – Defensive Behavior When Confronted

They might become overly defensive if someone calls them out on a lie or corrects them. Sometimes they’ll even claim you’re lying, even when you have proof, or blame someone else.

4 – They Take Credit for Other People’s Stories

When pathological liar hears an exciting story from someone else, they’ll pass it off as their own. They want to seem important because they know something others don’t, so they tell it themselves and take credit. Sometimes they’ll do this to make it seem like they’ve personally been through something they haven’t.

5 – They Don’t Seem to Care About Getting Caught in a Lie

If someone isn’t uncomfortable or concerned about getting caught, it’s a good sign they do it often. Studies show that it becomes easier for someone to lie when they do it frequently. The more often they do it, the easier it gets.

6 – Adding Extensive Details

You can often recognize a lie when someone adds extensive detail to their story. They embellish to make their lie seem more believable.

7 – They Love to Talk About Themselves

Unless they’re bashing someone, a pathological liar mostly talks about themselves. They lie to make themselves look good, so talking about themselves is their favorite topic.

You’ll notice that they constantly talk about extravagant stories that make them look funny, intelligent, or heroic. They want everyone to view them in a specific way, and each of their stories will help them portray it.

8 – Lying Without Reason

If someone lies without reason, they’re likely a pathological liar. It’ll be hard to believe anything they say when they can’t tell the truth about things that don’t matter.

9 – They Play the Victim Card

Pathological liars love gaining sympathy, so they’ll often make themselves out to be a victim. They make it seem like they’re always taken advantage of so people will feel bad for them. Each challenge they go through becomes a big deal, with them being the victim.

10 – Their Story Changes

When someone constantly changes their story, it’s clear that they’re not telling the truth. They can’t remember every lie they’ve said, so they’ll eventually slip up and show inconsistencies.

11 – A Pathological Liar Will Often Tell Highly Unlikely Stories

A liar will tell dramatic stories highly unlikely to happen in real life. When you’ve heard a few too many of these stories from the same person, it’s a good sign they’re lying pathologically.

12 – They Love to Gossip as Well as Lying

Pathological liars love to tell exciting stories and embellish them. You’ll notice that they gossip about everyone, even those they are closest to.

Sometimes you’ll learn that someone knows something about you that you didn’t tell them. Consider the person who would have shared this information because it might be a pattern.

13 – Vaguely Answering Questions

If you ask the person a direct question, they might be vague when they respond. They won’t want to answer directly because they’re worried about what you know. A liar will also be vague when the situation didn’t happen because they weren’t in the experience they’re discussing.

14 – They Have Frequent Issues with People in Their Life

Losing friends often and having tense relationships with their family members indicates an issue. They might also have problems with people at work, leading to losing their job. There could be other reasons, but it can be a sign of pathological lying.

15 – A Pathological Liar Can’t Be Happy for Anyone Else

You might notice that the person is highly competitive and wants to win at anything. They won’t celebrate the success of others and often downplay someone’s accomplishments.

16 – Everything Sounds Perfect

Everything liars talk about will sound perfect if they want it to. When you notice their story has a hint of perfection, you can question whether they’re telling the truth.


What Causes a Pathological Liar?

Pathological lying, or pseudologia phantastica, occurs when someone compulsively lies without an apparent reason. When someone lies at least five times daily for more than six months, it means they’re a pathological liar.

This compulsion typically begins during adolescence or young adulthood and can stem from mental health conditions. More specifically, it can occur because of the following:

Head Trauma or Central Nervous System Abnormalities

Studies show that central nervous system abnormalities can lead to being a pathological liar. These abnormalities include:

  • epilepsy
  • abnormal electrical brain activity
  • head trauma
  • infection

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Those with narcissistic personality disorder often say untrue things to improve their social status or gain sympathy. It also allows them to maintain a false sense of self or avoid trouble. They’ll likely lie to get something out of someone, too.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Those with borderline personality disorder also might compulsively lie. This person typically does it to gain acceptance and avoid rejection.

Brain and Spinal Cord Irregularities

Experts indicate that pathological liars have more white matter in the prefrontal cortex of their brains than others. It could be this way because increased white matter correlates with advanced cognition and an improved ability to deceive others.

Childhood Trauma May Cause a Pathological Liar

Being neglected or abused as a child can lead to pathological lying. It often indicates unmet needs, and they lied to get love and reassurance or to cope. They may have also grown up believing they aren’t good enough, so they hide some things and embellish others.

Antisocial Personality Disorder Goes Hand in Hand With Lying

Pathological lying can occur in someone with antisocial personality disorder. These people often lie, sometimes causing potentially dangerous situations. They also lie to manipulate or exploit others.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

This condition involves frequent lying because the person wants to appear sick. They’ll also do it to make people think someone they care for is ill.

How to Handle a Pathological Liar

Dealing with a pathological liar is hard, and confrontation typically won’t get you anywhere. They’ll deny their lies, so you must find other ways to handle it.

You can’t ignore it because having a relationship with someone who constantly lies is hard. It breaks trust and can cause hurt, anger, and confusion. Some of the ways you can handle it include:

End the Conversation With a Pathological Liar

When you recognize someone lying to you, one option is to stop talking to them. You might want to argue with them about their lies, but it won’t get you anywhere. They’ll often stick to their story even if you can prove the lie.

Don’t Take the Lying Personally

The person lying to you isn’t singling you out. They will lie to everyone, so try not to take it personally.

Set Boundaries With a Pathological Liar

Consider setting boundaries if you want to maintain a relationship with this person. Clarify what you will and won’t accept, and tell them what will happen if they can’t respect it.

Don’t Let a Pathological Liar Get to You

You’ll likely be annoyed or frustrated, but try to release the negative feelings. It won’t help the situation, so put yourself first and maintain your mental health by staying calm.

Trust Yourself

Dealing with a liar can make you question yourself, but you must go with your gut. Don’t hesitate to fact-check what the person tells you to confirm reality if it helps.

Suggest Therapy for a Pathological Liar

Depending on your relationship with the person, you can suggest they attend therapy to get help. If you don’t have a close relationship with them, this idea might not help. However, if you have a personal connection, it could be helpful. You can find resources before suggesting therapy so they know you want to help them.

pathological liar

Final Thoughts on Behaviors Revealing a Pathological Liar

Once you know what to look for, you can recognize a pathological liar in your life. It’s a frustrating experience, but you can handle it positively. Set boundaries and trust yourself if someone frequently lies to you. You can also talk to a therapist to help you learn how to deal with it.