How to Help a Pathological Liar Recover
What Is Pathological Lying?
A pathological liar is someone who doesn’t tell the truth, even when there is no logical reason to lie.
Lying is a defense mechanism that people use when they are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or of being punished. Lying serves a practical purpose in diffusing a potentially threatening situation.
Most people tell the truth without a second thought when there is no associated risk. But a pathological liar lies in virtually any situation. Pathological liars may recognize that they are lying but still find themselves unable to control the lies; this is called compulsive lying, but there are other pathological liars who do so intentionally. Others may fail to see that frequent lying is problematic, even when relationships suffer for it.
Compulsive lying may develop as a habit, and this is especially common for people who are also struggling with substance use disorders. Hiding an addiction or obtaining drugs and money spurs many individuals to lie. The lying then becomes a difficult habit to break, much like the addiction itself.
On the other hand, scientists have noted a difference in the brain structures of pathological liars, which suggests that some people may be predisposed to lie, despite possible negative consequences, more than others.
Role of Friends in Pathological Liar Treatment
Fortunately, pathological liar treatment is available. It often takes the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in which an individual works with a therapist in order to recognize harmful patterns of behavior and turn them into more positive ones.
For a pathological liar, this often means starting with the basics, like small, simple truths. A pathological liar may have gotten used to “sprucing up” their life story in order to appear more interesting to others. Telling the truth about things as simple as their hometown and the school they graduated from is an important, but difficult, first step.
If you know a pathological liar, you probably also know how damaging this behavior can be. To help your loved one make the most of pathological liar treatment, you will first need to convince him or her that it is beneficial to change. When he or she is willing to take positive steps, seeing a therapist who is experienced in pathological liar treatment is the next step to take.
As a friend to a pathological liar, you can help hold him or her accountable. Speak up if you know your friend is fibbing, and be supportive of the therapy “homework” that he or she is working on. If possible, it might also be beneficial to attend the therapy sessions with your friend or loved one so that you can more easily recognize when he or she is struggling.
Pathological liars have a difficult time maintaining relationships, so sticking by your friend or loved one throughout recovery is one of the best things you can do to help someone with their pathological liar treatment.