• We all lie from time to time, but there are some people who lie compulsively, and they can cause serious harm to themselves as well as the people around them.
  • If you engage in compulsive or pathological lying, the good news is that you can work to change this bad habit; the first step is to recognize that you have a problem
  • The following might signify that you have a compulsive lying problem: You lie continuously, you have an internal motivation for lying, and your lies paint you in a positive light.
  • A mental health professional can offer medical advice, help you understand why you lie compulsively, and ultimately work with you to stop lying.
  • While lying is a bad habit to engage in, it can make for entertaining television—shows like Pretty Little Liars and Big Little Lies gained dedicated followings.

When I was a teenager, absurd stories swept through the halls about a girl at another school — let’s call her Allison — who was notorious for telling “little white lies,” but eventually she told a lie she couldn’t talk her way out of.

I shook off most of the stories as dumb rumors until one outrageous story was verified by a county-wide lockdown. It was just another dull day in math class when an unpleasant alarm began to echo throughout the building. The principal came on the loudspeaker, recited a code, and we were all kept inside for the rest of the day.

We were all confused about what happened and didn’t find out until a couple of days later: A man reportedly snuck into another middle school in our county and threatened a female student. Police infiltrated the school and stood guard at ours, as they searched for the culprit. After hours of being on lockdown, Allison—the notorious compulsive liar—admitted to fabricating the entire story.

As you can see, compulsive (or habitual) lying can have serious implications on others. But the thing is, as with most habits, it’s hard to break this cycle once it gets going. That said, nothing’s impossible — and the first step in breaking a bad habit is recognizing that there’s a need for change. So, let’s start by learning the signs of compulsive lying.

4 Signs I’m a Compulsive Liar

We all lie or stretch the truth from time to time but compulsive lying is a different type of lying — pathological liars lie more frequently and may even have a mental disorder (this is known as mythomania). Additionally, a bad habit of lying can signify another mental health condition like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder.

The following are a few signs you’re engaging in compulsive lying:

1. Your lies are believable and may even be partly true. For example, you may say that they’re deathly ill when you really just have a cold.

2. Your lies continue over a long period of time and are not due to an immediate stressor. A person who consistently lies about their weight or age due to insecurities would not be described as a compulsive liar.

3. Your lies have internal motivation. For example, Allison made up the big lie about being threatened at school in order to fulfill an inner desire for attention.

4. Your lies typically present yourself in a positive light. Usually, compulsive liars will lie in order to make themselves look better.

How to Stop Compulsive Lying

After the lockdown incident, Allison was forced to meet with a school counselor once a week. And it proved effective, as she learned to break her compulsive lying habit. In fact, meeting with a mental health professional consistently proves to help compulsive liars. That said, it can’t be effective if the individual doesn’t first realize and acknowledge that they have a problem.

Additionally, treatment can be difficult if the person carries their compulsive lying habits into therapy and lies to their counselor or therapist. So, if you’re someone who battles the urge to lie, allow yourself to completely open up in order to successfully defeat it.

Lying: Bad for Reality, Great for Television

Some pretty successful TV shows have plotlines centered around a lie or a heap of lies and mystery. These include shows like the ABC Family hit Pretty Little Liars and HBO miniseries Big Little Lies. In each of these series, the main characters are tangled up in lies that ultimately bring them closer together, while isolating them from the rest of the world. They are constantly lying to cover their tracks and keep their secrets hidden from others.

But are these characters compulsive liars? Nope—remember, compulsive liars are not individuals lying due to immediate stressors. Aria, Hannah Spencer, and Emily in Pretty Little Liars are only lying in order to protect themselves as well as their loved ones from possible danger. And the women in Big Little Lies—Celeste, Renata, Bonnie, Madeline, and Jane—decide to lie in order to protect Bonnie and bury their troubling pasts. Therefore, they aren’t compulsive liars, but rather women caught in sticky situations that make for entertaining television.

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