How To Tell If Someone Is A Compulsive Liar: 10 Signs To Look For

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated August 5, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Dutil , LMHC, LPC

We all tell lies – it would be a lie to say you didn’t! In fact, Robert S. Feldman, a psychologist, and researcher from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, concluded that 60% of us would tell at least one lie while engaged in a 10-minute conversation. You might say that is not so bad. After all, most of the lies we tell would probably come under the heading of "harmless fibbing" or "white lies." Plus, we tend to feel it is OK to tell little white lies sometimes, like when we want to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or when lies could keep someone out of harm’s way.

Those scenarios are completely different, however, from what happens in compulsive lying. The compulsive liar seems to lie to everyone about everything, and being around them can be both a pain and a strain. It can also be dangerous, depending on the extent of the lies they are telling, and if you mistakenly believe and act on them. It is, therefore, important for you to be able to spot a compulsive liar and gain tips for dealing with a liar.

It is also important to identify pathological liars, which many could argue are far more dangerous. Pathological liars also have a habit of lying compulsively but with the explicit intent to harm and manipulate others. Pathological liars are often less aware of their lies and symptoms, refuse treatment and help, and have difficulty holding jobs or a relationship because of their lies.

In this article, you will learn the difference between a pathological and compulsive liar, why compulsive and pathological liars lie, how to detect each liar, and some tips to deal with a pathological liar or compulsive liar. You will also see how professional help and online therapy can help someone who is lying compulsively or people who are dealing with or have a relationship with a pathological liar. 

Compulsive Lying Is Not The Same As Pathological Lying

First, we need to define what a compulsive liar is. The terms compulsive liar and pathological liar get thrown around a lot without many people understanding what those terms mean. Furthermore, many people believe that pathological and compulsive liars are the same thing. Compulsive lying and pathological lying are two different problems. Let’s explore each one in depth.

What Is Pathological Lying?

Compulsive Lying Is More Common Than You Think - Learn The Signs
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The underlying cause of pathological lying remains unknown, perhaps due to a lack of sufficient research. However, it has been suggested that the condition may be linked to and developed to deal with trauma experienced in childhood. Some researchers have also found a link between pathological lying and brain injuries as well as alcohol use.

It has also been suggested that pathological lying is a learned behavior. People get into the habit of lying because they were never really taught that lying is bad and unacceptable by parents and other authority figures. Also, people with a history of addiction tend to lie to cover up and maintain their addiction through pathological lying.

Pathological lying has also been associated with various personality disorders and mental disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. While some experts believe that these conditions may cause pathological lying, others believe that pathological lying itself may be a mental disorder. However, there is no conclusive evidence at this time to say one way or another.

Pathological Lying And The Brain

Some studies also indicate that irregularities of the brain and spinal cord might trigger pathological lying. For example, a study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry found that pathological liars contain more white matter than people who are not pathological and compulsive liars. White matter makes up half the brain’s volume and is essential for proper functioning. It helps all parts of the brain connect and communicate with one another, which helps with cognition and motor functioning. But if white matter is so essential for the brain, why does more white matter lead to pathological lying?

Previous research found that more white matter (especially in the prefrontal regions) tends to lead to improved cognitive functioning and thought processing, especially if that white matter is in the prefrontal cortex. People with mental disorders that affect their cognitive functioning (such as ADHD, schizophrenia, and autism) have less white matter than average. So it would make sense to think that having more white matter will lead to greater thought processing, cognition, and mental health.

The interesting thing is that deception and lying are thought to be highly cognitive acts and signs of social intelligence. They require greater activations of the prefrontal regions (a region that has a lot of white matter) because it has more of a thought processing cost and longer response times than telling the truth. Some studies even suggest that deception and lying are evolutionarily advantageous amongst some animal species and are signs of social intelligence in those species. Therefore, lying seems to be a survival skill that takes up a lot of energy and pays off often. Because of this, pathological liars may need more white matter than average to pull this off.

Therefore, it is believed that the reason pathological liars have more white matter than average is that white matter gives them the advantage, additional thought processing, and social intelligence to lie. People with less white matter struggle with lying simply because they don’t have enough white matter to help them with this task. Pathological liars have enough white matter to activate their prefrontal regions to accomplish their lies and deception.

So while one would think that having more white matter is a wholly good thing, it may actually encourage deception and pathological lying. Sometimes brain processes that are evolutionary advantageous, require more thought processing, and help develop social intelligence can actually be a harm according to societal standards and morals.

Is There Treatment For Pathological Lying?

Psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to identify pathological lying, and it is always beneficial to the pathological and compulsive liar to seek treatment for their condition.

Before pathological liars can get treatment, they must receive a diagnosis based on their symptoms. Psychologists and psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) when making diagnoses of any mental disorders. Pathological lying is not currently listed in the DSM-5 as a stand-alone mental disorder. However, it is mentioned that lying is a symptom of several other recognized disorders, including factitious disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

So, while there is no formal treatment for pathological lying, there are options available to reduce this behavior. The diagnostic process may uncover symptoms of a mental disorder, such as those mentioned above, which the client was unaware that they had. If this is the case, the therapist will work with the client in developing a treatment plan which addresses all of their symptoms, including the persistent lies.

The most common treatment for pathological lying is psychotherapy (or talk therapy), aimed at helping the client understand the condition they are suffering from and its negative effects on all aspects of their life. In cases where pathological lying is diagnosed as a symptom of another disorder, a medication approved for that disorder may be prescribed as treatment. Medication is not normally used; however, as a direct treatment for pathological lying behavior.

A therapist’s training and experience help them be particularly good at figuring out when someone is lying. However, the very nature of pathological lying means it may be necessary for the therapist to verify information with loved ones. This will ensure time and effort are not spent trying to differentiate the pathological liar’s truths from lies.

As with most other conditions, the pathological liar must recognize that they have a problem and want help resolving it. The client is more likely to be cooperative and receptive to treatment if they attend the therapy sessions willingly instead of coerced. However, pathological liars are rarely self-aware of their own lies. It is hard to provide treatment to someone who does not believe they have a problem. The few pathological liars who are self-aware may not be open to treatment or therapy, especially if they have a difficult disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial disorder. It is not impossible for a pathological liar to seek treatment, but it is notoriously difficult.

In addition to providing treatment to pathological liars, therapists may also suggest those who are in a relationship with a pathological liar seek therapy and treatment themselves. They will get the chance to open up about the effect their loved one’s pathological lying behavior is having on them, as well as learn coping strategies and construction techniques for responding to the liar’s behavior. Therefore, treatment for pathological liars may be a group effort or family affair.

10 Signs Of A Pathological Liar

  1. Pathological Liars Have Unusual Body Language For A Liar

A pathological liar usually does not behave in the way we normally expect a liar to behave. For instance, we tend to associate a shifting gaze or the inability to maintain eye contact with telling lies. The pathological liar, however, will easily maintain eye contact as they tell their lies and stories. They also will not trip over their words or show any signs of anxiety or stress. They will have the aura of a confident, honest, and truth-telling person, which is why many people often think pathological liars are telling the truth.

Once you are aware that someone is a pathological liar, you may be surprised to realize how relaxed they are when they lie – because it is so natural to them. This is in contrast to the notion we normally have that a liar is fidgety and nervous.

  1. Pathological Liars Have Complicated Lives

Quite often, the lies the pathological liar tells have already led to broken or toxic relationships and lost jobs. Despite a pathological liar’s best attempts to lie, the truth eventually comes out. At work, pathological liars will quickly gain a reputation of telling nothing but lies, which will significantly reduce their work performance and relationship with their coworkers. In a relationship, a partner will quickly realize the person’s embellishments don’t make sense or add up and leave. This means that a pathological liar often bounces from relationship to relationship and job to job because of their lies.

So if the person has been married multiple times, seems to be always in and out of romantic relationships, and is constantly changing friends or jobs, it may be a sign that they are pathological liars.

  1. Pathological Liars Retell Things Told To Them In Confidence

It is hard for the pathological liar to keep a secret. Plus, they are likely to embellish the story and sprinkle in lies as they pass it on to others. So if you know or are in a relationship with a pathological liar, you may find that other random people know stuff about you that you never told them.

A pathological liar also loves gossip and will tell anyone anything they know about other people--with a bit of embellishment of course.

  1. Pathological Liars “Steal” Other People’s Stories

It is not uncommon for the pathological liar to take another person’s story and turn it into their own. Their tendency to do this increases if the story is likely to gain attention or sympathy. They may even be quite blatant about it. For instance, upon hearing a co-worker say their house was broken into, the pathological liar might come to you with an extravagant tale of how they were recently the victim of a break-in.

  1. Pathological Liars Are Quick Thinkers

Pathological liars get into the habit of lying to cover up inconsistencies in past lies – and they get very good at it. They seem to be able to make up an explanation without any effort or stalling. Furthermore, they become quite skilled at telling different lies (or different versions of the same lie) to different people.

  1. Pathological Liars Are Defensive

If you point out the discrepancies or lies in their story or frankly say that you think they are lying, the pathological liar will tend to become defensive. This may include insisting that they are telling the truth (even if there is evidence against them) and pointing the finger at someone else as the reason they had to lie. Anger is another common reaction a pathological liar will give when confronted with the truth. They may angrily accuse you of not being their friend if you don’t believe them or insist they know the “facts” better than you do.

  1. Pathological Liars Seem To Lack Empathy

Many pathological liars seem to have no regard for how their lies affect others. They will keep on spinning the lie even if they make someone else uncomfortable or hurt in the process. This lack of empathy may stem from the fact that the pathological liar is focused solely on satisfying their internal motive to lie.

  1. Pathological Liars Staunchly Deny The Evidence

Showing the pathological liar irrefutable facts in an attempt to get them to tell the truth does not always work. They may say you are mistaken, or you are mixing up events, and their version did happen. They may accuse you of making up lies as well. In the end, the pathological liar will likely just come up with other lies to make their original one seem more plausible.

  1. Pathological Liars Avoid Questions

Questions threaten the illusion the pathological liar is trying to create with their lies. If you ask the pathological liar questions to clarify their story, they most likely won’t answer directly or become defensive about you doubting them. What’s more, if you press them for a straight answer, the pathological liar will probably make up another lie in reply.

  1. Pathological Liars Have Inflated Self Esteem Or Are Narcissistic

Pathological liars are often narcissists who use lying to deceive and manipulate others. They don’t respect the needs and boundaries of other people and believe they can use any person they want to obtain their goals. This shows a conflated sense of self esteem as they don’t see others as equal to them. Other people are just pawns to use, and lies are just a tactic to use them.

What Is Compulsive Lying?

At first, compulsive lying can seem a lot like pathological lying. A compulsive liar has a problem of lying compulsively to everyone, whether it be a partner, family member, friend, or coworker. They may lie to save face or to entertain with elaborate stories.

However, the difference between compulsive lying and pathological lying is the intent. While a pathological liar often uses lies to manipulate others, a compulsive liar usually does not have this aim. In fact, lying compulsively is more of a very strong habit and coping mechanism developed from childhood. For whatever reason, compulsive liars struggle with telling the truth and lie because it seems like a better option. If they have a goal in mind, it is often not malicious. Below are some examples of reasons why a compulsive liar may lie.

  • To avoid hurting someone’s feelings
  • Because telling the truth is more awkward or difficult
  • To belong to a certain group
  • Because it is a habit
  • To combat their low self-esteem

But many times, there is no apparent reason for the lies, which can confuse any person who realizes they are lying. Lying becomes a habit, and even if the person wants to stop, they often find it much easier and more comfortable to lie than to tell the truth.

Unlike pathological liars, compulsive liars are often aware of their lying habits. However, the lying habits may become too routine to fix easily, or they may convince themselves that there is no harm in it. For example, they may believe that these are all just white lies that don’t really matter. But even consistent white lies can be a problem and ruin the life of the compulsive liar.

Causes Of Compulsive Lying

Though the exact cause of compulsive lying has not been found, there are a few hypotheses on why compulsive liars lie so much.

The most popular hypothesis states that compulsive lying is a habit and coping mechanism developed in childhood. The compulsive liar probably lived in a home where telling white lies was common and encouraged. Telling random lies may have been so common in normal communication that the compulsive liar picked up the habit and now struggles to stop lying and begin telling the truth.

It may also have served as a protective measure if they lived in an unsafe home. There are occasions where telling lies helps avoid hurting someone’s feelings or can avert danger. If the compulsive liar lived in an unhealthy home, they probably developed lying as a protection mechanism and now associates telling lies with safety.

Another popular hypothesis is that telling lies is a coping mechanism developed to protect the compulsive liar from confrontations and uncomfortable situations. For example, someone with anxiety or low self esteem may lie in order to get out of a social situation or to make themselves seem more interesting than they believe they are. In situations like these, compulsive lying could be associated with an underlying psychiatric condition, but it is not as common as with pathological lying.

Some researchers note that compulsive lying is more common in people with ADHD, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. However, this does not mean lying is a symptom of each mental disorder. There are many people with these mental disorders that do not have an issue of telling lies compulsively, so it should not be assumed that lying is a symptom.

And as for the relationship between the brain and white matter with compulsive lying, there currently isn’t a known relationship. As of right now, there is no research that shows whether compulsive liars have more white matter than people who don’t lie. Because compulsive liars are often considered synonymous with pathological liars, it is possible that the medical literature and studies on white matter incorporated compulsive liars without realizing it. Therefore, though there is a possibility that compulsive liars have more white matter, there is no way to know for sure.

 But from the research that is available, it is understood that lying takes more thought processing and cognition to achieve. Therefore it requires more white matter than normal. A pathological liar may have no problem telling lies because they have so much more white matter to help them. But since compulsive liars still get anxious and awkward when telling lies, this may indicate that they don’t have more white matter but that lying is just a habit. But since there is no conclusive research on this, there is no way to know for sure right now.

Is There Any Treatment For Compulsive Lying? 

Just like pathological lying, compulsive lying is a symptom or issue that needs treatment. Luckily, compulsive liars are usually much more self-aware of their problem with lies and may be more willing than pathological liars to find treatment and seek professional help.

Still, you may need to persuade the compulsive liar in your life to seek treatment. They may be hesitant and not ready to seek professional help. However, they do have empathy and want to develop healthy relationships. Therefore, talk with them about how their lies are affecting your relationship with them. Show your love and concern for them and emphasize your desire and need to establish a healthy relationship by having them drop the lies and tell the truth. Make sure to stay calm throughout the situation, even if you catch them lying. This could be a very difficult conversation to have, and you may have to have it a few times before you turn them around. Some compulsive liars may not be ready to admit their problem, but some will recognize the issue and agree with you right away. They may begin to feel guilt during this conversation and begin to explore counselors and other treatment options.

The best treatment for compulsive lying is by going to therapy. A person lying habitually can find professional help either with an individual therapist or in couples counseling. Couples counseling is best for compulsive liars whose habits and lies are creating toxic relationships. However, they may still need to work one on one with an individual therapist to get to the core of their lying problems.

Though not as common as with pathological lying, compulsive lying is sometimes connected with trauma or an underlying psychiatric condition. If this is the case, a therapist can help the compulsive liar get treatment for that condition in the form of therapy, medication, or other treatment options.

So although compulsive lying is a significant problem that can hurt many people, the good news is that therapy and support can help end these endless white lies.

10 Signs Of A Compulsive Liar

1. A Compulsive Liar Lies Often

After reading the rest of this article, it should be obvious that compulsive liars lie consistently. They may come up with fictional stories and lies about their past, their hobbies, their relationship status, or anything else they think they need to lie about. However, it will be much easier to detect a compulsive liar, because they often show the typical stressors that accompany lying. In other words, they are not as confident as pathological liars in the stories and lies they create.

2. A Compulsive Liar Lies For No Apparent Reason

While pathological lying occurs with a goal in mind, compulsive lying does not. When you catch a compulsive liar lying, you may wonder why they did it in the first place. In many instances, there is no benefit or apparent reason for someone to tell white lies or create stories.

For example, perhaps one of your coworkers constantly makes up stories about traveling to different countries and having exotic vacations. Once you or your coworkers realize she is lying, you may be wondering why she should make up such stories and lies in the first place. There was no real benefit besides getting attention, and it only made her relationships with her coworkers worse. Compulsive liars often have no apparent reason for lying besides that it is simply a habit for them. In this example, perhaps it was too uncomfortable for the liar to admit that she had a staycation, or maybe she created stories to seem more interesting to her peers. Whether there is a reason or not, it is usually not clear or apparent to the people compulsive liars lie to.

3. A Compulsive Liar Gets Nervous When Lying

As mentioned before, you can probably spot a compulsive liar quickly because they are not comfortable when lying to others. Whether they are telling random lies or little white lies, they will exhibit the typical stressors of lying, such as avoiding eye contact and tripping over their words. And if they tell lies a lot, then you will notice these behaviors often.

4. A Compulsive Liar Apologizes When Confronted

If you need to discern whether someone you know is a pathological liar or a compulsive liar, then see how they react when confronted about telling white lies or other random lies. A pathological liar will deny they are lying and find ways to blame others for the situation. A compulsive liar may be aware of their lying habit and will apologize. They may even come clean with the truth and explain why they lied. And even if they don’t apologize, they will probably not be as reactive or manipulative as a pathological liar.

Keep in mind that these are generalizations. Not all compulsive liars have the self-awareness to understand their problem. However, they are typically more self-aware than a pathological liar about their lies and will probably be less reactive.

5. But A Compulsive Liar May Keep Lying Anyway

Unfortunately, even if they have good intentions to stop their lying behaviors, compulsive liars often have a difficult time stopping. Therefore, if you confront them and they apologize, you will very likely see them lying again soon after. Unfortunately, self-awareness does not magically fix compulsive lying, so the compulsive liar will continue to tell white lies until they seek professional help or work much harder at telling the truth.

6. A Compulsive Liar Shows Self-Awareness

As mentioned before, compulsive liars often realize that they lie often, while pathological liars have little to no self-awareness. However, compulsive liars may not know how to stop or may justify their behaviors. Perhaps they believe that they are just telling white lies that do no harm. Or maybe they think no one can tell they are lying, so they keep going. Whatever the case, compulsive liars are usually aware of their lies.

7. A Compulsive Liar Exhibits Empathy

This is perhaps the most important difference between a pathological and compulsive liar. While a pathological liar enjoys manipulating and deceiving others without any care or respect for them, a compulsive liar does care about people but still has a bad habit of telling lies.

Though it is the truth that compulsive lies tend to have no apparent reason, sometimes they do have an apparent reason, and that reason comes from empathy. For example, compulsive liars may lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or lie to prevent the person from being harmed. These are examples of prosocial lies that can be beneficial.

Of course, if someone is lying compulsively, then not all lies will be white lies. But you will generally get the sense that the compulsive liar is not trying to hurt you or deceive you in any way. You’ll wonder why the person lies so much and take appropriate boundaries, but you’ll rarely see any symptoms of narcissism or antisocial behavior.

8. A Compulsive Liar Tells The Truth As Well

A compulsive liar does not lie 24/7. There are many times when they tell the truth and can be completely honest when telling stories. However, depending on how much they tell lies, many people may not be able to recognize or believe them when they are telling the truth.

7. A Compulsive Liar Is Sometimes Open To Seeking Professional Help

If you are in a relationship with a compulsive liar or are closely connected with them, then you have probably considered having a long talk with them and encouraging them to find professional help. If you try this with a pathological liar, you will get nowhere. They don’t have the self-awareness to see they need professional help and that they are creating toxic relationships in every area of their life. But a compulsive liar may have more self-awareness and therefore be more open to seeking professional help to stop lying.

8. A Compulsive Liar Has Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem often leads the compulsive liar to tell lies about their accomplishments, relationships, or abilities. Unlike a pathological liar, they aren’t necessarily narcissistic, but they may still need to come up with stories to boost their esteem and make themselves seem more interesting to other people.

The Difference Between Prosocial Lies And A Pathological Liar

After reading all of this information about compulsive liars and pathological liars, perhaps you’re worried about being a pathological liar yourself or thinking someone in your life is a pathological liar without proper evidence. At this point, it is important to understand that just because someone lies doesn’t mean they are a pathological liar. As stated at the beginning of this article, pretty much everyone tells random lies at some point, so it is a fairly normal part of being human. Though you should aim not to tell random lies, telling one occasionally doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Furthermore, if you catch a friend or coworker telling random lies, don’t immediately assume they are a pathological liar. Take whatever action is needed to correct the lies and behavior, but don’t be concerned unless the lies turn into a pattern.

Also, lying for a good reason or in a prosocial manner is acceptable, or at the very least understandable. For example, you may compliment someone’s cooking even if you don’t like it or compliment their appearance even if it is not to your taste. These are examples of white lies used to avoid hurting someone’s feelings and so they are not usually problematic. Though it is always best to tell the truth, it is understandable if you or someone tells white lies in these manners. Anyone who lies occasionally in this manner is not necessarily a pathological liar.

The difference is that a pathological liar's lies are based on malice or manipulation. They lie consistently, can’t keep their lies straight, but always have a justification or direct the blame when confronted. Sometimes, their lies can be seen as prosocial, but they often have a much darker intention behind them.

For example, think about Regina George from Mean Girls. There is a scene in the movie where she compliments a girl’s skirt, which makes the girl feel good about herself. However, once she is out of earshot, Regina mentions to Cady that it is the “ugliest skirt she has ever seen.” Though this white lie initially seems like a positive, it is clear that Regina used this lie to be cruel. She was not using this lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, she was intentionally hurting them behind their back.

Furthermore, we see multiple examples of her lying throughout the movie. When confronted with her stories and lies, she does not apologize or take positive action to correct her. Instead, this pathological liar continues to lie to everyone and creates new lies to justify her earlier actions, and continues to embellish her stories. Though the movie ends on a happy note, we do not see Regina improve her behavior and learn to tell the truth. As far as we are concerned, she continued to lie to everyone she knew.

So don’t immediately think that someone is a pathological liar just because you have seen them lie once or twice. Everyone does this. For someone to be a pathological liar, they must lie and come up with stories consistently and use those lies to hurt other people.

The Mental Toll Of Dealing With Compulsive Liars And Pathological Liars

If you have never dealt with a compulsive liar or pathological liar yourself, then you may be wondering what the big deal is. Everyone lies, so either just confront them or cut them out, right? Well, life is rarely this straightforward, and pathological liars can make things even more unnecessarily complicated.

The truth is that dealing with a pathological or compulsive liar can have a huge effect on your mental health and quality of life. Depending on who the pathological liar is in your life, you can experience a toxic relationship, issues with your mental health, or find yourself in a toxic home or work environment.

Toxic Relationships

Pathological liars and compulsive liars both have difficulty holding a healthy relationship. This is because their lies often lead to conflict, and they rarely take the blame or improve their behavior.

Furthermore, excessive lies, along with denial, leads to gaslighting and manipulation. These are elements of abuse, which means a pathological liar turns their relationships into toxic relationships. Many people in a relationship with a pathological liar find themselves drained, exhausted, and struggling with their mental health as a result.

Mental Health And Self-Esteem

As just mentioned, excessive lying can turn into a form of abuse. Pathological liars with malicious intent will use their lies to hurt the people around them emotionally. That’s because pathological liars who are also narcissists or are abusive in other ways will also find other tactics to destroy people’s self-worth. This is particularly true of pathological liars who have a mental disorder or personality disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

In extreme cases, these behaviors can lead to the development of a mental disorder such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. When one is verbally abused and lied to over and over again, it can have a permanent effect on their mental health and self-worth. Even when the pathological liar is out of their life, the person may need therapy or other forms of professional treatment to heal the damage the pathological liar caused with their lies.

Unhealthy Living And Work Environments

Sometimes we find ourselves in environments with unhealthy people with few options on how to deal with their behavior. People who live or work with pathological liars or compulsive liars find themselves in this predicament. They may immediately spot the signs of a pathological liar or a compulsive liar but may not have the power to do anything about it.

Working with a pathological liar can not only make a workplace toxic but can interfere with the working process. For example, a coworker may have great difficulty holding a conversation with a pathological liar, knowing that the person is lying or trying to manipulate them. Supervisors may also struggle to get the pathological liar to work properly or take responsibility since the pathological liar may come up with stories and lies every time a task is submitted late or is subpar. A pathological liar may also create hostility and tension in the workplace, depending on the lies, stories, and drama they create with their colleagues.

Life can be even more difficult for people living with a pathological liar. This can include family members and partners in a romantic relationship. People in this situation may also have difficulty holding healthy conversations with pathological liars or doing anything to keep a harmonious home. What’s worse is that very few people can just walk out of their home lives without some consequences, so they may feel stuck in their predicament, especially if the liar has no intention of stopping the lies and telling the truth.

How To Deal With A Pathological And Compulsive Liar

So now that you understand just how harmful being around pathological liars or compulsive liars can be, you’re probably wondering: how does anyone deal with a pathological liar? Well, it is not always easy or straightforward. However, we have a few tips to help you deal with a pathological or compulsive liar.

Stay Calm

When dealing with a pathological liar, it is important to stay calm. If you become defensive or emotional, they can use your reactions to defend their lying or other toxic behavior. Pathological liars use lies and other tactics to control other people and get certain reactions out of them. If you don’t stay calm, you could fall right for their ploy. Those who stay calm manage to have the upper hand when dealing with a pathological liar’s lies.

Expect Denial

When pathological liars lie, they often are not self-aware of their actions. Pathological liars may struggle more than average people with discerning fiction from reality. Therefore they don’t fully realize they are creating stories and lies. It is a subconscious habit that they struggle to break. So since they struggle to know when they are lying and lack the self-awareness to take responsibility for their actions, they will often deny that they have done anything wrong.

But that doesn’t mean you should tolerate it. Just because someone doesn’t realize what they are doing doesn’t mean they deserve a free pass. But if you choose to confront them about their lies, just know that you will probably be met with denial.

Be Supportive

When you first realize that someone in your life lies a lot, you should try to be supportive and figure out why they are lying. This can be particularly effective when dealing with a compulsive liar, as their lies may not be malicious, and they may be more likely to admit they have a problem and look for treatment. Therefore, by gently confronting them and letting them know you still value and care for them, you may further encourage them to find treatment and help for their lying.

However, if it is clear that the person is a pathological liar and harming others with their lies, then being supportive may not be helpful. You can certainly try to figure out why they are lying, but they will most likely remain in denial.

Remember It’s Not About You

When you deal with a pathological liar, it can be tempting to think that the problem is personal. Victims of pathological liars with low self-esteem may be quick to believe the pathological liar’s lies and think they did something wrong to deserve it.

But this could not be further from the truth. It is important to remember that this consistent lying is never about you. Pathological liars lie this way to everyone. It is simply just a subconscious habit they have that they can’t control. It is also possible that their lying is linked to a mental disorder. Therefore, remember that you are never to blame for a pathological liar’s actions.

Be Careful When Engaging Them

If you recognize that you have a pathological liar in your life, you should be careful when engaging them. Pathological liars lie to manipulate others and rarely take accountability for their actions. Therefore, they don’t act well when confronted with their lies and are often in denial. You can gently question what they are saying or correct them with the truth, but directly accusing them of lying or confronting them may just make the situation worse.

Create Boundaries

When someone lies persistently to you, it’s understandable if you can no longer trust them. After all, telling the truth and respecting others are essential for trust and building a relationship. Pathological liars also use their lies to manipulate others and control and harm their mental health. So whether the pathological liar in your life is a coworker, partner, family member, friend, or roommate, you need to create boundaries as much as possible.

However, these boundaries are going to be determined by your situation and the liar in question. If you have to deal with a pathological liar every day, such as when living with them, it is going to be much harder to establish boundaries. But if you can walk away from the pathological liar or cut them out of your life completely, then dealing with the situation will be much more straightforward.

No matter your situation, here are a few ideas on how you can create boundaries and effectively deal with a pathological liar.

  • Correct their lies with evidence and truth
  • Limit your communication with them
  • Leave them or cut them out of your life
  • Talk to an authority figure (such as a parent, landlord, or supervisor) about the situation
  • Discourage and confront their lying behavior

Seek Professional Help

Even if you successfully remove yourself from a pathological liar, you should seek professional help or treatment if possible. Dealing with the lies of a pathological liar is draining and hurts your mental health, so therapy or counseling may provide treatment for dealing with the situation.

If you choose not to leave the pathological liar or can’t separate from them, speak to a therapist or counselor about the situation. They can give you some tips for dealing with the situation or creating healthy boundaries with the person.

Furthermore, dealing with a pathological liar can eventually lead to the development of a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety. If you believe you are experiencing a mental disorder, a therapist can help you find proper treatment. Some symptoms of depression include feeling hopeless, having low self-worth, experiencing fatigue, and having difficulty concentrating. Some symptoms of anxiety include feeling nervous and restless, having an increased heart rate, feeling weak or tired, and trembling or sweating.

If you are in a relationship with a pathological liar or a compulsive liar, you could try couples counseling to work through the lying issues. Couples counseling may be more effective to a liar who admits they have a problem and understands how it is affecting the relationship. But a pathological liar who won’t take responsibility for their actions in the relationship is less likely to find treatment in couples counseling.

Should You Still Be Friends Or In A Relationship With A Compulsive Liar?

Compulsive Lying Is More Common Than You Think - Learn The Signs

There is no doubt that it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting having to deal with someone who lies constantly. You can offer support to compulsive liars by pointing out that you are aware of their lies. This might lead them to self-awareness so they can take the first steps toward getting help. You can also show support by urging (but not pushing) them to find the help they need. Have a list of resources on hand, such as, to share with them if they indicate they are ready to begin addressing their problem.

However, if the compulsive liars in your life refuse to admit they have a problem and refuse to seek treatment, you will have to decide whether you can continue the relationship. In fact, putting an end to the relationship may be the best thing for your mental health.

If you decide to remain their friend or remain in a relationship, then here are a few tips on how to proceed:

  • Remember that they are not lying ALL the time. Learn to distinguish their truths from their lies so you can support them when they are honest and telling the truth. If you are positive around them when they tell the truth, it might just encourage them to do it more often.
  • Set boundaries as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. You might, for instance, say it is off-limits to include you as a part of the tales they tell. You should also make it clear you are not going to corroborate any of their stories.
  • Avoid being an enabler to their lying. Maintain your stance of disapproval for their lying tendencies. Do not laugh it off or begin to offer excuses to others why the compulsive liar is the way they are.
  • Keep encouraging them to get help. The bottom line is that the compulsive liar is unlikely to kick the habit all on their own – they need professional help to do so.

There is no consensus among mental health professionals about whether pathological lying is a symptom of various mental disorders or is a disease all on its own. That, however, does not stop a person from being affected by the condition and having to deal with its consequences of it.

If you are struggling with being a compulsive liar or if you have a loved one who you feel needs help for their pathological lying habit, do not hesitate to reach out to a therapist for help right now.

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