We all know liars, don't we? We don't really like them either. And for a good reason too - Liars defy our basic ability to trust. We don't like that we have been cheated or that we have been forced to question the motives of every person we meet thereafter. While all of us have lied at one point of time or the other in our lives, maybe for the thrill, maybe to save ourselves or someone we know in a tricky situation, rarely do we lie for the fun of it. But then there are people who are exactly like that.
And that is what brings us to the crux of the matter at hand - Pathological liars. There are people in this world who lie like they breathe, who find that it comes very easily to them and who (worst of all) have absolutely no remorse when they do the same. As is pretty obvious, a liar is not a highly respected element in our society, and therefore, neither is a pathological liar. Therefore, finding a cure for this condition becomes necessary.
What is Pathological Lying?
A thorough explanation of the term pathological lying is in order if one is to understand the complexity of the situation at hand. Pathological lying, also known as mythomania and pseudologia fantastica is a term that is used to describe a person who lies to get his way. The term is often confused with a compulsive liars because of the similarity in their objectives, but a study of the same will prove that these two have distinctly different behavior patterns.
While a compulsive liar lies out of habit and because it 'feels good', he is not a manipulative person. On the other hand, a pathological liar is someone who will lie with a specific goal in mind. In that way they are considered to be more cunning, manipulative and shrewd. Let us try and understand the pathological lying disorder in more detail in the following section.
There are certain behavior patterns that pathological liars will exhibit and it is on the basis of these that we can learn whether a person is a pathological liar. It is important to learn some of the main characteristics and symptoms of pathological lying. Here are the main signs of a pathological liar:
- They usually lie at every available opportunity and about things that need not be lied about.
- They often exaggerate facts making them unbelievable and truly incredulous.
- They usually have stories that are told to beat someone else's stories. This comes from their need to be the best in any given scenario because they get a high from it.
- The things that they talk about are based on only two extremes. Either the stories revolve only around successful things and how they are always happy, or they revolve around the unfortunate things that keep happening in their lives. This is either done to show that no misfortune affects them (in the former case) or it is done to gain sympathy (as in the latter case).
- They have a constant need to be validated for what they do.
- They do not value the concept of truth and that is why they build their own version of things around them and continue to spin tales to feed that image.
- If their lies are challenged, they tend to get highly defensive and do not admit to the truth in the least. They might even start to say mean things to the other person.
- Their stories often get contradicting after a period of time because they cannot keep a track of what they've said to whom.
- Since pathological liars do not care for the truth and neither do they value it, they might often be very disloyal as well. For example they might exaggerate the things that you tell them and then go and share it with someone else. Making you look bad in the process.
What leads some people to become pathological liars in the first place? If one studies it from a psychological point of view, there are several factors that will come to the fore. Here are some of the main causes of the same:
- People who have a psychological disorders or mental disorders like bi-polar personalities or depression are more prone to suffer from this condition.
- These people have a low self-esteem and they lie in order to make themselves feel good such that they feel validated. That is why they constantly seek attention.
- People are more likely to become pathological liars as children. For example if there were situations in their childhood that required them to lie, then they might see for themselves how their lives have become better due to this and continue to do so throughout their lives.
Can pathological lying be cured? That is a tricky issue to be foraying into. Logically, there are cures and treatment options that have been developed for the same. If it is a psychological disorder or a mental illness that has led to the pathological lying, then proper medication forms can be administered as a cure. When the reason and cause of the disorder is eliminated, then there are heightened chances of the condition being treated as well.
Similarly, for behavioral problems like low self-esteem or the need for attention which lead to this condition, the option of cognitive behavioral therapy can be tapped into. Cognitive behavioral therapy targets the basic thoughts and the cognitive abilities of the person (those being responsible for the behavior and actions) and thereby bring about a positive change in their behavior patterns. These include a lot of exercises as well as methods like hypnotherapy and more. The basic result of which is that the negative thoughts which lead to pathological lying (in this case) are eliminated and replaced by positive thoughts and therefore the need to lie is eradicated.
So can pathological liars change? Yes, they can. And yes, there is a cure for the same. But this is where a catch 22 situation is created. Pathological liars can only be cured if they want to get cured. The treatment methods can only work when the subject is willing to change. If someone gives him the medication and they lie about taking it then that is basically something that has gone down the drain.
Or, take the case of cognitive behavioral therapy where a person needs to be willing to change in order for the therapy to be a success. Unless he is willing to sit through the therapy and adopt all the methods of treatment, there can be no cure. Usually, it is very difficult to get a pathological liar to commit to a treatment because he will never admit that there is a problem that needs to be cured.
In conclusion then, is it possible for pathological lying to be cured? Yes and no. It is possible, if the patient recognizes that there is a problem and is willing to change and look for a cure, and no, if the patient denies having any problem and is not willing to change at all or lies about the therapy. A pathological liar could well remain one for life, and there is nothing that one can do about it unless he himself/herself is willing to. So the ideal thing for one to do is to be able to recognize a pathological liar, not fall prey to his lies, and take everything that he/she says with a pinch of salt.