16 Behaviors That Reveal A Pathological Liar

A pathological liar, also known as a compulsive liar or a chronic liar, is someone who habitually tells lies so frequently that it becomes second nature to them. Unlike regular deception or fibbing, pathological lying is persistent and long-term. It’s not always clear why someone would become a pathological liar, but it’s often linked to a range of personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.

Pathological liars tell falsehoods compulsively, without any discernible immediate motive. The lies they tell are usually dramatic, complicated, and detailed. They may believe their own lies to a certain extent and can even create false memories in their mind, leading to a blurred line between reality and the falsehoods they’ve created.

Diagnosing pathological lying can be challenging due to its overlap with other mental health conditions. Treatment typically involves psychotherapy to help the person understand the impact of their lying behavior and to develop better coping mechanisms.

How does one become a pathological liar?

The exact cause of pathological lying isn’t definitively known, and it may vary from person to person. However, certain factors are commonly associated with the development of this behavior.

  • Childhood Experiences: Some people develop pathological lying as a coping mechanism in response to early life experiences. This can include situations where lying was rewarded or went unpunished, or where the child felt an excessive pressure to be perfect and started lying to appear more successful, talented, or otherwise special.
  • Personality Disorders: Pathological lying is often associated with personality disorders like borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. These conditions might lead to persistent lying as a part of the broader pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, distorted self-image, and impulsive behaviors.
  • Neurological Differences: Some research suggests that there could be neurological underpinnings to pathological lying. Differences in certain areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex which is involved in decision-making and social behavior, have been noted in some pathological liars.
  • Attention Seeking: Pathological liars may lie to gain attention or admiration. They might create elaborate, false stories where they are the hero or victim to garner sympathy or praise.
  • To Manipulate Others: In some cases, individuals may lie pathologically to manipulate others for personal gain. This is particularly common in individuals with antisocial personality disorder.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Some people lie about their lives because they feel inadequate or insecure. By creating a false narrative, they can present themselves as more interesting, successful, or desirable than they believe they are.

Here are 15 Signs of a Pathological liar

Frequent Lying

Pathological liars exhibit a pattern of frequent and habitual lying, often without any discernible benefit or reason. Their dishonesty goes beyond conventional lying, as they seem to lie compulsively, even in situations where the truth would be more beneficial or easier. This behavior suggests a deep-seated psychological issue, making pathological lying a matter of concern rather than an ordinary habit.

Unnecessary Lies

They frequently tell unnecessary lies, indicating a deep-seated habit of dishonesty. Their falsehoods often serve no clear purpose or advantage, suggesting that lying has become an automatic response for them. This compulsive lying, even in trivial matters, points to a serious issue that goes beyond mere deception and indicates a psychological disorder.

Inconsistency in Stories

Their narratives frequently change over time as they struggle to keep track of their lies. They often modify their stories over time as they grapple with maintaining their fabrications. As they weave intricate webs of lies, remembering all the details becomes challenging. This inconsistency in their narratives is a common sign of pathological lying, leading to fluctuating and contradictory accounts of events.

Believing Their Own Lies

Pathological liars sometimes believe in their own fabrications so deeply that they may react defensively when confronted with the truth. This self-deception blurs the line between reality and fiction in their minds, making it difficult for them to distinguish between the two. When their lies are challenged, they may respond with anger, denial, or further lies to protect their distorted version of reality. This can make it especially challenging for those around them to address the issue and help them seek necessary support or treatment.

Absence of Guilt

Unlike the average individual who may experience discomfort or guilt when lying, pathological liars often display no signs of distress or remorse. They can weave complex falsehoods with ease and maintain their deceptions over extended periods without apparent psychological strain. This lack of emotional response not only aids their deceitful behavior but also makes it challenging to identify and address their compulsive lying.

Manipulative Behavior

They often use their lies to manipulate others for personal gain or control. Their lies can serve multiple purposes, such as gaining trust, acquiring power, or securing personal advantages. This manipulative behavior often results in damaged relationships and trust issues, as the individuals manipulated usually discover the deception eventually, leading to hurt feelings and betrayal.

Craving Attention

Pathological liars are known to construct intricate stories aimed at garnering attention or eliciting sympathy. These tales, often filled with dramatic elements, are designed to manipulate others’ emotions, making the liar the center of attention or the object of pity. While these stories may seem believable at first, inconsistencies usually emerge over time, revealing the truth behind the deception.

Impulsive Lying

They often exhibit impulsive lying behavior, spinning tales spontaneously without contemplating the potential repercussions. Their primary focus is on immediate gratification from the deception, rather than long-term consequences. This impulsivity makes their lies unpredictable and often unnecessary, further complicating their relationships and causing significant distress to those around them.

Incorporating Truth into Lies

Pathological liars often incorporate elements of truth into their fabrications, enhancing their believability. By merging real events or facts with fiction, they create complex narratives that are difficult to debunk. This strategy not only serves to deceive others more effectively but also helps them maintain their web of lies, making it more challenging for others to discern truth from falsehood.

Avoiding Accountability

Pathological liars often avoid taking responsibility for their actions by shifting blame onto others. This tactic serves to deflect attention from their dishonesty and maintain a self-image free from wrongdoing. It’s a manipulative behavior that strains relationships, as it involves the liar portraying themselves as the victim while causing harm to others.

Defensive When Challenged

When their lies are exposed, pathological liars often react defensively, further highlighting their reluctance to confront the truth. This defensive behavior can manifest as anger, denial, or even more elaborate lies to cover up the initial deceit. Their unwillingness to admit to their dishonesty, even when faced with undeniable evidence, is a significant indicator of their pathological lying tendencies.

Lack of Empathy

Pathological liars often exhibit a disregard for the feelings or well-being of others, showing little concern about the impact of their deceit. Their focus is typically on maintaining their fabricated narratives, rather than considering the potential emotional harm or confusion their lies might cause. This lack of empathy can lead to strained relationships and trust issues with those around them..


Individuals with a habit of pathological lying often embellish facts and events to make their tales more captivating. This tendency towards exaggeration is not just about deceiving others, but also about creating a more exciting or appealing version of reality for themselves. Despite the potential repercussions, they continue this behavior, drawn by the allure of the grand narratives they weave.

Compulsive Behavior

Pathological lying is a compulsive behavior, which means it’s an uncontrollable urge. Even if they know their dishonesty could lead to negative consequences, or there’s no apparent reason to lie, pathological liars can’t resist the impulse to do so. It’s this involuntary nature of their lying that differentiates pathological liars from those who lie occasionally or strategically.

History of Deceit

They often have a longstanding history of dishonesty, beginning from early life stages. This pattern of deceit permeates various aspects of their lives, including personal relationships and professional settings. Over time, this habitual lying can lead to damaged relationships and trust issues as their repeated untruthfulness undermines their credibility.

How to deal with a Pathological liar

Dealing with a pathological liar can be challenging, but here are some strategies:

  • Set Boundaries: Make it clear that honesty is expected in your interactions. Reinforce the importance of truthfulness.
  • Don’t Argue: Arguing with a pathological liar can be pointless as they often believe their lies. Instead, calmly express your awareness of the lie.
  • Avoid Enabling: Avoid situations where the person might feel the need to lie. Don’t cover up or make excuses for their behavior.
  • Encourage Therapy: Pathological lying can be a symptom of underlying psychological issues. Encourage the individual to seek professional help.
  • Protect Yourself: Ensure that the person’s dishonesty does not harm you emotionally, financially, or otherwise.

Remember, each situation is unique and may require different approaches. Always consult a mental health professional for personalized advice.

Final Thought

Pathological liars can create complex webs of deceit that can be emotionally draining for those around them. It’s crucial to remain aware of this behavior and protect oneself from potential harm. Encourage them to seek professional help, but remember to prioritize your wellbeing. Honesty is the foundation of trust, and without it, healthy relationships cannot thrive. Always approach such situations with empathy, understanding, but also firm boundaries.

Scroll to Top