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How does one live or work with a compulsive or pathological liar?

We all lie, but some people go to extreme lengths and destroy careers and relationships.

Come on, admit it, you lie from time to time, at least a little bit. Your best friend asks you what you think of her new haircut. It’s awful, but you tell him it’s okay. A spouse wants to know if those 5 extra pounds are showing, and of course you tell them no. Lying is an integral part of everyday life. In a sense, lies can be lubricants that drive social interactions. But when lying gets out of control, it can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life, potentially destroying your relationships and your career.

Here’s what you need to know about extreme lying.

Compulsive or pathological liars

Uncontrolled lying is called compulsive or pathological lying. According to experts, the definitions vary a bit.

Compulsive liars need to embellish and exaggerate. They tell the stories they want to hear. If you ask a compulsive liar for his opinion on an important matter, he’ll probably say something like, “You know, you made a very wise decision to ask my opinion. This is the case for many people. In fact, the chairman asked me to comment on that. They’re often pretty good liars. They often believe what they say, at least for a while.

Pathological liars can be even bolder. They keep lying when they know you know they’re lying.

Impulsivity, need to impress, psychopathology: the mystery of lying

Neither compulsive lying nor pathological lying have been extensively studied. For example, experts don’t know exactly what motivates lying. You know that impulsiveness and the need to impress could be related to this habit. But they wonder if these kinds of lies are symptoms or a disease.

The brains of liars can be structurally different from the average brain. In a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, scientists performed brain scans on pathological liars and other people and found that liars had more white matter in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. They concluded that increasing white matter could somehow produce ten times the cognitive ability to lie.

While everyday lies have a purpose and you don’t want to hurt your overweight spouse, pathological lies often seem aimless. Sometimes the lies even incriminate themselves, making them even harder to understand.

Compared to pathological liars, compulsive liars can do pretty well in life. Compulsive liars usually get away with telling the lies we want to believe.

Fortunately, neither of these two types of liars are common, less than 5% of people lie compulsively or pathologically.

Can compulsive or pathological liars change?

Most compulsive or pathological liars don’t want to change enough to seek treatment. As a rule, they only do this by order of the court after they get into trouble. Or they do it after their lies have led to devastating consequences like bankruptcy, divorce, or career loss.

There is little research on treatment options for liars. Counseling or psychotherapy can help, with a focus on how to reduce impulsivity.

Identifying a liar, living or working with him: how does it work?

From the first meeting, can you tell someone might be a deranged liar? It’s tough. If a new friend or acquaintance seems like a compulsive or pathological liar, the only sane thing to do is walk away. What people value in friendship is the truth.

Those closely related to a pathological liar may remain optimistic, thinking that the liar will change… But one also has to be realistic. Do you really want to spend your life, at work or at home, wondering if you are being deceived?

Pathological liars are so good that they don’t realize when they’re being lied to. Don’t expect any regrets either. Pathological liars see a situation entirely from their own perspective. They ignore other people’s feelings about what might happen as a result of their lies.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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