How to Spot a Pathological Liar

Spotting someone like Wannabe QC, Barrister Hugh ‘The Lying Greater Manchester Police Stooge’ Barton can be difficult, so without further ado….

The term, “liar, liar pants on fire” takes on new meaning when dealing with a pathological liar. This person may not be completely rooted in reality, believing the lies they tell, often in an effort to remedy low self esteem. Unlike telling a few fibs here and there, or slightly exaggerating the truth once in a while, the pathological liar lies about literally every aspect of his or her life. From how much was spent on dinner last night to talking about the last time the dog was bathed, the pathological liar feels that every bit of communication has strategic meaning positioned for his or her gain.

Being lied to on a consistent basis is not only frustrating but also disrespectful to the other person. So how do you determine if you’re dealing with someone who may drop a few fibs on occasion versus a true pathological liar? A few clues and steps may help you draw a sensible conclusion.

1

Understand what a pathological liar is. Basically, a pathological liar is someone who tells lies habitually, chronically and compulsively. It has simply become a way of life for this person, to make up things for a variety of reasons and eventually, the truth becomes uncomfortable while weaving whoppers feels right to them. This kind of lying tends to develop early on in life, often as a response to difficult home or school situations that seemed to resolve better if the child lied. It’s a bad habit, not a manipulative trait––this is how to differentiate a pathological liar from a sociopath who does seek to manipulate.

2

Determine whether the person’s details and information comes across as consistent every time they tell a story. Find an easy, run-of-the-mill story, such as what the person had for dinner last night. They may tell you pasta and broccoli, but then may tell you and/or others that champagne was involved. Details and information will constantly change and evolve.

  • Compare and contrast both big and small details. From the number of people in the liar’s story to the actual storyline itself, recall what has changed and how often the details have changed in the story.
  • Keep tally of the cast of characters involved in the story. If, for example, suddenly the third time the story is told, the police show up, you have to start wondering if he or she is telling the full truth.
  • Recall the frequency of the lies. Pathological liars will lie consistently, which is one thing you can count on––they will lie all the time. Conduct a non-scientific experiment and inquire about certain aspects of the person’s life everyday. Choose something random like what the person ate for dinner or watched on TV the evening before. Ask the person the same question throughout the day to see if the answer changes––play into the lie by either getting excited or showing intrigue when the person embellishes the story. Don’t give away that you’ve heard a different answer before.

3

Compare stories with mutual friends of both you and the person you suspect of being a pathological liar, to determine if the story has changed or reshaped to accommodate certain personalities. Certain details may be morphed to create drama or draw attention to the liar.

  • Trying to pit friends/family members against each other. If the liar was involved in an argument he or she may change the details so that he or she looks better. Also, he or she may involve other parties, making up information about the other party in order to get more people on his or her side.
  • Trying to avoid trouble. If the liar has done something wrong, he or she will do whatever is necessary to avoid blame––that means fabricating a story and/or pinning culpability on another person.
  • Fabricating a lie in order to gain attention. The main goal with many pathological liars is to gain positive notoriety. From being bored to having low self esteem, the pathological liar’s goal is to look better than everyone else, so that people pay attention and worship their accomplishments.

4

Consider whether the person is lying to gain attention. Part of the reason the pathological liar feels compelled to lie is because he or she may feel as though being in the spotlight has eluded them. This person feels that he or she should be the centre of everyone’s universe and will do what he or she can to make it happen. Upon tasting the spotlight, it becomes self-reinforcing and the lies grow bigger each time just to keep on being the centre of attention. Here are some possibilities:

  • Sympathy attention. The pathological liar feels that his or her problems are paramount to what everyone else is experiencing. From a paper cut to being admonished by a boss or teacher, the pathological liar runs around telling his or her story to anyone and everyone, exaggerating the details to ridiculous proportions in order to gain sympathy from anyone within earshot.
  • Wants to feel important. The pathological liar is the king or queen of the “one upper.” Whatever accomplishment you’ve achieved, they done it better. This person always has to feel superior to you at all times, no matter if it’s in the professional or personal arena.
  • Feels bored. Unfortunately, because this person’s life is not rooted in reality, he or she may become easily bored if drama is not swirling around his or her head. As a result, lies may be fabricated in order to amuse or entertain this person, which unfortunately means that other people become involved and possibly hurt as a result.
  • Low self esteem is one of the biggest reasons why people become pathological liars. Whether they consciously recognise it or not, a pathological liar feels that he or she is not important enough as they are so they must make up accomplishments or events to position themselves as worthy.

5

Look to whether the person has an addiction or secret habits that are potentially harmful. Pathological lying can arise in tandem with wanting to hide an alcoholic or drug addiction, an obsession with doing something too much such as spending time online or gaming, or in relation to a medical condition such as bulimia or anorexia. Therapy, group counseling and other professional interventions are important for such people but it may help you to better understand such lying if you know about the motivation behind it.

  • Part of the therapy needs to address compulsive lying. A compulsive liar can be changed.
  • There may be other personality disorders at issue, such as narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.

6

Examine the person’s reaction when they’re busted in a lie. The worst thing that can happen to a pathological liar is to be busted for telling the lie.

  • Extreme defensiveness. Expect the person to become extremely defensive, doing whatever he or she can to pin blame on someone else.
  • Quickly fabricating another lie to cover up the original fib. The pathological liar will start the cover-up process quickly to ensure that their reputation remains in tact. This may include a bigger lie than the original fib––which may be quite apparent.
  • Vindictive and may seek revenge. Rage and anger may be another reaction stemming from being “outed”, so expect possible retaliation or vindictive behavior. Alternatively, they may feel upset that they have been caught in the act by someone who cares for them and have a tearful meltdown.

7

Determine if the person lives in reality. The pathological liar is one who typically does not live in reality and has trouble maintaining any consistency in his or her life. Some signs include:

  • Wandering from job to job. He or she may not be able to hold down a job for a long amount of time due to either being busted for lying or not being able to handle day-to-day mundane tasks because of bluffing their way into the job.
  • Can’t hold a steady relationship. Romantic and interpersonal relationships often fail––this person will typically have a love of his or her life or a best friend for a few months and then will suddenly no longer have contact with that person. Between lies and unrealistic expectations, the pathological liar can often attract a bevy of new relationships but has trouble maintaining them.
  • May be estranged from family. After years of being lied to, family members may not be very supportive or close to this individual.

With those seven steps in mind please avoid employing the wannabe QC, Barrister Hugh ‘Pinocchio’ Barton of Lincoln House Chambers Manchester, because he is a lying full of shit Greater Manchester Police Stooge.

Barrister Hugh ‘Police Stooge’ Barton’s pants are ablaze.

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