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Habitual Liar? Or Something Worse?



p>Okay, well honestly, this is quite embaressing. Okay, Im 14 years old and though it’s really not that old, believe me, I can hold up conversations.


p>Alright, so my question is, what’s wrong with me?? See, I’ve looked all around and the most I can find myself diagnosed as, is a habitiual liar. You see, ever since I was little I had the problem of lying. And I know that it’s often for kids to lie but it’s only gotten worse.


p>For instance, when I was in the first grade my teacher had the kids gather in a circle and tell us some news. I told them that my brother (who’s 3 years older then me) killed my cat. My cat was non exsistant and my brother never did. Appalled, my teacher had me go to my brother’s class and bring him to my own where she asked if it was true. Of course, he told her it wasn’t.


p>Then, about a year ago, I told an ex boyfriend that I was raped by my father when I was 9 and later told him that my father changed my birth certificate to make me a year older, so in fact my dad ‘raped’ me when i was ‘8’.


p>Even before that I’d tell people that my mother treated me horribly and that I swore she hated me and called me horrid names. In all honesty, my mother is an angel.


p>Even now, I told my current boyfriend that my ex boyfriend abused me. That he forced me to do sexual things to him and that the reason i broke up with him was because of all the abuse.


p>I even told a friend I had like…5 other names (like, middle names and such). I told stories about things that had happened in Colombia, SA when I’ve gone (and nothing really happened) and such.


p>I admit, I enjoy the attention and the empathy they all give off. I love feeling vulnerable and in another sense I don’t. That’s another problem I know I have. I give myself fake characteristics and to different people. Like, one group of my friends may think that i’m shy and quiet, another group might think of me as moody, over controling, and another group of friends thought of me as the go to girl.


p>What I feel is even stranger is that in the fifth grade I stole three poems from a friend in one town and showed them to a group of my friends in my town, telling them that I wrote it (In grade school I was horrible at writing) and now, writing is my passion (yes, MY passion).


p>And finally, I tell people that I’ve always been a straight A student, in fact only in 7th grade did I start getting higher grades and still, im not all straight As. (by the way, im in 10 grade).


p>I’ve tried talking to a hospital shrink that goes to my school but I end up lying about things even more. Whenever I want to tell her my problems, I feel ashamed for being what everyone knows I hate. Please help me…


p>Often I ask myself why I do this and though I wish it’d make me stop it never did.

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p>You know, there is no formal DSM diagnosis for “Pathological Lying Disorder”, and there probably should be. While in graduate school, a fellow student had a housemate named Carl (at least that is what he told us his name was). We were led to believe that he was a law student. He seemed a nice enough guy, but one day, for some reason, my peer called up his law school to try to get some information from them and learned that he was not a student there. More digging revealed no record for the person he said he was at all. His entire personality was fabricated, it turned out. Needless to say, this was a very creepy thing for my peer, who was living with this man she thought she knew and really didn’t know the first thing about. Trust was broken and I believe he was forced to move out. I had a similar experience in College too, with a friend who turned out to be a liar. There are more people out there who do this sort of thing than you might think. There should be a formal way to describe this problem, but I’m not aware that it has been described. Go figure.


p>There is a condition called Factitious Disorder (otherwise known as Munchausen’s Disease) where people will induce an illness in order to gain medical attention and the care of professionals. Such people are not below lying about how they are injured, of course, but they go further than your typical pathological liar in that they actually wound themselves to gain the attention they want.


p>Attention is the main motive for this sort of lying, I think. As you yourself suggest, you like the attention and the empathy that you get from manipulating people into thinking you a victim. It’s not just attention, however, becuase if that were all it was, everyone would be a liar, and that is not the case. With factitious disorder patients, it seems that they learn at an early age that the attention they get from medical professionals is superior (vastly superior) to what they can get from regular friends and family. They get fixated on the special attention that a medical facility can provide and go to extreme lengths to get more of it than is their share. At the same time, they seem not to develop normal social skills that would enable them to make friends who could care for and attend to them becuase they genuinely like them and not for a manipulative reason. I would think that a similar process must be at work with the pathological liars as well. They may not believe that anyone could really care for them enough without them adding in some misleading yet compelling reason to care for them. They like the attention, yes, but it is also that they maybe are terrified of not having the attention and what that would mean for their self-worth.


p>There is a certain glee that many liars seem to have in getting one over on their victims. You can see this glee in evidence in this other letter I recently responded to: “I choose victims to comfort me“. This little antisocial tendancy seems to be a part of the problem as well, at least for many liars I’ve encountered.


p>The main problem with your lying is that it ultimately will hurt you more than it will help you. Life is a difficult thing to negotiate in the best of circumstances. Most people find that the best comfort available in life comes from their committed friendships and relationships. However, people who lie all the time and misrepresent themselves never let themselves become vulnerable enough to form real relationships. They experience instead only fake relationships built upon false foundations, and which are very likely to crumble and fall apart when the first crisis occurs. Liars are the most alone people there are. This aloneness is their secret tragedy and ultimate pain that no amount of lying can cover over.


p>I can’t help you. Only you can help you. No one can help you with this if you don’t own up to it. So, you have to reach a decision inside yourself that you are willing to forego the antisocial joy of manipulating people in exchange for becoming an authentic person. It really is as simple as deciding to not lie anymore, and that difficult.

More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists

  • Ashley

    I could really associate myself with the person who wrote this letter. I've struggled with the same thing for almost my entire life. I lie about almost everything. From my parents, homelife, relationships, to my job. It's horrible and I live with the guilt everyday. After reading Dr. Dombeck's advice I've finally decided to make the change. I've always wondered why I coulnd't hold down not just a good friendship but a good romantic relationship. My lying has everything to do with me being lonely right now. It's time to make a change. Thank you to the person that wrote this letter and to Dr. Dombeck.

  • jasmine

    I am having problems at school My friends all hate me because i lie so much, i tell them that i have heaps of problems and disorders, i tell them i am bisexual when in actual fact, i am not, i also mimick them and steal there identity, aka. a certain somebody who i faked and was being mean. I make friends with younger students, only to learn they all hate me. I tell my enemies my secrets because i wan sympathy and attention. I am a Pathological attention seeker, i tell you. I slit my wrists for attention also, then show offf about it, please help me, i need real help ps. i go to a councellor bt it doesnt work.......:(

  • Jessica

    okay, so i have/had the same problem. all i could think about while reading that, was "thats me.." and i have been to a "theripast" like 2ce, he didnt help. Anger Management too. i can't stop lying. in fact after i typed the part about Anger Maagement too, well ive never been there. i have done the lying thing though. because when i was in 4th grade i told my dad that my teacher had intentionaly scratched me. now im 14. i lie to my friends tell them things that arent even remotley true. i lie to my parnts, teachers, even myself. its horrible. i dont know what to do. i cant control this.

    im actually at school now. im supose to be doing a report on my life Goals.. i want to be a Pschyoligst, or a High School Guidance Councelor... ha ha right?

    Help Me? Please..

  • Bill

    Everybody that has this condition needs to adopt the West Point Cadet Code of conduct. Its short and easy to remember. It is not bendable nor are the men that live it.....

    I will not lie, cheat, or steal. Nor will I tolerate those that do!

    It really is no more difficult than that. Adopt that code and you will live a honorable life that you will be proud of. You will never have to look over you shoulder, you will never have to "remember" what lie you told to who. For those of you that read this code and scoffed at it, you are lost already. You probably have a superior IQ compared to the average guy. But you are not smart enough to see that in matters of truth, only the truth will do. I urge anyone that reads that code burn it into you very soul. Then live it. I promise if you do that then all we be well with you.


    My former daughter-in-law lies in every conversation she has with my husband and I and is continuing it in court to obtain custody of her son, our grandson who lives with us at the present. She has done this since we have known her (15 yrs). It appears she needs regcognition, attention and valuation badly. We know she grew up with her mother doing the same thing. My grandson does not want to go there and live in squaler. Can you tell me any way to describe this to the court in better terms. Its hard to fight a liar. Thank you,


  • Amanda

    My biological mom was a habitual liar... ever since i was little i was taught that lying was good, if i didn't lie i didn't get acceptance. Now i live with my dad and step-mom and i can't stop lying... it's like i hate myself everytime i do it but i can't stop... i have hurt my step mom so much our relationship is almost ruined. Help me gain the strength i need to stop... and thanks for letting me know i'm not alone. :)

  • lauren

    like many others who have commented on this story, I too have struggled with the problem of habitualy lying to my friends, family and even random strangers. I too feel the guilt and I am ashamed at my constant lying, however I don't know how to stop. Lately it has been pretty bad because it has reached a point where my friends no longer believe anything I say, even if I truly am speaking the truth. However, much worse than this, is that after so many years of constantly telling untrue stories over and over again, I can no longer distinguish which stories are actually true memories or are just stories I fabricated in my head. And this actually scares me, I don't know what the truth is anymore!

  • Shay

    One of the things I've come accross that helps is an accountability person. One person that you choose NOT it lie to and have confided in that you have a problem.

    When you do make up a story, you need to be able to own up and say to this person "you know what, I just made that up. Sorry, It never happened." You MUST do it RIGHT AFTER or even as you are saying it.

    It helped me. After a while I could cut myself off mid way through telling a lie. I started to concentrate on what I WAS SAYING and not on concocting the detail of the story.

    Now when I feel the urge I take a breather and tell myself "save yourself the trouble, don't say it 'cuz its not true." Instead I force myself to ask a question, any question, to refocus my urge to get the attention on to listening to someone else.

  • Wilma

    I have the same problem too!!.. i nver knew it before but when I actually started working, I discover that lying is becoming a habit of mine... the only difference is that, I fear to lie anything about my family i fear it may come true, i usually lie about myself , like sickness, problems and so... anything that would make my listeners feel sorry about me... i find it very hard to resist from lying and it makes me feel guilty afterwards.... thanks for sharing.. it makes me feel i'm not alone,.. hoping i am able to find a solution to this problem before it gets worst

  • Anonymous-1

    I lie because it's convenient. Lying is like a responsibility, if you can't take the consequences, don't lie. I have a sixth degree black belt in lying, so I don't have any problem lying to anyone if I'm in the mood for it. Sure, I have groups of people/friends who think of me with certain characteristic and others group of friends who think of me with a different characteristic. Sometimes when the two groups meet and some of my lies are revealed, they'll get angry/mad, lose some trust. But I'm willing to accept that, they are friends after all and I know I caused it upon myself so no guilt there. If they want to remain friends, no problem, if not, win some, you lose some, but life goes on, can't win them all. But like I said, I lie because it's convenient so most of my lie are about myself or just random stuff/answers that doesn't even matter. Sometimes, I do it so often to some people and it seems like even some of my friends are picking up my lying skills and are adapting and started lying like I do. But they cannot match me as I am master in my field. (insert evil laugher)

    Anyways, to all the people who lie and can't take it. STOP LYING. If you think you lie is going to hurt someone you don't want to hurt, the solution is easy, just don't lie. How? Well, just THINK before you speak. That's it. It's that easy. THINK. THINK. THINK. The only problem might be is if you can't pause yourself while you're thinking. You cannot talk while thinking, thinking requires time. So if you're trying to recover from lying, take it slow. Think, then speak. After awhile, you'll get good at that and your thinking and speaking will be back up to sync and you will hopfully stopped your lying ways.

  • Will

    I to am a liar. And what's even worse is that I lie to the people who are the closest to me. I lie mainly when problems arise, and now my marriage is falling apart. But I know it is my own fault. can anyone help me?

  • Anonymous-2

    my 43 year old son has always been a bit of a control freak mostly by fussing and raising his voice but now he seems to betotally committed to control of everyone he is also lying something that i thought he would never do it all started when he married for the 2nd time last december... the new wife seems dedicated to separating him from the family i don t know if this is the reason he has become very mean even cruel to all his family would appreciate a comment

  • Cristhian S.

    Recently I have discovered that I am too a habitual liar. I am 19 years old and recently my 3 year long relationship came to end because of it. I didn't realise it until she pointed out to me. I did research and found this website. I have the same problems a lot of you have and I'm trying to overcome it. I think it will help by having an object with you at all times (necklace, ring or tattoo as I am planning to doing) to remind you to think before you talk and remember to speak only the truth. I traced back this habit to when I was younger and moved to a new town and place. I didn't fit in so eventually I began to lie to myself and others about what I was like. Eventually Junior High and High school came along and until recently I realised how much I lied. It was disturbing for me to have reliased all the lies I made and made me think twice if I even knew who I was. I think time, patience and practice will help me and all of you overcome this problem. Hopefully take back the woman that I loved.

  • Anonymous-3

    When I fell in love with (Ill call him Jo) it was before I knew that I fell in love with only half of him. Funny, my 16 yr old fixed me up with him because he thought he was such an amazing Man, I had been single for 4 years after a bad Marriage and worse Divorce, Jo swept me off my feet with his sense of humor, his kind caring heart, he was funny and always loved to go out and have a good time, he walked proud with me next to him, He knew all the right words and moves. He knew people everywhere we went and got top of the line service.

    He told me he used to play for a Pro.Baseball team, that he owned his own company that catered to children, that he owned a small house and lived alone and so much more.

    To make a long story short it was all a lie, his father owned the business, he never played for a pro team (he did play for collage for a small while) he lived with his parents and was married with 4 kids. He was going through a worse divorce then I went through, He was an addicted gambler, a recovering alcoholic, accused of horrible things from his wife,didnt have any legal rights to his kids, I only found out about all of this 4months into dating him and already head over heels for him so I introduced him to my family and brought him to a very fancy family gathering where an acquaintance of his was at and they happened to be a great friend of our family...Well need I say more..

    I thought there is no way this is the same guy she was talking about and that she was crazy and then I found out she was friends with his soon to be X wife so of course she was crazy and who does she think she is trying to ruin the best relationship I have ever had with the most incredible man....It was all a bunch of BS..

    Well here I am 4 years later and I am still in love with a habitual liar...Every day I find out about new lies new reasons not to trust him and every day I think this is the last lie, he sees how hurt and disappointed I am and he will stop, he loves me enough to stop until the next day comes. I now share a daughter with him and for a year now that was my excuse to stay,

    Liars are liar’s period. Trust is like a vase... once it's broken though you can fix it the vase will never be same again

    If anyone can tell me one thing to change my mind about liars never being able to change tell me now... I have just left him and will be moving away soon unless there is a miracle solution for liars...

  • Anonymous-4

    I have hit rock bottom. my habitual lying has cost me my beautiful girlfrend and her children that i love more than anything in this world. i have terrible financial problms having borrowed money from very good friends saying i will pay them back when i never intended to. I realize that lying has almost ruined my life. But i am determined to make a change. I will probably never win m girlfriend back, she has forgiven me for so much and yet i keep lying to her. Above all else, the loneliness of noone actually knowing who you really are is unbareable. i am determined to make a change. I am on meds currently and will see a therapist starting tommorow. to those of you who are involved with someone like me, you cant help them unless they are willing to admit their lying problem and change. Contrary to a lot of wht I have read, i think this is a very curable problem. You must change and sit in your discomfort and perhaps let those go that have been hurt by you. I know its hard but they deserve to be with someone they trust. maybe that will be you someday. get help!!

  • Anonymous-5




  • Ann Micheals

    What is the difference between a sociopath, or habitual liar. I guess one actually feels bad about the lies. My ex boyfriend lied to me for 6 years. It started shortly after he moved to Florida. He was lost his job there and made friends with a group of people. We were both out of work and he finally found a job in Oregon. He kept telling me that he was not ready to see me and wanted to get a better place for me to come visit. It turned out he was actually living with a women ( I think she might have been a man at one time). After I found out he came back to me and I let him back in. But when I would visit I could never meet his friends and suddenly his family was off limits too. She also work as his admin at their small start-up, so I was never invited to office events when the significant other went because she was there. We finally broke over all this because I did not trust him and he was not working towards it. He swears that he loves me, but I really think he is lying and that kind of love I do not need. I have come to the conclusion that he and this he/she never really ended and that he is indeed a sociopath. It has destroyed me giving him a second chance. Now when I find one lie, I walk away. I don’t expect people to be perfect but lying is a clue to many serious mental illnesses.

    The funny part is I am a Type T personality the things I do for a thrill are more sports and adrenaline base. He tried to tell he was too, but he is a coward when it comes to the truth. I do not think there is ever an excuse to lie to someone who loves you.

  • lost and confused

    I am 19 i havent been with this girl that long but i have been friends with her for over 2 years now, we started going out then we broke up after i lied to her about cheating, we then got back together after 4 months and in this time i had started to take marijuana, then getting back with her she asked me to give up, so i told her i would, but i didnt. i kept going for the whole time we were going out just doing it every now and then but always lieing to her telling her id stopped, lieing to her face, now i love this girl and looking back thinking i must be so heartless to lie to the one i love, but it get worse after she finds out we convince her to keep me around and i saw i can change and id never do it again. she let me back in then just 3 weeks later im going out to my mates house and she asks me if im going to do weed that night and i tell her no and i keep assuring her im not going to do it, i kinda knew in the back of my head i wanted too, and i did do. after doing it i told her im sorry i lied and now we're over, i dont expect her to take me back again cos my lieing is discusting and i cant beleive myself, i also lied to all my closest friends about my past to make me seem better cooler or wat not i am lost to who i am anymore i want to stop this evil habbit.

    i need help!!

  • losing my lover...

    I am currently going thru a divorce, and have met the man of my dreams. I love him more than myself, and want to be with him forever, BUT, he has trust issues and I am a habitual liar. I don't want to be, it just happens. Sometimes I do it on purpose so he doesn't get angry with me for the truth. I need to stop...How can I? I need to get his trust back, and am trying so hard. I also have a horrible memory, and am inconsistent with things I say which may or may not be lies. I truly need some advice because I don't know if I can handle losing him....

  • mila

    I agree with the Dr. Dombeck. I think it would be best for you to get therapy. I also am thinking something else----like an acting career, or acting classes----might be a good therapy for you. you may feel balance in your life. Worth a try any way. You come across as very mentally creative.

  • Anonymous-6

    Can pathological liars be dangerous, would they kill the person they've lied to just so noone would find out the extent of thier lying

  • Lio

    Right, I wrote this post several times and none of the versions of my life I told you were true. I find it's nothing more than an over active imagination and the truth being less interesting than the many options my imagination provides me with.

    I don't think I lie out of habit, I can stop...but that's what they all say ^^

    But I can, lying to nice honest people is much harder than doing it to dishonest people. They're more difficult to find for one thing, but it just seems so unsporting.

    Anyway...I found it's always good to have an outlet -if your problem is an over active imagination start writing and if your problem is you don't think your life is intersting enough then perhaps start doing the things you lie about.

    Anyway, if you do lie alot then keep note of all the lies you've told and keep sections for different people or groups of people you've lied to. If you're going to continue lying you may as well avoid the consequences of having people find out. Also I've found it tells you a lot about yourself, leave it a few months and read your stories back to yourself and maybe you'll find something out.


    (Not sure if I'm allowed to do this but if anyone needs to talk: )

  • amy alvidrez

    This was a GREAT article!! I've struggled, am struggling, with my teenage son, who has always been completely manipulative and started bold faced lying several years ago. His dad lied for no reason also, as did a paternal uncle. It is definitely genetic. I have many problems to solve with my son, but this article helpled a lot with at least one piece of this puzzle-the lying. My son does have other anti-social tendencies, and much more, but... Thanks for sharing your wisdom, doc!! -Amy A.

  • Mom

    Just a note from a victim. I am the mother of a habitual liar. He breaks my heart every time he opens his mouth. I do believe that he has inherited the trait. His father and my father would lie without thinking, even if the truth was more interesting. I gave him every opportunity to be something in this world. We are an upper middle class family that works hard for everything we have - and I'm very proud of what I've accomplished and where I am. I made sure he had the shoes, jeans, and right hair cut, trying to make him understand that he didn't need to lie to be cool. It is a self-confidence issue and I really wish that he would come to the realization that he is doing it to influence people and he is really only driving all of us away. He is a day away from being homeless, he is already jobless, the group of people that he was hanging with now want his head on a platter and he is having to hide out. I think he realizes his problem and that his recent drug use is because he can't live with himself - either he is self-destructing or he is self-medicating, but I'm now protecting myself and have to let my son fall - Just like the movie "The Good Son." I have to do my best to protect society from my spawn.

  • Anonymous-7

    Hi, I've been dating a guy for 2 years and have known him for about 2 and a half years. We have a long distance relationship and whenever we meet we end up fighting abusing and sometimes he gets physically abusive. It happens after I catch his lies, which are mostly related to other girls he flirts with. When I met him he told me that he had a girlfriend and how they broke up and now she is settled in some other country with her boyfriend. Later he told me she is married. Then after sometime he told me about his dear friend and how much she loves him and what all she does to please him. To my surprise the things his ex-girlfriend did for him and his friend does it was all the same. So I thought may be either of this girl doesn't exist and I was right, he never had a girl friend, all those were just stories of a perfect relationship that he had observed. I caught him by reading his emails and since then he refused to share his email passwords with me and doesn't add me on facebook or any other social networking site. But whenever I meet him, i always have a suspicion in mind because of his flirtatious nature and i am always right and then we fight again. In between he made an effort to meet his friend i mentioned above and I always caught him sometimes because he left a mark and sometimes based on intuition. He says he loves me a lot and now wants to marry but I don't trust him as he is still busy flirting lying and it seems never ending in his case. I really don't know what to do because he says he will leave everything, which he always says and never does, once i commit to him for marriage and stop controlling him or keeping a check on him. Even after so long i've no trust in him and i absolutely fail to understand him so not convinced about marrying him. At the same time I don't want to lose him but these days he says if I don't marry him he'll marry any one of the girls he has been so called friends behind my back. I don't even know now if he ever loved me and what is he upto. I feel like a complete fool still can't leave him because I feel the best in his company and he really has helped me a lot in my tough times. So if today ive a balanced life its because of him. I am very confused and i've spoken to him about it many times but he refuses to accept that he is addicted to it. What should i do? Please help

  • Kathleen Evans

    The words "lying" and "liar" hold a certain fascination and even fear for children. I think the same is true for adults. The term "liar" holds an element of fear and fascination to the very young and this fascination appears to continue into adulthood (see the fascination with the Casey Anthony case). The basic reality of "lying" is this: does a person know the difference between what is real and what is pretend. Children struggle with learning the difference between what is real and what is "pretend." Since any development has its awkward stage, stumbling through distinguishing between what is "for real" and what is "pretend" holds its own awkwardness. It is during the "toddler" part of making this distinction that parents, teachers and other adults panic. Once adults recognize the difficulties of getting through this stage successfully (like cutting teeth), they relax. The child relaxes and everyone has an easier time while the child matures and better grasps the difference between fantasy and reality. It's really all that simple. Adult lying is simply a frozen childhood confusion of the what is real and what is pretend stage which hasn't been grown through properly. Too much anxiety and overreaction and "mis-reaction" from adults about this child developmental stage causes fear in a child and an exaggerated fascination with and debilitating confusion of reality versus make believe, resulting in various degrees of pain and suffering. The child tries to escape the pain which results in their little minds when adults misunderstand their confusion and overreact or "mis-react"! This forces anxiety and added confusion for the child and then they try either truth telling or lying just to find relief. This cycle either works or doesn't, is continuously repeated and the result is a frozen stage of development and an adult who is a habitual liar.


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