Check Up: Treatment for pathological liars
Alane is a middle-aged lady who lives in a St Catherine community. She has a neighbour who she says tells lies all the time, and some people believe the lies! She has told people that she is a trained accountant when Alane has found out that she only worked in an accountant's office in the past! The lady also told people that she was to inherit a large sum of money soon which some relatives stole from her. Alane also believes this to be a lie. Alane says the lady is well-spoken and very self-assured and people often believe her lies, but she thinks the lady is ill as in reality, her life has been hard for she is not working at this time and has a dead husband and children to support. Alane even wonders if some of that story about the husband could also be a lie. She tries to help the family as she feels very sorry for their plight and wonders how the lies got started and what can be done at this stage.
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN
Habitual or compulsive lying is a behaviour which can manifest over years to a lifetime. It can involve extensive and complicated lies, and some individuals are aware that they are lying, while some even believe they are telling the truth! Sometimes, people lie to make their lives interesting when their actual lives are boring. The condition is associated with above average verbal skills, and 30 per cent of habitual liars are associated with a disruptive home environment.
Characteristics of pathological lying include:
• Fantastic stories which still seem possible (the key to pathological lying)
• The fabrications are not caused by social pressures so much as being a personality trait, the motives being internal and not external
• The tendency to lie is chronic and may seem uncontrollable
• The pathological liar is always the heroine or victim of the stories
• The lies are chronic, frequent and easily disproved
Sometimes, the sufferer genuinely believes that the fictitious events have taken place. Excessive lying is also a common symptom of other mental diseases and requires professional help to properly diagnose and treat.
Pathological liars have high levels of self-assurance and are often verbally dramatic. They do not show anti-social behaviour, but they lie because they think their lives are not interesting enough. Some liars seek to gain attention, and the more attention gained feeds the need to lie to remain centre stage.
Normally, people lie to avoid the consequences of telling the truth. Pathological lying is considered to be a mental illness because it submerges the rational world and takes over rational judgement, walking between the real and fantasy worlds. There are consequences to pathological lying, not the least being legal problems resulting from fraudulent actions. Their crimes tend to be associated with forgery, swindling and plagiarism, but some are successful professionals with no crime record.
Treatment requires psychotherapy. No medication is known to treat pathological lying. Pathological lying is a complex disorder of life-changing consequence, and there is no guaranteed cure for it. Pathological liars usually have sound judgement outside of the Lie fantasy.
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