Experts Explain Why Some People Are Pathological Liars

Dr. Hillary Ammon, a clinical psychologist, tells Yahoo Life that most people occasionally lie to avoid undesirable consequences, such as conflict, punishment, or hurting someone else. These lies are often grand and outlandish. Ammon adds that pathological liars often tell extravagant, grandiose lies without clear benefit.

Ammon cites a study suggesting that as people tell self-serving lies more often, their brains continuously become more likely to lie due to neuroplasticity.

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People Tend To Be Pathological Liars In Some Cases

Dr. Thea Gallagher, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Health and co-host of the Mind in View podcast, says anyone can lie regularly. The problem with pathological liars is they are immature. In addition to their undeveloped cognitive abilities, they do have some degree of sociopathy. It is a disorder where one does not understand and recognize social norms of behavior. Ammon says some pathological liars lie to increase self-esteem and to be perceived as more favorable by others.

Mental Illness Can Cause Pathological Lying

It is important to note that being a pathological liar does not constitute a health issue. Gallagher says that pathological lying is not a clinical disorder; it’s a symptom of something bigger. However, she says, it could be a sign of mental health issues such as:

  • narcissistic personality disorder
  • antisocial personality disorder
  • borderline personality disorder

Ammon says research has shown ties between habitual lying and head injuries, imbalances in hormone-cortisol ratios, and central nervous system disorders.

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Symptoms Of A Pathological Liar

The symptoms of being a pathological liar aren’t confirmed because this isn’t a clinical diagnosis. The following signs can indicate someone may be a pathological liar:

  • It is common to find stories and previous accomplishments unrealistic, illogical, or impossible.
  • When questioned, stories may change.
  • There is a sense of defensiveness in the person’s stories.
  • If questioned about the story, the person deflects the answer.