Determinants and Correlates of Compulsive Lying

09 Apr 2018

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  • Sadiqa Parwar


As quoted by Vladimir Lenin “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Compulsive lying is also called as pathological lying that is a clinical term in which an individual repeatedly and apparently compulsively tells false stories. According to out of the fog “compulsive lying is a term used to describe lying frequently out of habit, without much regard for the consequences of others and without having an obvious motive to lie. Compulsive lying is less self-centered or manipulative in nature than other kinds of lying. It is not oriented so much toward serving a person’s long term self-interest as it is doing what feels good at the time.”

According to Charles et al., 2005 children use fantasy to deny reality for their self- protection and self-development. When it persists it becomes pathological in adulthood and pathological liars are consider that their ego is fixated in childhood.

I am interested to write on this topic because I want to know the different reasons why people are lying? Secondly, it’s a controversial topic and psychological disorder. As a health care professional we should know the factors and impacts of such disorders so that we can interact with patients and their families who are experiencing compulsive lying disorder as well as we can provide support and effective care not only from medical point of view but also from psychological and social point of view. I encounter many people who are telling lies in routine and become a habit in their life. They feel right to lie and desire to lie even more but the people around them are suffering a lot as they are very fed up of listening daily lies. Moreover, people refuse them to involve in their social gathering and they donot even bother to help such patients out from this situation.

There are many factors which contribute to compulsive lying disorder. Firstly, it is caused by antisocial personality disorder .In which symptom of irrational lying is seen in several methods like manipulation, exploitation and violation of individual rights of people around them. They tell lie for personal benefit and other reasons. Secondly, genetic factors and child abuse also leads to compulsive lying. Many children of parents experiencing this disorder also learns this behavior in similar way .Moreover, parents teach their children to do so or the child can pick up by watching his/her parents actions. Thirdly, Interdependence that means depending or relying of people on each other. Usually in a relation a habitual liar faces fear of losing their partner in telling truth at once. So they keep on lying day by day and at a time it becomes compulsive lying disorder. Conduct disorder is another cause of compulsive disorder and that is more prevalent among males weather young or old. Affected patients involve themselves in illegal activities like stealing, ganging and use of drugs. (Prof.Mental Health, 2011).

In my opinion people lie because of emotional issues, neglect or some bad experience that has happened to them in past provoke such behavior. For example, I encounter a person from my village who is the best example here I want to share. He is habitual of telling lies on daily basis with his teachers at university as well as with friends. He used to miss classes by taking excuses from his teachers as saying like he has financial problem so he is doing job for his family. But it was not true; he used to sleep all the time at home. And the teachers gave him leaves and freedom in assignments in thinking of not put burden on him. He gained trust of his teachers by telling lies in such a way that teachers not able to pin point his lies for a period of time but at last his classmates who were very frustrated from his bad behavior objected to teachers and they fired him from university after learning his lying behavior.

The etiological determinants of compulsive lying are hereditary vulnerabilities most of pathological liars belong from families with psychiatric and behavior problems. King and ford (1988) as cited in (Katie, 2012) found 10% patients had alcoholic parents and 30% had family history of neuropsychiatric illness. Moreover, Healy and Healy (1915) focused on childhood environmental factors in psycho-social determinants as cited in (Katie, 2012). In which they found five out of nineteen cases came from good homes, while two were born in poverty, two were raised by ignorant parents, six were raised in immorality home environment, six were parented by persons who lack appropriate parenting control, and one raise in unstable home situation.

According to literature review the underlying risk factors are neurological impairment, psychosocial trauma and attachment disruption. King and ford’s (1988) as cited in (Katie, 2012) analysis they found 40% of cases reviewed had a history of central nervous system abnormality and head trauma. Poor self-regulation is the main considering cause of pseudologia fantastica. In psychological trauma and attachment disruption includes death of near and dear ones, adoption, separation from primary attachment figure, childhood abuse and parental psychiatric illness. Attachment disruption occurs when the surrounding and caregivers fail to fulfill and nurture the child’s needs and manage their distress. (Kagan, 2004) as cited in (Katie, 2012)

The neuropsychological correlates of pathological lying are

Compulsive lying effects on liars individually as well as their families. Here I would like to discuss one of the scenario which I felt has forced me to write this scholarly paper .I encountered a girl belongs to compulsive lying family. She used to lie in every moment despite of caught several times. Once for the purpose of promotion and impressing her boss she increased her educational status as MBA and submitted false documents but in real she was She was caught within few months and fired from her job. Still she was lying to people whoever asks about her lost job and saying that she was not interested in that job. Everyone knows about her lies and no one trusts even when she says a single truth .Her father also says that only a liar becomes successful and able to cope with his surroundings. He stated that “truth and honesty wins only in movies not in our real world”.


Compulsive lying is also called pathological lying in some articles and in others both are defined as differently. Which are so confusing and tough task to handle and very little specific articles are about compulsive lying. Pathological lying has been defined in many ways but its individual effect and possible etiological factors are not clear. Moreover, it is unknown whether pathological lying exists across cultures, whether having different subtypes and whether pathological liars present enough main and constant symptoms or cluster of symptoms to define clearly a clinical stuff suitable for allocation in the DSM. Systematic

Collection of data will help not only in clarifying these puzzles, but also in determining whether pathological lying is always only a symptom, a syndrome, or a diagnosis which is also unclear. The treatment options available for pathological lying are also poorly researched (Charles et al., 2005). I recommend that epidemiologists should collect data about this disorder and there would be a literature available on compulsive lying for information and awareness to overcome its adverse effects.



Dike, C. C., Baranoski, M., & Griffith, E. E. (2005).Pathological lying revisited.Journal of

the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online,33(3), 342-349.

Poletti, M., Borelli, P., &Bonuccelli, U. (2011). The neuropsychological correlates of

pathological lying: evidence from behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia.Journal of neurology,258(11), 2009-2013.

Treanor, K. E. (2012). Defining, understanding and diagnosing pathological lying

(pseudologiafantastica): an empirical and theoretical investigation into what constitutes pathological lying.

Yang, Y., Raine, A., Lencz, T., Bihrle, S., Lacasse, L., & Colletti, P. (2005). Prefrontal white

matter in pathological liars.The British Journal of Psychiatry,187(4), 320-325.

Grubin, D. (2005). Commentary: Getting at the truth about pathological lying.Journal of the

American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online,33(3), 350-353.



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