An Honest Look at Compulsive Lying

Let’s be honest, we have all lied at some point in our lives.

It’s an inevitable part of the human consciousness, no matter how astute we claim to be in our everyday existence. But, did you know that there are people living amongst us, who don’t know when to stop lying? If you choose to follow American politics, it has even been said that there is one living in the Oval Office. They are called compulsive liars, and here is the truth about them… although who really knows for sure, they could have been lying.

Experts have identified compulsive lying as the practice of lying uncontrollably. They bend the truth in every kind of situation – big or small – and take comfort in it. They feel comfortable doing it, whilst telling the truth feels strange and unnatural. Lying also becomes a kind of perpetual safety net that these people never want to leave, to the point where they continue to lie in the face of cold, hard facts.

Where a lot of people can tell a slight fib from time to time; compulsive liars often do it multiple times a day without even thinking about it. It becomes a habitual default setting they don’t know how to switch off. The cause of compulsive lying is a controversial subject amongst psychologists because there isn’t anything particularly definitive about it. It is often a symptom for larger, more serious personality disorders, but there are also cases where there isn’t a psychiatric illness involved at all.

This means it is ultimately very hard to properly identify, and even more difficult to treat, because it’s almost impossible for compulsive liars to admit they have a legitimate problem.

So, although the specific cause might be sketchy, there will always be a specific reason why compulsive liars do what they do. This varies from person to person, depending on their personality and the severity of the situation.

A lot of people with the condition compulsively lie to get attention from other people. They feel special in the eyes of their peers and this breaks down an underlying sense of inadequacy. This could mean taking responsibility for something they didn’t do or pretending to be a victim of a non-existent trauma.

Other compulsive liars control and manipulate others with their actions, enjoying the thrill of being able to get away with things and claiming they have more power and influence than everyone else.

Liars with low self-esteem will use compulsive lying as a type of self-glorification that makes them look and feel more wonderful, exciting or intelligent than other people as a way of fostering sympathy and empathy. In some cases, people compulsively lie as a form of damage control when they fail or make mistakes and want to save their reputations by making someone else look responsible.

These justifications are what distinguish compulsive liars from pathological liars or sociopaths. Pathological liars, lie for absolutely no reason at all without any kind of empathy for others, and often use it as a way to intentionally trick their unsuspecting subjects. Compulsive liars always have a reason, even if they aren’t aware of it at the time.

Compulsive liars are incredibly difficult to trust. Understandably, once a regular compulsive liar is exposed to the world, it becomes difficult to take anything they say seriously. Your reputation is ruined and the struggle to win back any kind of credibility becomes harder than ever.

Does this last part sound like someone familiar? That’s because compulsive lying has become a hot topic quite recently, thanks to the antics of people like US President Donald Trump. In February 2017, The Guardian columnist Nick Cohen argued that, “The political climate has become much more interesting with the introduction of Trump’s fantastic lying abilities, and the media don’t know how to handle it”.

Everyone can agree that we simply weren’t prepared for a world leader whose political style was based so heavily around lying compulsively. The global community and the media have become united in their mutual confusion around Trump’s inconsistent rhetoric, and it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

With Trump in the President’s chair, it is more important than ever before that society understands compulsive lying and the reasons behind it. Being aware of its existence is the first step in being able to work through it and help people find their way back to the truth.

Words by Emily Burkhardt

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