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What Is Compulsive Lying Disorder?

Compulsive lying can be treated through therapy.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2014
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Most medical experts don't consider compulsive lying disorder to be a psychiatric disorder in and of itself. Rather, compulsive lying is generally considered to be a symptom of another mental illness. Not all compulsive liars are mentally ill, however. People who lie compulsively often do so out of habit, and many may have developed this habit early in life, possibly due to an unstable or negative home environment that made compulsive lying necessary. Persons suffering from the so-called compulsive lying disorder usually know that they're lying, and may be lying for a number of reasons, including low self-esteem, a need for attention, or a desire to get ahead of others. Compulsive liars may also lie simply because telling the truth may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable for them.

Many experts don't consider compulsive lying disorder to be a distinct conduct or mental disorder of its own. Compulsive lying behaviors can manifest as a symptom of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. Many people who lie compulsively suffer no verifiable mental illness. These people may be lying to seek positive attention from those around them, especially if they suffer from a poor sense of self-worth.

Many people lie compulsively out of a fear of suffering negative repercussions from telling the truth. Others may lie to seek material or social benefits that they believe they could not acquire through telling the truth. Still others may lie simply because they enjoy the thrill of lying.

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Many experts distinguish between compulsive lying and pathological lying behaviors. Pathological liars are believed to lie mostly to bolster their own worth in the eyes of others. Pathological liars may often come to believe their own lies eventually.

Persons suffering from a compulsive lying disorder due to mental illness often exhibit other mental and physical symptoms indicative of mental illness. These liars often have no control over their lying behavior, and will usually continue to cling to lying even when lying becomes detrimental, rather than beneficial.

Compulsive lying behavior can be treated, but a psychiatric professional is usually needed to determine if the lying behavior is symptomatic of an underlying mental illness, or simply a force of long-standing habit. Treating an underlying mental disorder can help to resolve lying behavior, but therapy can also benefit those who lie compulsively due to underlying self-esteem issues or negative experiences in early life.

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