ways to deal with the compulsive liars


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
ways to deal with the compulsive liars

Compulsive liars need to get caught... and treated. If you know someone who falls back on fiction even when there's no need, here's how to deal with them

Most of us would confess that lies are lubricants for conversations, and relationships. But there is a point after which lying turns into a sticky habit. For some people, it is a matter of routine to conceal the truth, without a good enough objective. Compulsive lying is a serious problem and has been called by equally serious names such as pseudologia fantastica, mythomania and pathological lying.

There is a difference between someone telling their spouse they have not put on weight and someone saying they bought a house for a crore-and-a-half when all they paid was Rs 60 lakh. You may know someone who lies so much that if they tell you they were holidaying in Mauritius, you presume they were at Madh Island.

What lies beneath?
What makes compulsive liars hide the truth even when telling it won't make a difference? Counsellor and psychotherapist Vinaya Bhosekar says, "People lie to impress others as it elevates their sense of self-esteem. At times, they could lie to spare themselves humiliation or simply because it's easy to lie."

Obvious as that may sound, compulsive liars lie out of habit. For them, telling the truth is awkward and uncomfortable whereas lying feels right. There may be no need to lie but they cannot stop themselves.

The habit can be traced back to upbringing. Children observe their parents lying about small things. For instance, to avoid a phone call they may tell the child to say they are not at home. "Children can also start lying if they have very critical parents. They feel it's easier to make up a story than get into a fight or confrontation. The habit persists if the significant people in their lives continue to be critical or demanding," says psychologist Saloni Sawnani. Some children lie to avoid punishment or when they want favours. Some compulsive liars fib because they are afraid to express themselves, lack assertiveness and want to feel accepted.

"The reasons for which it started may not be relevant after a point but the habit becomes so deep-rooted that its almost instinctive," Sawnani adds.

How to tackle a liar
This definitely puts you on shaky ground if you are with a boss, close friend or partner who is constantly lying to you.

In a relationship, it can pose a serious issue. "The person may do it to avoid conflict and stressful situations that arise if the truth is told. Such a person doesn't want analysis or discussions," says Bhosekar. Sawnani says, "Compulsive liars usually hate confrontation. In fact, the reason they lie is to avoid confrontation so confronting them with the lies usually backfires. A better approach is to convey that you are aware that (s)he is lying and you don't approve of it. However, don't insist on a confession."

When liars are not pressurized to confess, the number of lies could reduce. At the same time, everything they say has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Ignoring their words and them has more power than confrontation.

Bhosekar says, "One has to take a call and deal with a lie on a caseto-case basis. If the person does not mean to hurt you with a little lie, you should forgive them and move on. If it happens repeatedly and you feel you can't carry on, then it's worth taking a risk and confronting your partner. If the relationship survives a confrontation, it is strong. Once they are caught, compulsive liars tend to move on. They don't want to face you any more."

For the liar, his or her reputation is at stake. "It affects interpersonal relationships and also the reputation of the person in a professional set up," explains Sawnani. As a result no one takes them seriously even when they need to be taken seriously."

If you know and love someone who lies out of sheer habit, don't lose hope. You can suggest treatment. If this person is self-motivated, (s)he can be cured with cognitive behaviour therapy within an encouraging and supportive environment. "If the person is appreciated for confessing the truth after every lie rather than being reprimanded, the tendency starts reducing," says Sawnani.

Ravi Mani confesses
AS A child, I lied at home to escape punishment from my parents, which was severe. As a teenager, I lied to my friends so they would be impressed and accept me in the group. I used to lie that I have an apartment in London, that I flew to exotic locales over weekends and that I dated the best girls in college. They had no reason to disbelieve any of it as I concocted stories pretty well. It was when I started work that my habit became a problem. My superiors did a back check on what I said lies that interfered with my work portfolio and I was told to leave. It was a harsh realization. I went in for counselling. I tried to change and managed to reduce the lies but found it very tough. The final straw was when my wife decided to leave me because of the lies. It became too much for her. I lied I was working when I was out with another woman. I lied to her that I got a promotion when I was asked to leave my job. I am undergoing counselling once again and want to stop lying.

Mani's wife, Shilpa says
I really loved him and forgave him many untruths. But when the lies didn't stop and kept getting serious, I realized it was impossible to carry on. I had to call it quits to protect myself."

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