A pathological liar is a person who continually tells grandiose stories with no basis in reality.
Many people occasionally tell small, true lies as part of a plan to protect themselves from the consequences of being truthful (e.g., “It wasn’t like this when finding it.”). However, when a pathological liar tells a story that involves a large exaggeration or involves deliberate fabrications, it can be considered a strategic ploy to facilitate positive social interaction.
Although many behaviors are considered pathological, lying is the most common one, and the person who engages in lying is often the most intense liar. An extreme liar is not necessarily pathological, although lying about serious things such as murder is considered a behavioral disorder in its own right. But a person who lies simply because they are uncomfortable in situations or because they are desperate for attention and approval is a compulsive liar.
The difference between a pathological and a compulsive liar is often subtle. For example, a person who is lying about their weight might say that they have lost several pounds over the past couple of months. They might even exaggerate about how much weight they have lost by saying that they are now a size six. But a person who lies about their weight because they want to appear thinner than they actually are will say that they have lost many more pounds and could not get back into their old clothing sizes.
A compulsive liar has no intention of telling the truth. When they lie, they are lying about a specific thing, situation, or event. So when they are caught, they simply lie again. A pathological liar will deny that they ever committed a crime, will claim that they never killed someone, will deny that they caused harm to another person, will claim that they are innocent or will say anything that gives them permission to lie about their behavior.
Even if they were to be found out, a pathological liar will just lie again.
Another trait that makes pathological liars so vulnerable to lie detector tests is the fact that they will deny responsibility for their behavior. Instead of saying that they are not responsible, they will say that they did something wrong but they do not mean it, will claim that someone else was at fault and then say that they were acting on their own behalf. The purpose of this is not only to get someone into trouble, but to prevent anyone from accusing them.
This ability to manipulate people’s feelings can be used in a variety of ways. If a pathological liar feels that someone is blaming them for something bad that has happened, they can say that they are not responsible. They can also make it seem as though they have done nothing wrong by saying that the other person was at fault and that they are just reacting in a way that is normal.
Unfortunately, many people who believe that they are not guilty of any wrongdoing are the pathological liar’s victims. People who think that they are guilty will feel guilty and thus will blame the person who accused them for their bad behavior. The blame becomes a sort of shield for the person who accused them and they will then continue to behave badly toward them. And the guilt of the person who believes that the other person is at fault can easily turn to anger or fear and make the behavior worse.
Many people become afraid of being accused of a certain behavior because of the fear of being the victim of a compulsive liar. A compulsive liar will take advantage of this by making accusations about other people. They might claim that they were wrong about something and then ask for proof. If the person who has been accused says no or refuses to give proof, they simply claim that the person is lying and that it’s their word against their word and use it as an excuse to hurt them and take control over their life.