Treatment for a Pathological Liar

Girl crossing her fingers
Pathological liars cannot stop lying. (Image: jarenwicklund/iStock/Getty Images)

Pathological liars are individuals who cannot stop lying, even when there is no clear benefit for them to do so. They are unable to control their lying. Unlike normal people who lie to get out of trouble or for other common reasons, pathological liars lie just to lie.

Theories/Speculation

The brain of a pathological liar is different than that of a normal person. Compulsive liars have more white matter and less gray matter in their prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is accountable for decision making and behaving in a socially acceptable manner. Lower amounts of white matter are often found in individuals who cannot lie. Examples of individuals who cannot lie are those diagnosed with autism. More white matter simply means more lying, and too much white matter can translate to pathological lying.

Effects

Pathological lying can hinder relationships, including those with family, friends and significant others. This is because the relationships are shallow, based on lies and deceit.

Treatment Options

Psychotherapy is a good starting point of treatment for individuals who compulsively lie. The problem is that they often do not admit that they have a problem. Pathological liars may not be able to differentiate when they are telling the truth or when they are lying.

Expert Insight

Cognitive behavior therapy is a specific type of therapy that may be helpful for individuals who cannot stop lying. In cognitive behavioral therapy, clinicians explore why individuals feel they have to lie, their cognitive misconceptions about lying, and the emotional and behavioral effects of lying. Pathological liars should be screened for other mental health disorders, such as a personality disorder. If this would be the case, psychotropic medications may help in conjunction with psychotherapy. Psychotropic medications, which are prescribed by psychiatrists, may help alleviate a patient's symptoms.

Warning

Pathological liars may try to manipulate the clinician during psychotherapy or medication checkups. This is because they are so skilled at lying to others. They cannot help but to make up stories and back them up with false memories and emotions. It is important to note that it is impossible to work with pathological liars unless they are willing to do so.

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