Compulsive Lying in Teenagers

What starts as little white lies, small exaggerations and stretching the truth can snowball into a chronic issue for teens and parents. Take action if you think your teenager is lying consistently. Find the root of the behavior and learn how to handle the problem effectively. Handling the concern with sensitivity, firmness and objectivity will provide your troubled teen with the support she needs.

A father talking to his son in the forest. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


Compulsive lying is not a mental health diagnosis itself, though it often is a symptom in a variety of mental disorders, according to psychiatrist and psychopathology expert Robert Reich, as quoted in "Psychology Today." Compulsive lying is habitual. The behavior is marked by the consistent telling of lies that frequently begins in the teenage years or younger. It is likely to continue to be an issue throughout adolescence and adulthood if adequate treatment is not obtained.


Teenagers -- like others who struggle with compulsive lying -- lie for a variety of reasons. According to NC Health Choice for Children, these individuals might seek others' approval or admiration; they may seek to improve self-esteem, feel the need to manipulate others or control situations, or wish to hide personal failures. Teens who compulsively lie often suffer from personality disorders like bipolar disorder or antisocial personality.

Parental Response

Parents of children who compulsively lie should confront the issue and support their teens by setting limits on their behavior. Discussions regarding lying should take place despite any resentful or angry response that occurs from the child. Try to determine the behavior's cause and address that issue. For example, give your child opportunities to succeed at different ventures to help build confidence if she lacks self-esteem.

Professional Care

Often, a teenager is unable to change his compulsive lying behavior without professional help. Parents should seek mental therapy for their children whenever the behavior persists after being addressed at home, causes the child to endanger himself physically or when the teenager has gotten so deep into ongoing lies that he can't stop himself without outside help. Counselors use a variety of methods in treating compulsive lying. For instance, the teen might be assigned to keep a record of each instance in which he lies and the reason behind it. The aim of this type of exercise is to identify frequency, patterns and triggers.

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