July 29, 2020

Pathological Lying Vs Normal Lying? How To Tell the Difference

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Hi, I’m Dr. Tracey Marks, a psychiatrist, and I make mental health education videos. Today, I’m talking about pathological lying, what it is and how it compares to normal lying.

Yes, there is such a thing as normal lying. There isn’t an established official definition for pathological lying because it’s not considered a mental disorder. Instead, it’s observed as a behavioral disturbance that’s present inside of other disorders, like some personality disorders, like antisocial personality disorder, and some brain disorders like Korsakoff’s syndrome, which is brain damage from alcohol. Pathological lying used to be called pseudologia fantastica.

I like saying that. And it referred to people who told multiple outrageous lies that would border on the fantastic. And those were more than just simple lies. These would include elaborate details that seem questionably believable, and when you challenge the person on the details, they tell even more lies to make the story work. The motive behind the lying wasn’t always clear, and sometimes it was just to impress people.

Now, there is a body of research on deception. Most of the early work was within a forensic context, usually looking at people who have committed crimes, but the more recent research has focused on non-criminal settings. And of that research, there has come this understanding of deception. Lying is defined as the deliberate attempt to get someone to believe something that you know is not true.

And there’s three types of lying: normal, prolific, and pathological.https://www.elle.com/culture/celebrities/a29688308/emma-watson-single-turning-30-interview/ Pathological lying is still seen as a different entity that takes lying to a different level, but normal lying and prolific lying were considered behaviors that were non-pathological. Normal lying was defined as telling less than five lies in a day. Now, before you think that seems excessive because “I hardly ever lie,” let’s take a look at how they broke down the lies.

In one of the studies that I have referenced in the description, they divided the lies into little lies and big lies using specific examples. These were considered little lies. Telling a lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings. For example, “No, your butt doesn’t look too big in those jeans.” Telling a lie to protect someone. “No, no, no, no. It wasn’t him.

I took the $500 cash from your drawer, sorry.” Telling a lie when you don’t like someone’s gift. “Oh yeah. I love those polka dots socks and the matching flannel panties. Thank you, yeah. Yeah, thanks.” Telling a lie to stop someone from finding out a secret. “Oh, Jenny’s abstaining from alcohol because she’s observing lent.” But really, Jenny’s from alcohol because she’s pregnant and she’s not ready to tell people yet.

And then telling a lie when a child wants something that he or she can’t have. “You can’t have that toy because it belongs to the boogeyman and he may get mad at you if you touch it.” Do any of these sound familiar as lies that you’ve told? These can be thought of as lies that are justified in some way because they serve a bigger purpose to protect someone. Now, these were considered big lies. Lies about whether or not you love someone, not telling your partner who you’ve really been with, not telling your partner where you’ve been, calling in sick when you feel fine, and considering it a mental health day, lying about whether you like someone, lying about how much money you’ve spent on someone, pretending you were too busy to take a call, saying that you haven’t had that much to drink when you really have, and telling someone they look good when they don’t. This is similar to the little lie of not admitting that someone looks fat.

In this case, you offer that someone really looks good when you know they don’t. They didn’t ask you so you could’ve kept it to yourself, but instead, you build them up with these false statements. So back to the difference between normal lying and prolific lying. On average, normal everyday lying was telling one to two little lies a day, and one big lie a week. Prolific lying was telling six little lies and three big lies in one day.

Hi, I’m Dr. Tracey Marks, a psychiatrist, and I make mental health education videos. Today, I’m talking about pathological lying, what it is and how it compares to normal lying.

Yes, there is such a thing as normal lying. There isn’t an established official definition for pathological lying because it’s not considered a mental disorder. Instead, it’s observed as a behavioral disturbance that’s present inside of other disorders, like some personality disorders, like antisocial personality disorder, and some brain disorders like Korsakoff’s syndrome, which is brain damage from alcohol. Pathological lying used to be called pseudologia fantastica.

I like saying that. And it referred to people who told multiple outrageous lies that would border on the fantastic. And those were more than just simple lies. These would include elaborate details that seem questionably believable, and when you challenge the person on the details, they tell even more lies to make the story work. The motive behind the lying wasn’t always clear, and sometimes it was just to impress people.

Relationships

Now, there is a body of research on deception. Most of the early work was within a forensic context, usually looking at people who have committed crimes, but the more recent research has focused on non-criminal settings. And of that research, there has come this understanding of deception. Lying is defined as the deliberate attempt to get someone to believe something that you know is not true.

And there’s three types of lying: normal, prolific, and pathological. Pathological lying is still seen as a different entity that takes lying to a different level, but normal lying and prolific lying were considered behaviors that were non-pathological. Normal lying was defined as telling less than five lies in a day. Now, before you think that seems excessive because “I hardly ever lie,” let’s take a look at how they broke down the lies.

In one of the studies that I have referenced in the description, they divided the lies into little lies and big lies using specific examples. These were considered little lies. Telling a lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings. For example, “No, your butt doesn’t look too big in those jeans.” Telling a lie to protect someone. “No, no, no, no. It wasn’t him.

I took the $500 cash from your drawer, sorry.” Telling a lie when you don’t like someone’s gift. “Oh yeah. I love those polka dots socks and the matching flannel panties. Thank you, yeah. Yeah, thanks.” Telling a lie to stop someone from finding out a secret. “Oh, Jenny’s abstaining from alcohol because she’s observing lent.” But really, Jenny’s from alcohol because she’s pregnant and she’s not ready to tell people yet.

And then telling a lie when a child wants something that he or she can’t have. “You can’t have that toy because it belongs to the boogeyman and he may get mad at you if you touch it.” Do any of these sound familiar as lies that you’ve told? These can be thought of as lies that are justified in some way because they serve a bigger purpose to protect someone. Now, these were considered big lies. Lies about whether or not you love someone, not telling your partner who you’ve really been with, not telling your partner where you’ve been, calling in sick when you feel fine, and considering it a mental health day, lying about whether you like someone, lying about how much money you’ve spent on someone, pretending you were too busy to take a call, saying that you haven’t had that much to drink when you really have, and telling someone they look good when they don’t. This is similar to the little lie of not admitting that someone looks fat.

In this case, you offer that someone really looks good when you know they don’t. They didn’t ask you so you could’ve kept it to yourself, but instead, you build them up with these false statements. So back to the difference between normal lying and prolific lying. On average, normal everyday lying was telling one to two little lies a day, and one big lie a week. Prolific lying was telling six little lies and three big lies in one day.

That’s a lot of deception and as such, prolific lying tend to result in more problems in the work setting and in relationships. An observation from the study that I thought was interesting was that they found that the prolific lying group tended to be younger, male, and had higher occupational status, like being in a managerial or supervisory position. Does this mean that chronic deception creates advantages over always being completely honest?

So both normal and prolific would be considered non-pathological, even though prolific can still cause problems. Pathological lying is more compulsive and the lies don’t have a clear motive or benefit. It can seem like lying for the sake of lying. Some people start to believe their lies and have trouble even knowing what the truth is.

When that happens, it’s pointless to challenge the person on their lies because they may have gotten so lost in the lies that they can’t even dig their way out. Because pathological lying has been poorly researched, we don’t have a good treatment protocol for it. There’s therapy to help increase the person’s insight into their lives and identify what triggers the behavior, and even help the person recognize that they’re getting a lying loop.

Believe it or not, for some people, it can become like ordinary talk and they don’t even see themselves as spinning a lot of lies. They just see it as talking, like storytelling. And what’s wrong with storytelling? So for that person, it could be helpful to help them recognize that their storytelling is harmful to others and themselves.

As for a medication approach, there isn’t a specific medication to keep people from lying. But if you treat the lying like a compulsion where the person becomes very anxious if they don’t lie, or uses the lies to compensate for some obsessional thinking that they have, then it’s possible that they may experience some improvement from taking an antidepressant similar to what we use for treating obsessive compulsive disorder. So that’s pathological lying. Thanks for watching.

See you next time.

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