I think I'm a pathological liar (or something similar) I can make up these stories in my head and have memories of things that never happened because of how detailed it is. I constantly tell my friends things that aren't true and I know it's wrong but I can't stop myself. I'm scared it'll get worse and nobody will trust me but I don't know what to do. I've tried to stop and I don't mean it, I really don't. It just happens
Thank you for reaching out to us! I’m sorry you have been struggling with this and that it has this effect on you.
I do think that realising that you are doing this and/or realising that this is a problem is a great first step. Although I can’t diagnose you as I’m not a professional, it does sound possible to me that what you are struggling with is compulsive lying. The DSM doesn’t classify this as a disorder, but it does classify it as a symptom of Factitious Disorder. I have listed the symptoms of this disorder below, however, even if you are struggling with compulsive lying it doesn’t mean that you automatically have Factitious Disorder, as it seems like it can also exist on its own.
- Making up physical or psychological signs or symptoms or causing injury or disease with the deliberate intention to deceive.
- Pretending to be sick or injured or to be having problems functioning.
- Continuing with the deception, even without receiving any visible benefit or reward.
- Behaviour is not better explained by another mental disorder, such as a delusional disorder or another psychotic disorder.
Although in Factitious Disorder the lying is solely about health and injuries, your compulsive lying could (at least partially) still be due to that if you also make up lies about your health.
The symptoms for Compulsive Lying itself are:
- The stories told are not entirely improbable and often have some element of truth. They are not a manifestation of delusion or some broader type of psychosis: upon confrontation, the teller can admit them to be untrue, even if unwillingly.
- The fabricative tendency is long lasting; it is not provoked by the immediate situation or social pressure as much as it is an innate trait of the personality.
- A definitely internal, not an external, motive for the behaviour can be discerned clinically: e.g., long-lasting extortion or habitual spousal battery might cause a person to lie repeatedly, without the lying being a pathological symptom.
- The stories told tend toward presenting the liar favourably. For example, the person might be presented as being fantastically brave, knowing or being related to many famous people.
The first thing that I would recommend is going to see a therapist. A therapist can help you find out why you started lying and why you find it hard to stop. If you are under 18 it may be a bit harder if you feel uncomfortable telling someone about this (although you absolutely don’t have to be ashamed about this). However, I do still really recommend trying to find a therapist, especially one whom you trust so that you dare to tell them about your compulsive lying, in case you feel ashamed.
Apart from telling a therapist, you may also want to tell your family and friends about this. Although this can certainly be scary because you will have to tell them that you lie(d), there will hopefully be some people who are supportive of you. This may make it harder to lie and may give you more of a reason to not lie. Also, when you do lie, it gives you the opportunity to set that straight later. Lastly, your friends and family can also help you, either by putting you in situations in which you can’t lie or by making you aware of when you are lying (if they are able to figure that out) and by just being there for you.
Something that you can do yourself, without therapy is setting small goals for yourself. If there is something that you lie about all the time, you may want to have telling the truth about that certain thing to someone who is new/doesn’t know the lie yet, as a goal. Or you can set a goal for how long to go without lying. If you are really struggling with this, you can also try to at least decrease the number of lies you are telling, and you may find it helpful to create a list with reasons as to why you should not lie. For example, you are worried it will ruin your reputation, you hate the feeling you get afterwards, etc.
Lastly, try to find out why it is you lie and then try to fulfil those ‘needs’ in other ways. It can be hard to find out the reason why, but I do think there almost always is one that can (and should) be met in another way.
I hope this helps! <3