A pathological liar is someone who constantly lies without much awareness. They have a false sense of reality and will never admit they’re liars. They lie to gain things, change stories, get their way and are superb exaggerators.
A compulsive liar, on the other hand, lies out of habit. They lie about everything, big or small. They lie for no apparent reason, and sometimes, telling the truth is awkward and uncomfortable. Many times, they find it easier to avoid confrontations with facts. When I made the journo request to interview a compulsive or pathological liar, I doubted that I’d find someone willing to talk to me. That was until I got a WhatsApp message from Rebecca*. Rebecca, 25, believes she’s a compulsive liar, and she told me her story.
How and when did you discover you were a compulsive liar?
I’ve always been aware that it’s easier for me to lie than tell the truth, even when I don’t need to. I’m the type of person that can come up with a lie on the spot, even if it’s not a well thought out lie. Other times, I know how to plan my lies effectively so people don’t know I’m lying, which frequently involves creatively coming up with stories. But it wasn’t until the beginning of 2021 that I realised it was a problem I had.
What made you realise it was a problem?
I started dating someone, and I didn’t want to lie to this person. What made me realise my lying was a big issue was that it was hard for me not to lie to them. Not lying should be a normal thing, and it shouldn’t be difficult. After this, I started thinking about all the lies I had told in the past, and that’s when I knew I had a problem.
Why don’t you want to lie to your boyfriend specifically? What about everyone else in your life?
I don’t want to lie to him because of how deeply I care about him. For the first time in my life, I’m with someone who loves and will do anything for me. It wouldn’t be fair to lie to such a person. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel bad when I lie to my friends or family members, but that has never been enough to stop me.
What type of lies have you told your family members?
I think one of the biggest lies I’ve told a family member is that I was suicidal. My guardian had been complaining about how distant I was from everyone in the family, and how I never spoke and always kept to myself. She struggled to understand why I was the way I was. One day, I told her it was because I was depressed and had been thinking about ending my life. The truth is, I was depressed, but I wasn’t suicidal. I’m fond of infusing my lies with the truth.
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I’m curious to know how the whole suicidal thing went.
My family got me help in the form of a therapist that I spoke to weekly. He eventually diagnosed me with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. The bipolar diagnosis confused me because I didn’t think I was bipolar. I never felt like I was. This made me see another therapist, and he confirmed that I wasn’t.
Why do you infuse your lies with the truth?
I do it because I think it makes the lies more believable. It also makes me feel less guilty. I felt bad about the suicidal lie, but at least my family found out about my depression and got me help, so some good came out of it. I definitely could have gone about it differently, though.
Do you lie on a daily basis?
No, and that’s why I didn’t consider my lying for the longest time. The majority of my lies are things like lying to my parents about where I’m going, even when there’s no need to lie. Other times, I just exaggerate some stories that I tell my friends about things that happen to me or make up some stories from scratch. I’ve also lied to my bosses, past and present, to get days off or resign.
I once told my boss I had a serious illness that required long term care and had to resign. I told her I was sad about leaving, but the doctor said I wasn’t allowed to do anything that would stress me, and that included work. Now that I think about it, I could have just said I was no longer interested. I felt terrible that I lied like that, mainly because she felt sorry for me and prayed for me constantly. She even told me I could take a sabbatical and return, but I said no.
I haven’t even told you about the time I lied to my ex-boyfriend about being pregnant for him. He had just broken up with me at the time, and I wanted to get his attention and see if he still cared about me. When I told him, he offered to pay for an abortion, but I told him no and that I wanted to do another test first. I didn’t want his money; I just wanted his attention mostly. Days later, I told him the other test I took was negative. And that was the end of it. I even told some of my friends. I don’t know why I did that. I guess I was sad and I wanted some form of affectionate attention.
Actually, I think the biggest lie I’ve ever told is that I have a ceratin disorder, even though I haven’t been diagnosed. Although I truly believe I have this disorder, I just don’t have the money to see a specialist to diagnose me. But I lie that I’ve been diagnosed so as to not look stupid.
Why do you lie? What pushes you to lie?
There isn’t one single reason why I lie if I’m being honest. Sometimes I lie just because I think it’s easier than telling the truth. Like when I lie to my parents or my friends. For example, sometimes I lie about songs I’ve listened to or movies I’ve watched. Other times I lie for attention or to make my life seem more interesting like when I lie about men hitting on me to make my boyfriend jealous. Other times I just lie for no reason. There’s no particular process, nothing special goes through my head when I’m about to lie, it just happens.
Why did you decide to do this interview?
Because this is my chance to speak to someone about it. Someone who has no connection to me whatsoever. Having a problem and having no one to talk to about it can be frustrating. I stopped therapy a while ago because it got expensive, but I don’t even think this is something I would have mentioned to my therapist. So when someone in a WhatsApp group I’m on, mentioned that a writer was looking to interview a pathological or compulsive liar, I thought it was weird. But I decided to reach out to the person because I saw this as my opportunity to have a chance to speak to someone and get some of the guilt off my chest.
I feel bad for all the lies I tell. I really do. Even though many of them aren’t exactly lies that hurt people, they’re still lies. But I can’t help myself. Even with my boyfriend, he’s the person I least lie to, but once in a while I still lie to him about minor things and I hate it. I need help. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to help myself or if I’ll ever get any help from anyone. But I know I need help.
Aren’t you worried that your family or people you know might see this?
I am, and that’s why I was very particular about the situations I told you about and why I wasn’t very descriptive. My family and my ex aren’t on social media, so I know they won’t see this. And if they somehow do, I’ll lie my way out of it.