A pathological liar is a person who compulsively tells lies or fabricates information. A pathological liar may not fully stand by reality and believe his own lies, often as an attempt to bargain for low self-esteem. To recognize a pathological liar, pay attention to his behavior. People may lie to attract attention or for personal gain. You may also see a lot of inconsistent stories. While pathological liars generally show little physical cues when lying, there are subtle changes in body language that indicate they are pathological liars. For example, he makes excessive eye contact. Also study his life history. Problems such as substance abuse and unstable relationships are also indications that a person is a pathological liar.
Method 1 of 3: Monitoring His Behavior
Step 1. Consider the nature of the lie you suspect
You may suspect that a friend, family member, or coworker is accustomed to exaggerating the truth. Pick a lie that you suspect and think about what it has in common. Pathological liars may lie to gain sympathy, out of boredom, or lack of confidence.
- Some pathological liars may actively seek sympathy in a situation. For example, they tend to exaggerate or fabricate illnesses, or to exaggerate minor problems in their lives.
- Pathological liars also have low self-esteem. They may lie to make themselves seem more important than they really are. They may exaggerate achievements in their personal or professional life in order to make their lives seem impressive.
- Some pathological liars lie simply out of boredom. They will fabricate events and devise lies to hurt others. This then creates drama which reduces the boredom in their life.
Step 2. Listen to whether he repeats other people's stories
Pathological liars are often caught lying. You will often hear him telling other people's stories as if he had experienced it himself. If any part of the story sounds familiar to you, remember whether you've heard the story before.
- You may hear a pathological liar repeat the stories of friends or family. He can also repeat stories from movies or television shows. In the pathological liar's version, the story may be spiced up a bit.
- For example, say your coworker tells you something that sounds familiar, but you're not sure where you've heard it. Then, you see a similar story on the news. If your coworker is a pathological liar, it's very likely that he or she took the story from the news and presented it as his own.
Step 3. Observe if he dodges the question
When confronted, the pathological liar may find a way not to answer the question. Pathological liars are natural manipulators, so you may think they have the answer when they really don't.
- For example, your friend reveals that his friendship with someone recently broke. You yourself find it difficult to make friends with him and wonder if his difficulty in making friends is indeed a pattern. Then you ask, "Why don't you ever talk to Eliza again?"
- He might respond with something like, "We haven't really spoken for a year." He didn't answer the question. To a direct question, he would probably dodge. For example, you might ask, "Are you angry with Eliza as much as you often get angry with me?" He might respond with, "Do you think I'm that kind of person?"
Step 4. Beware of manipulation
Pathological liars are experts at manipulating others. He tends to study other people to find ways to distract people from his lies. Pay attention to how the pathological liar interacts with you. Thus, you can detect subtle manipulations.
- Pathological liars often use sexual arousal as a tool of emotional manipulation. If you are attracted to a pathological liar, he may seduce you when confronted about his lies.
- He will also study you carefully and know where your limits are. Pathological liars can tell who will believe which lies. For example, he may realize that you will not believe lies about illness, but will believe lies about emotional problems. You may hear him talking to other people and making claims about aches and pains, but not mentioning the illness to you.
Step 5. See how she reacts when caught lying
No pathological liar is the same. However, most will react aggressively when caught lying. If someone seems angry in response to an accusation of lying, you may be dealing with a pathological liar.
- Pathological liars can be very defensive. He may blame someone else. For example, "I had to make up that excuse because our boss is so tough."
- Maybe he will also create a new lie to cover the previous lie. For example, "No, I did use the money to fix the car, but I also used half of it for weekly shopping. I forgot to tell you when I stopped by the store."
- He was also angry when he was caught red-handed. Maybe he'll get angry and scream, or start crying for sympathy.
Method 2 of 3: Observing His Body Language
Step 1. Pay attention to his eye contact
Many people assume that pathological liars don't want to make eye contact. The typical liar generally avoids eye contact, but this is not the case with pathological liars. On the other hand, you may notice too much eye contact. This is his attempt to appear trustworthy.
- Pathological liars may not break eye contact while speaking. Though, averting glances occasionally in a conversation is normal. However, a pathological liar will look you in the eye during a conversation.
- Perhaps you will also notice the faint hint of deceit in his eyes. A pathological liar's pupils dilate slightly, and he blinks slowly.
Step 2. Notice if he seems too relaxed
When a normal person lies, he or she may move restlessly and show other signs of nervousness. In contrast, pathological liars feel almost no guilt when they lie. Therefore, he was almost too relaxed when he lied. A pathological liar may appear very outgoing and easygoing. Even if you know he's lying, he may not show any signs of being bothered or nervous.
- For example, you hear a coworker tell you something at lunch. Then, relaxing in the office, the pathological liar repeats the same story as if it were happening to him.
- Even though you know he's lying, he doesn't seem bothered at all. He told the story without any hint of guilt or anxiety and seemed very relaxed. If you don't know the truth, you might just believe it.
Step 3. Pay attention to the tone of voice
Small changes in tone of voice can be an indication of lying. Not all pathological liars change their tone of voice, but some do. Changes in tone of voice, combined with other symptoms, can signal a pathological liar.
- You may notice a slight change in the pitch of the voice. The voice of a pathological liar may be higher or lower when lying.
- Pathological liars may also lick their lips or drink while they talk. The stress of lying can trigger adrenaline or constrict the vocal cords so they need water.
Step 4. Observe her smile
Even though a pathological liar doesn't display typical body language when lying, he or she may display a fake smile. A smile is very hard to fake, so pay attention to his mouth. When someone smiles sincerely, you will see changes in all parts of their face. The corners of his eyes will frown. If the smile is fake, the only visible change is near the mouth.
Method 3 of 3: Assessing the Risk Factor
Step 1. Find the secret habit
If this person has a problem with substance abuse, gambling, overeating, or other destructive behavior, he or she is most likely a pathological liar.
- For example, suppose you notice a coworker drinking heavily at a company party. You see him add drinks when no one else is at the bar, or even see him bring his own bottle.
- You may also notice that you never see a coworker at lunch, but occasionally find evidence of food in his office. He may keep his eating habits a secret, and often refuses offers to have lunch with colleagues.
Step 2. Consider whether he lives in reality
Pathological liars are often out of touch with reality. Usually he himself also believed some of his lies. He may have delusions about himself as well as his own abilities.
- Pathological liars may have a tendency to exaggerate their own worth. Maybe he sees something mundane, like a compliment from a boss, as a sign of personal greatness. When repeating the compliment, he may be exaggerating it.
- Pathological liars may not have the basic skills to live life, but don't see that as a problem.
Step 3. Think about how you relate to other people
Pathological liars tend to have unstable relationships. Consider whatever you know about this person's relationship history. Look for signs of instability.
- Does he have a stable friendship or love relationship? Having no long-term friends and a string of failed love stories can signal a pathological liar.
- In addition, pathological liars may have strained relationships with their families.
Step 4. Learn about his career
Pathological liars tend to pretend with their ability to get a job. There may be many jobs listed on his CV. However, most are short term. Maybe he's also dodging the question of why certain jobs don't last.
- For example, pathological liars have long CVs. Most of the work is short-lived. If you ask about his career, he will dodge.
- In some cases, pathological liars may move frequently due to sudden job changes. He often leaves problems with superiors.
- Know that you will never get a consistent story when you talk to a pathological liar.
- Remember that pathological liars usually exaggerate everything they say, so don't take it for granted.
- Constant lying is a form of lack of appreciation. And a person who always lies does not need to be trusted or considered a true friend.
- If you care about him, remind him often that he doesn't have to lie to be perfect. Name some of your own shortcomings and failures in life.
- If you suspect someone is lying to cover up illegal activity, consider contacting the authorities.
- You can push someone into therapy to deal with their lying problem, but you can't force them to. In fact, you may have a hard time getting him to accept that his habit of lying is a problem, much less convincing him that it should be treated.