About the Compulsive Liar Syndrome
I would refrain from giving a single-line definition of a compulsive liar as it is very important to have a complete understanding of the complex nature of the disorder. It is a condition in which lying becomes a habit with the individual concerned. Such a person lies with unbelievable ease and seems to find comfort in it. Even if he is provided with hard facts, he would never acknowledge that he is lying. In fact, making him confess to his lies is next to impossible as lying feels right to him. A compulsive liar would feel awkward in telling the truth and would have no scruples of conscience about lying to one and all and about any situation however big or small. In fact, like other addictions (like those of alcohol or drugs), lying becomes an addiction for a compulsive liar and serves as an escape from discomfort. The compulsive lying is not a disorder in itself but is usually a symptom of some larger personality disorder. This makes the treatment more complicated.
Pathological Liar Disorder Vs. Compulsive Liar Disorder
In both types, an individual lies with great ease and at all situations. However, the major difference between a pathological liar and a compulsive liar is that while a pathological liar would lie to manipulate people, a compulsive liar lies more out of habit and never with the intention of gaining personal benefits out of the act. In contrast to compulsive liars, pathological liars are cunning and self-centered individuals who would lie to meet their interests.
There are certain typical symptoms that would help in identifying people with such a disorder:
- Behavioral Attributes: As already discussed, these people lie on a regular basis and with great ease. They can lie on any subject and to any person without considering the effect or outcome of the lies.
- Low Self-esteem: This is one of the trademark symptoms of compulsive lying. Compulsive liars lie and try to build a persona that would help them to come out of their inferiority complex.
- Compulsive Attention Seeker: A person suffering from the disorder needs constant attention and he uses his lies to achieve the same end.
- Addictions: Look out for addictions to gambling and alcohol in a person that you think is suffering.
- Incoherent Behavior: Compulsive liars often sound incoherent with their statements as they get confused with their own web of lies. This happens as they don't make false statements with the intent of achieving personal gains. It's just out of habit.
- Other Personality Disorders: People with this lying disorder very commonly have other negative personality traits like narcissistic personality disorder, better known as narcissism. They may also suffer from bipolar disorder in which they oscillate between depression and mania.
There isn't a specific test to detect obsessive compulsive lying disorder. Although sometimes polygraph tests are resorted to, they test just the physiological changes that the body undergoes while a person lies. However, the result of these tests can't be relied on. The best test is one's own judgment. A good understanding of the syndrome and its symptoms is the best way to detect a compulsive liar.
Compulsive lying is still a baffling complication for doctors who are trying to find some concrete cure for it. This however, does not mean that there is no treatment for this disorder. The first and foremost requirement for compulsive liar treatment is the individual's will to cooperate. As already discussed, people who suffer from this disorder are incapable of understanding that they are lying. It is near to impossible to make them admit that what they say is not the truth. This is the first hurdle that needs to be overcome for the successful treatment of compulsive lying.
In most cases, the disorder is the result of some other psychiatric illness. The treatment of this illness results in curing the symptoms. The treatment usually includes medications that deal with some of the symptoms. For the rest, counseling is used. For those with no psychiatric problems underlying their disorder, counseling is the only option. During these sessions, a counselor explains the impact of lying on the individual as well as on those around him. He may also use the technique of role-playing to treat the disorder.
Compulsive lying disorder in children is just as common as it is in adults. However, most of the time, it is dismissed as childish behavior. This disorder causes problems not only for the individual but for those around him as well. Treatment is available. But it would be successful if only the individual volunteers to co-operate.