20 Signs Someone You Know Is A Pathological Liar

Pathological liars don't just lie for lying's sake.

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A good friend of mine had the grave misfortune of dating a pathological liar. Like many toxic people out there, the signs of a pathological liar weren't obvious at first. They seemed to be pretty cool and, if anything, appeared to have a rough life that involved a lot of tragedy and wild adventures.

We loved to hear their stories and just enjoyed being around them. Then, the drama started. First, they claimed one girl was stalking them. She had no idea who they were, and this made my friend start to wonder if she got the story wrong. Next, they started to spread rumors about my friend — bad ones.


Trouble continued to brew and my friend started to second-guess herself. Eventually, word got out that they were a pathological liar. She dumped them, but the damage was done.

Pathological liars are rare to find, but not that rare. There’s still a pretty decent chance you might know one, and if you notice certain signs, you can figure out that they're a pathological liar before it’s too late.

What is a pathological liar?

Pathological lying, also known as mythomania and pseudologia fantastica, is defined as "a chronic behavior in which the person habitually or compulsively lies."

One study defined pathological lying as “a persistent, pervasive, and often compulsive pattern of excessive lying behavior that leads to clinically significant impairment of functioning in social, occupational, or other areas; causes marked distress; poses a risk to the self or others; and occurs for longer than six months.”


RELATED: 7 Subtle-But-Noticeable Signs Someone's Lying To You

Pathological liars behave in this way because of low self-esteem or a false sense of self. They want to create a view that is positive of them or present themselves in a way that makes them look appealing to others.

Pathological lying is different from other types of lying (like habitual lying, compulsive lying, white lies, or occasional lying) because pathological liars live in a false sense of self, while other types of liars know right from wrong.


What causes someone to lie pathologically?

There isn't much science behind pathological liars and why they act the way they do. It isn't clear if pathological lying is a condition itself or a symptom of another condition.

However, there are many theories of what causes someone to lie pathologically:

  • Habit or compulsion: Pathological liars may lie out of habit or feel the need to lie.
  • Personality disorder: Some personality disorders may also cause pathological lying, including antisocial, narcissistic, and histrionic personality disorders.
  • Munchausen syndrome: Pathological lying could be a symptom of Munchausen syndrome. Munchausen is a "rare psychological and behavioral condition in which somebody fabricates or induces symptoms of illness in themselves."
  • Childhood trauma: Childhood trauma could incite people to pathologically lie because they need the love or attention they didn't get as a child. Or, they could have endured tragedy that caused them to create a fantasy.

Speaking as someone who has come across them in the past, these are the most common signs you’re dealing with someone who is a pathological liar.

20 Signs Of A Pathological Liar

1. You catch them telling others little white lies, just because they can.

The funny thing about pathological liars is that they don’t just lie about big things — it’s small things too. They just lie for lying’s sake. As a result, this is the most telltale sign that they're a pathological liar and might also be clinically diagnosed.


2. They tell you stories that you can literally prove wrong.

Pathological liars don't care about reality, they care about lying. This move is one of the most common ways that pathological liars gaslight victims and is often the first step for a pathological liar to become abusive.

3. Multiple people have warned you about their lying habits.

Though this is not always the case, the majority of the time when people warn you about someone, it’s for good reason. If multiple different people warn you that they're a liar, chances are that the warnings are legit.

RELATED: 10 Undeniable Signs Of A Manipulative Man

4. Their stories change all the time.

With all the tall tales pathological liars weave, it’s impossible to keep up with all the little details. If their stories change details, chances are they're lying regularly.


5. Any excuses they come up with don’t really make sense.

Ever notice how liars tend to mix up excuses or use lame ideas to defend their tales? Pathological liars do that pretty commonly too.

6. They're terrible at keeping in touch.

Pathological liars aren’t just liars in most cases; they’re cheaters or are straight-up living double lives. This makes keeping in touch pretty difficult in many situations, which is why this is a major warning sign you should watch out for.

7. At first, everything seems too perfect.

If there’s one thing that these kinds of people are talented at, it’s making a first impression. They have this ability to appear downright angelic and perfect at first glance. However, you know the old saying: if it appears too good to be true, it probably is.

8. They always seek attention and can’t stay away from the spotlight.

Attention-seeking behavior and compulsive lying tend to go hand in hand, primarily because this type of liar usually starts doing it as a way to get the attention they never got from their family. They will bend the truth, fish for compliments, and just do what they can to stand out.


9. You get the vibe that their self-esteem is pretty low.

For all the posturing and bragging pathological liars do, they don’t think highly of themselves. As a result, they lie so they can become the person they wish they could be. If you notice signs of low self-esteem combined with lies that aren’t sensible, they're a pathological liar.

10. No matter how hard you try, you can’t get them to confront the truth when they're caught in a lie.

Pathological liars double down on their tall tales and, at times, will even lash out violently when they’re caught. Should you notice that they refuse to acknowledge the truth, it’s time to run. It will only get worse from here.

11. When you ask certain questions, they get defensive.

Pathological liars need to keep their reality intact. As a result, if you get close to the truth or ask a question that could lead you to the truth, a pathological liar will most likely get aggressively defensive.

12. When you call them out on a lie, they ask you to repeat yourself or ask you a random question.

Believe it or not, this is a tactic that is used by both politicians and pathological liars. The goal here is to stall you so that they can think of an appropriate answer for you.


13. You notice that they lack empathy for others, but seem so sweet to you.

Though this is not always the case, pathological liars are often sociopaths that use their lying to manipulate others. If you notice they have no empathy for anyone but you, understand that they're not actually empathetic toward you either.

RELATED: 5 Different Types Of Lies You Tell Without Even Noticing

14. You’ve started to question yourself more.

This is the biggest side effect of hanging out with a pathological liar. Trust me, it’s not you; it’s them.

15. You find yourself feeling manipulated or used, even though you can’t prove it.

Most people who are in the company of a pathological liar will eventually feel manipulated and used, even though they may not always have proof of it. If you’re getting that vibe, they may be a pathological liar.


16. For reasons unbeknownst to you, people treat you differently.

If this happens, watch out! Pathological liars often will stir up drama for drama’s sake, and that means they may be lying about you to other people. If you notice this, it may be time to talk to people to find out what’s going on.

17. They show no remorse when caught in a lie.

This is the “pathological” aspect of pathological lying, I’d wager. People who habitually lie don’t show remorse.

18. They've been known to cancel dates at the last minute or get very flaky.

Do they suddenly drop off the face of the Earth for no apparent reason? This could be a sign they're a pathological liar, simply because most people who have this condition also hide addictions, including an addiction to sex or cheating.

19. Their personality changes with the people they're around.

Though we all have this trait, with pathological liars it’s more pronounced. This is because pathological liars need to have people see themselves as perfect, and everyone’s idea of perfection is different.


20. You have heard (or know) that they have an addiction of some sort.

Pathological liars are very rarely, if ever, liars for lying’s sake alone. They often are hiding addictions or a severe personality disorder that trigger the lying.

RELATED: 5 Common Reasons He's Not Telling You The Truth

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, New Theory Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter for more.