Everyone has told a lie. People deal with hundreds of lies every day, but most of them are harmless. Unfortunately, some people make a habit of lying and for no real good reason at all. This is known as compulsive lying.

You may also hear it called pathological lying. Compulsive and pathological lying are often used interchangeably, but they do have differences. One noteworthy difference is that pathological liars have ulterior motives, while compulsive liars don’t maliciously intend to deceive. Pathological liars lie to gain something or to cover up bad behavior. Compulsive liars lie out of habit or to make themselves look better.

Neither type is good, but let’s talk about compulsive liars here.

Compulsive liars, while they may not have ill intentions with their lies, still cause and face serious consequences. When you’ve developed the habit of lying and people around you know about it, it can ruin your relationships, career, and reputation. It’s hard to deal with compulsive liars, and in time others will avoid them.

Watch For the Tell-Tale Signs of a Compulsive Liar

How do you know if you’re a compulsive liar? How can you tell when someone is lying compulsively? Here are some of the signs.

They Seem to Have Dealt with Lots of Life Challenges and Exaggerate Often

Compulsive liars seem to have gone through all the hardships in the world. They’ve lost a job, broken up with their partner, or changed their circle of friends multiple times, among others. You may not have observed these complications in their life, and only heard their stories. They could all be a part of their web of lies.

Speaking of stories, compulsive liars tend to exaggerate too. When retelling a story, they tend to add embellishments. You may also notice how they’re enjoying telling other people’s stories to share the gossip. This brings us to the next item.

They Can’t Keep a Secret

Compulsive liars can’t be trusted with a secret. They just can’t keep it, because they like to gossip. Things you tell them in confidence will spread in no time.

They Turn Other People’s Stories Into Their Own

They may tell your story without attribution when they gossip. If the story is good and gets attention, they might even make it about themselves next time!

They Can Quickly Cover-Up Inconsistencies in Past Lies

You know someone is lying when you detect inconsistencies in their stories. Compulsive liars though are very quick thinkers. Because lying is a habit there is little remorse, they can patch up inconsistencies in their past lies and often get away with it.

They Can Become Defensive and Avoid Questions

When you confront a compulsive liar, they instantly shift to defensive mode. They may blame others for their lies or get angry at you for even suspecting them.

Asking questions is one way you can confirm whether someone is lying. Compulsive liars avoid questions so they will not be caught out. When you ask them questions, they tend to divert them, answer indirectly, or create another lie.

Even when you have evidence of them lying, they never admit the truth. They deny even the most irrefutable facts, saying that you’re mistaken. They may even come up with another lie or tell you they know better.

They Lack Empathy

Compulsive liars lack empathy. Although their intent may not be malicious, they still don’t care how their lies will impact others. Lying has become second nature to them and they become far more focused on the telling of the lie rather than on the consequences it will have.

How to Stop Compulsive Lying

If you can see that you are a compulsive liar, admitting that you have a problem is the first step towards recovery. Once you recognize the issue, you should take the steps to change your behavior. Like overcoming any bad habit, it requires mindfulness and practice.

It may be necessary to seek professional treatment. Depending on underlying and contributing causes, options include psychotherapy, counseling, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). You also need to have a support system, ideally from your family or those you truly trust.

On the other hand, if you know a compulsive liar, you can also do a few things to help them stop their habit of lying. For one, remember that they don’t lie all the time, so try to learn how to determine their truths from their lies. Giving them the support they need can encourage them to be more honest and avoid lying.

It’s also important not to enable their lying. Set boundaries and know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Encourage them to get professional help and provide them with a support system.