10 Sneaky Signs You’re Dealing With A Pathological Liar

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When does lying become pathological?

They lie again and again. Dishonesty is their calling card. Sometimes they don’t even seem to know what is true and what is false.

Welcome to the world of pathological liars.

If you suspect someone of regularly lying to you, and you want to know whether they are doing so to conceal an indiscretion (which is not pathological because it is based on external motivation) or because this is simply how they function, look for some of the signs of pathological lying below.

1. Their stories are beyond belief.

If you often find yourself shaking your head in disbelief at some of the claims being made, it’s more likely that you are dealing with a pathological liar (less so a compulsive liar).

If they tell you how they dined with Tom Cruise or hold the world record for the number of chipolatas eaten in 60 seconds, it’s a big red flag.

2. Their lies contribute to their attention-seeking behavior.

If a person lies in order to direct the attention back toward themselves or it forms part of a more general need for attention, they could be a pathological liar.

Yet they may get attention in two very different ways, which are covered in points 3 and 4.

3. They lie to inflate themselves.

Rather than admit to their shortcomings or divulge information that might reveal a hard time they are having, they construct stories that paint their life and their character in a more positive light.


4. They lie to create a victim identity.

In order to garner sympathy and attention from others, they may tell regular falsehoods regarding unfortunate events that have befallen them. This could include illnesses, personal losses, maltreatment by others, or some horrible occurrence that has left them in physical or emotional pain.

5. They have poor self-esteem.

On its own, low self-esteem is not a sign of pathological or compulsive lying, but when observed alongside some of the other signs, it adds to the overall picture of a person’s lying ways.

Poor self-esteem may be more likely to indicate you’re dealing with a compulsive liar as it may be a crutch they use to hide their anxieties and insecurities.

6. They love to have the last word.

When you argue with a pathological liar, they will always want to have the last word. After all, if you stop arguing your point, they can claim victory and continue with their lie until it is challenged again.

As mentioned in our comparison above, compulsive liars might be more willing to admit to their lies, and so won’t be so keen on having the last word.

7. They are mentally quick on their feet.

In order to spin lies to different people, in different situations, they are typically very quick-minded and versatile in terms of the stories they tell. They can pull lies out of thin air and make them sound very convincing.

8. They backpedal and change stories to cover up lies.

If a lie has been uncovered, or they sense that one is about to be, they may change their statements and alter their stories. Only, if you point out that they said something different before, they will deny it and claim you misheard or misunderstood.

9. They lead unstable lives that are often full of drama.

As much as they may try to keep their lies hidden, most people eventually realize that something doesn’t add up.

Relationships break down, jobs are lost, and the pathological liar may find themselves moving between circles of friends and even different locations to find new unsuspecting victims to lie to.

10. They cannot keep secrets they’ve been told and like to gossip.

two women gossiping in an office setting

Because honesty is not a quality they care anything about, you are likely to hear a lot of details about other people – some of which will be personal secrets. Nothing is sacrosanct.

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.