Pseudologia fantasica sounds kind of sexy. Guess again. This behavior confounds those who do not have it. In most cases, pseudologia fantasica costs sufferers friends, jobs and even family relationships. Do you know anyone with pseudologia fantastica?
Mythomania has been documented in medical literature since 1891. Perhaps, you know it by its common name.
Pseudologia fantastica is habitual or compulsive lying. The lies are more prevalent than the truth, even when telling the truth would bring about the same result. They are often complicated and are built into a large web. Mythomania can progress over a few years or for a lifetime.
Although it is not listed as a separate disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, some members of the psychiatric community advocate its admission when it can be separated from disorders with a lying component, such as malingering or Munchhausen syndrome.
The main characteristic of the pathological liar’s falsehoods are they contain an element of truth. The lies are generally plausible. They have no basis in delusion or other psychosis. Even if the liar is not comfortable or willing, when confronted with the lies, they will admit their prevarication.
These liars are not prompted by immediate stimuli or social pressure to lie. Instead, the tendency is innate urge to steer away from the truth. Pseudologia fantastica is also not a phase. It is long-lasting, and not generally associated with any age group or developmental stage, although its onset is noticed most often in the mid- to late teens. Pathological liars do not grow out of it.
The cause for the lying is an internal one, as opposed to an external social pressure. An example of an external pressure is domestic abuse. Victims will habitually lie about the abuse, but the lying is to avoid social judgment. Pseudologues have a clinically definitive internal mechanism at the root of their lying.
Another aspect of the pathological lie is making the liar look better. The lies portray the liar as more intelligent, more adept, fearless or associated with celebrities. Tales and exaggerations about bravery or over emphasis of the liar’s role in an emergency are commonplace. These types of lies are generally associated with low self esteem.
Pseudologia fantastica can also be a symptom of false memory syndrome. The lies will center around an event, and the liar’s exaggerated role in it, which exists only in fantasy. The pathological liar will believe the event, despite its implausibility and proof otherwise.
Since lying is natural to the pseudologue, there are no real indicators what is said is a lie. Almost none of the telltale signs of lying are present.
- Fidgeting (playing with objects)
- Disguised smile
- Fillers (uh, um, er)
- No head movement
- Slower speed (indicating plotting)
- Heightened voice pitch
- Lowered body language (hand and facial movement do not match verbiage)
The pathological liar rarely sees what they are saying as a lie. It is the natural answer to the question, which is why they do not exhibit the natural side effects of lying.
Paying the piper is inevitable for the pathological liar. The toll on relationships is heavy because pseudologia fantastica shatters trust. The pathological liar tells lies out of habit and about all things great or small. Their natural response to questions is a concoction of fantasy or a commingling of falsehood and fact.
Pseudologues will try anything to support their lies. When faced with the truth, they will change the story in an effort to convince those confronting them the fantasy is reality. This behavior is alienating to the ones who identify the lies.
Pseudologia fantastica has not been studied in isolation to determine if pharmacology could be a treatment for it. Since habitual lying is a symptom of other major disorders, like narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathic disorder, often psychologists and psychiatrist look for other sources of the lying.
Have you ever known or been a pathological liar? How does habitual lying damage relationships? Can you think of another situation where pseudologia fantasica is commonplace?
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(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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