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« Tools of the New Laws of Healing: Extra Reading | Main | The Status Syndrome »

April 03, 2006


Susan Biddulph

Dear Dr.
I co-habitate with someone that I think is a pathological liar. He fits all the descriptions. My question is. does this commonly accompany OCD ?
Thank you

Richard Petty

Dear Susan,

Thank you so much for your note.

Pathological lying does not commonly accompany OCD, although there is some evidence that they occur together more often than you would expect by chance alone.

Several years ago a colleague who is one of the world's foremost experts on impulsivity suggested that both OCD and behaviors - including pathological lying - might all be the result of an imbalance in the amount of serotonin in the frontal lobes of the brain.

I've always found pathological lying is a lot harder to treat than OCD, because most of the liars either don't want to stop, or fabricate false memories. So they may not realize what they are doing.

It can be very hard living with someone who has either problem, and I wish you both the very best.

Kind regards,


Kathy R

As someone who is divorcing a chronic liar (he has been released from his psychiatrist and the mental health facility AMA, for non-compliance with his treatment plan, has been removed for non-compliance from 5 transitional/halfway houses for mentally ill/susbstance abuse recovery, his disorder is well documented, if not recognized in the DSM-IV), I have found that the only way to interact with this person is to presume that EVERYTHING he says is a lie, and accept it. I began using this approach a little over a year ago (we have been separated nearly 2 years) and was pleasantly surprised at how peaceful my life became when I no longer was disappointed by the lies (rather, I had expected them). I created a life where I did not depend on anything he said, and I now believe that this is the only way I will ever be able to interact peacably with him. I thought I might share this with others.


Hi Kathy R,
I am married to someone who is a chronic liar and it centers around finances. Needless to say it has been impossible to live with. I'm wondering what treatments are out there if someone is open to it? Thank you for what you wrote,
Diana K.


Hi Kathy R,
I am married to someone who is a chronic liar and it centers around finances. Needless to say it has been impossible to live with. I'm wondering what treatments are out there if someone is open to it? Thank you for what you wrote,
Diana K.


i have worked and dated with a girl for 2 yr and she is a pathological liar big time!...i have caught her so many times i couldnt believe it...she would invite me over to her house and on friday there would always be an exuse why i cant come over...but on monday i would find out from either a coworker or even her own daughter that she did some thing completely different.....why wouldnt she just tell me she was going to a friends house!!! iwould have said problem....i fell in love with her,,but the last time she ditched me i found out from her daughter that she was with another guy...that really hurt me bad ..i was supposed to go over for a bbq and once again at the last minute i was told some story about her dad coming to take her daughter up to there place...and she will call me in a couple of hours...never heard from her by 9 pm so called her...her daughter answered and told me her mom was up stairs watching a movie wih a guy and that they are going to the zoo on the saturday iwas supposed to be there! i have been there many times and have alot of fun..but that was the last on monday i asked her why she didnt just be honest with me and she freaked out wouldnt look at me and lied 2 times while we were arguing.. i was crushed that she would not even admit she totally lied and said she didnt think she owed me an apology...she said she didnt like the fact her daughter told me the truth and now acts like i was the problem....very upsetting to say the least....i like my job and would never quit but it is very! awkward now ..people at work are going to notice we dont speak and will ask why....i a scared she will bad mouth me some how and get me in trouble with her lies....any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.....

Richard Petty

Thank you very much for each of your comments.

People who have never encountered a pathological liar are usually incredulous when they hear accounts like these. Yet they are all true. Pathological liars can burn out the people around them including their therapists.

The biggest problem, and it runs through these accounts, is that most of them do not even realize that they are doing it. It is not the same as people who tell tall stories to try and make themselves look good. Real pathological liars are usually insightless, and so they also refuse treatment.

I was recently approached by someone who wanted to make a documentary about pathological lying. It was a well though out and extremely worthwhile project. The problem was this. Despite contacting every major expert in the US and the UK, we could not find any pathological liars who would appear on camera. We have made documentaries with every other kind of severe illness, but could not persuade a single pathological liar to cooperate.

The people who wrote these accounts will be able to relate to that. They will not admit to the problem, and instead blame everyone around them. In a recent case, someone was let go from a job for, amongst other things, lying about credentials, falsifying a CV and then lying on the job. The response was to say that the employer had done all the fabrication!

If you are not a professional it is usually wise to assume that everything is untrue and work backwards. It is also important to realize that these people have an illness, but that they can drag you down.

Treatment is extremely difficult. Not only does the genuine pathological liar deny that anything is wrong, but any attempt at dismantling their falsehoods can be profoundly distressing to them. The lies are often defense mechanisms.

Some experts have reported success with psychotherapy, but the problem is engaging the individual because they do not see the need for help.

Kind regards,



I just ended a relationship due to someone who lied to me very much. I had been dating this man for a year off and on and just found out he has a wife and a girlfriend. When I met him he told me he was NOT married and had NOT been married for three years. He lied to me even about a kidney transplant, telling me the kidney he had belonged to his mother. After having a conversation with his soon to be ex-wife I found out the kidney belongs to his father in-law. He lied to me about where he lived, gave me his brothers address. I confronted him and he still lied about his address. I even told him I had proof and he got really angry with me. He lied about his two step-children. He said they never lived with him and I found out they lived with him 24/7. Now that I found out the truth he is very angry with me and told lies about me.

Jon Bentley

Dear Dr: For over a year now I have been assisting and investing hundreds of hours of talk with a young woman who displayed all the earmarks of a Multiple. I managed to convince her to seek professional help with the threat of avoiding her and ending our friendship. I also convinced her to get an appointment with a OB GYN for she said she had not seen one since she was 14. She is now 34. She told the most horrific stories sexual abuse at the hand of her parents who turned out to be her grandparents and one of her sisters was in fact her mother. There was a large scale community of pedophiles and abusers in authority so she never could get help. Eight months of her getting treatment with her therapist many hours a week and disclosure of genital mutilation she acheived intergration. I was so relieved and proud of her. She has just told me that everything was a lie...she never went to a counselor...there was never any abuse as a child. She doesnt want to loose my friendship.....I have great affection for this young woman. Plutonic to be sure. What am I to do now. She wants professional help.

Richard Petty

Dear CK,

I really feel for you.

Sadly people like this seem to be more than most people realize. There are no accurate statistics, but I come across a great many.

One woman planned on having a child with a man who claimed to be a widower who now directed all his energies into a charity that helped people who had the cancer form which his wife had died.

The entire tale was fabricated. She was still alive and well and living with him.

When confronted, the pathological liar often does become very angry, and they do often start telling lies about the person who has found them out.

The best things are to be on the lookout for such people and then do everything that you can to make a large distance between them and you.

Even the best professionals find these people hard to work with.

I do wish you well.

Kind regards,


Richard Petty

Dear Jon,

What an awful situation.

I am still skeptical about the existence of MPD. I know that I am in a minority, but I have never seen a convincing case, and I have made some people angry because I would not take them at face value.

From your description this young woman desperately needs professional help. The question then is what does she hope to gain from it? The reason for that question is that unless she goes because sh in invested in changing something about herself, the therapy will likely be short and inconclusive.

I also hope that you are okay. It can be very hard on you to put so much into trying to help someone, only to discover that it may all have been for nothing. I have known many people who have been so burned out by another person that they needed help themselves.

I say that with the greatest respect. It is a matter of record that one of the reasons that I do so much work on teaching people how to develop resilience and how to handle burnout, is that some years ago I allowed myself to become a victim of burnout. And I was a professional who had taught t'ai chi and meditation! I should have known better.

So it can happen to anyone.

Please do look after yourself.

Kind regards,


Angela Edie


I just admited to my husband this evening that I believe that I am a pathological lier. Although, after reading these entries, I find myself a little confused. Am I just one person out there that tells extremely horrible and frequent lies, and is willing to admit it (and get help)? So the reason why I am confused is that does that not make me a pathological lier? Even though this is true, the experiences that people have shared here are exactly what my husband has dealt with. But, I am willing to get help. I am willing to admit to everyone that I have hurt (even if it means that those that I love will never be able to trust me again). I am willing to participate in a documentary, etc. I am tired of hiding behind this.


Dear Dr.,

I am 32 years old, and have been a pathological liar, for my entire life. I don't know when it started, but my mother has always said that it began when I was very very young. I have destroyed so many lives, during my existence, and want badly to be "normal". I admit that I have a problem, and it is one that has debilitated me. I cannot hold a job, have lost a marriage, and feel as if I am mentally crippled. I am half a step away from being that homeless, crazy guy, that talks to himself. I haven't any insurance, nor have I been able to secure gainful employment, in order to obtain insurance. What am I to do? I have lost so much, and want to be treated, but do not have the mental capacity to figure out where and what to do first. Can you help? Do you have suggestions? I don't want to be known as a liar, my entire life. I want to fix this.

Bridget B.

My husband and I are going through a nasty seperation that is tearing me apart. I want to be with because I love him but can't deal with the lying. Is there a combination of meds and theapy? We have 2 children that are really effected by the lies. My 5 yr old is beginning to lie like my husband. This has got to stop. Please help, I live in a small rural town that does not have many resources.


Hi there, I just came across this site, and I have a question to ask you.. My boyfriend is a pathological liar, he is 24 now, and since we have been together it has gotten alot better, but it is still there. Just little lies that are pointless but are just added in there to make the story he is telling more interesting or talk himself up.. If I catch him in a lie and have proof he will not admit to it, will deny it, and eventually get mad at me and walk out. I think if I was to bring up going to see a professional about it, it would be out of the question which is why I need to ask you if you have ever cured someone from this problem.. how long did it take, how did you do it, does the age of the person make it a harder struggle? Is it possible that you could email me at the above address.. I wouldnt want to take the chance of you replying to me but I never check back on your site to see it. I understand that you probably have alot of stuff to do, and this question is probably on the lower of your prorities, but if you could just please try your best to give me these answers.. I really love this man and want to know that there is help out there for him, when he decides to get some.. Thank you very much


My issues with lying seem to be low esteem. Also a fear of confrontation with certain people. I really can't stand to hurt anyone or argue does anything like that sound familar?

Best Regards,


Dear Dr. Petty,

I work in the behavior unit at an elementary school, and one of my students is already a pathalogical liar. The problem is that the school system is not set-up to support or treat liars...we just punish them. After reading your article, I was wondering if you had any suggestions or exercises I could use with this student to help him. He's in fifth grade and if he's already acting like an adult mythomaniac, I can only imagine what will happen over time if he does not receive help. Thank you.


Recently, my almost 9 year old daughter has been lying about events that never happend or embellishing on actual events. I have called this to her attention, and she states understanding between fact and fiction, but seems compelled make up her own version of life than stick with the facts. She has ADHD which we have been treating since age 6. She is a happy kid who does well in school and has a solid peer group. She is pretty whiney at home, however. I am not sure how to nip this behavior in the bud, because it will only bring her misery if it becomes fixed in her character.

I would love some feedback.


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