I’m a compulsive liar. I keep telling the people I’m closest to lies. How do I stop?

I can be little lies like I’m too busy to go get coffee, to big lies like I was in an abusive relationship. I feel horrible for it but I can’t help it.
Asked by Emma
Answered
12/05/2021

Emma,

 

To stop telling compulsive lies, I would ask you what the reward for telling these lies is in the first place.  If I had to hazzard a guess it is to feel more relevant and more important and also to feel powerful over others.  Hence my question then becomes what is in your upbringing or psyche that has you feeling that you are not important, not relevant, and that you need to have power over others?  I also wonder if you feel that the truth about you is unacceptable to not interesting, hence you make up lies about it.  I would wonder what you think is boring or not likeable about yourself so as to figure out why you might lie to make a false impression about yourself.

 

Another idea is that you get a rush out of lying.  This would be similar to how a kleptomaniac gets a rush out of stealing.  This seems less likely when you are telling little insignificant lies like not being available for coffee and more so when you are telling lies that garner a lot of attention and sympathy like having been in an abusive relaitonship that you weren't in.  In that case you might feel a sense of heightened adrenaline and this could be part of the draw of telling lies.  If this is the case, I'd want to take a look at where else you find enjoyment in life, what else you find exciting and thrilling (that is more healthy) and try to spend energy in those areas to meet needs in a more adaptive way.

 

Lastly, you could intervene by using cognitive behavioral tools and throught stopping.  What this entails is basically, catching yourself in telling a lie right as the idea pops into your head.  You need to be more aware of when you are about to lie and then tell yourself "that's not even true - stop it."  If the lie makes its way out of your mouth - you can still say "I'm not sure why I said that.  That wasn't even true."  This is easier to do with little lies but will start to become a tool for being more honest.  People in 12 step programs wind up dong this frequently, as addicts and alcoholics tell a lot of lies to get away with drinking and using.  Hence, in recovery, they catch themselves lying and lable that "an old behavior" and then "tell on" themselves.  Another tool is to be fully honest with on person and make that person your accountability buddy basically.  Not that they are responsible for you changing your behavior, but at least you can check in with that person to be able to tell them if you had changed you behavior, been honest over that day or told lies.  Part of the rush of telling lies is that "nobody knows the truth" and if you let one person in to the real truth, that will diminish the power / urge to lie.  This will also serve as a model for being transparent and when you get acceptance while being honest and accountable with that person, you will see the value of those traits more and possibly want to change more.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Mark

(LMHC, CAP)