Thank you for reaching out to us with this question! The first step and the step that you are taking now is important which is seeking help and asking questions.
I want to start by first addressing what childhood trauma is. Childhood trauma is an event experienced by a child that evokes fear and can be violent, dangerous, or life-threatening. It does not have to be life threatening but sometimes it is. It is also sometimes referred to as adverse childhood experiences and there are many different experiences that can lead to trauma.
On going stress, such as living in a dangerous neighborhood or being the target of bullying, can also be traumatic for a child—even if it just feels like daily life to an adult.
Childhood trauma does not have to involve experiences that occur directly to the child. Watching a loved one endure a major health issue, for instance, can be extremely traumatic for children. Violent media can have this effect too. Traumatic events can affect how a child’s brain develops, which can have lifelong consequences for them physically, mentally, and socially. It can impair their physical development. The stress can impair the development of their immune and central nervous systems, making it harder to achieve their full potential.
The piece I want to focus on is how Children exposed to complex traumas may even become disassociated. Dissociation involves separating themselves from the experience mentally. They might imagine that they are outside of their bodies and watching it from somewhere else or they may lose memory of the experience, resulting in memory gaps. Dissociation is the brain’s way of protecting itself from traumatic emotional experiences and allows a person to override their emotions to survive the perceived threats around them. Without this coping mechanism, some people may not be able to perform the necessary functions of daily life without becoming overwhelmed. Dissociation tendencies may go away with time but can become debilitating if left untreated.
Children experiencing dissociation may not be aware of what is happening and there are some warning signs that may happen:
Loss of memory of important or traumatic events known to have occurred
Frequent dazed or trance-like states
Rapid, profound age regression
Difficulties seeing cause-and-effect consequences from life experiences
Lying or denying responsibility for misbehavior despite obvious evidence to the contrary
Repeatedly referring to themselves in the third person
Unexplained injuries or recurrent self-injurious behavior
Auditory and visual hallucinations
Now, knowing all of this, it is possible to examine your triggers and think more deeply about how to stop lying as lies can have serious consequences.
If lying’s become a more regular habit in your life, try not to be too hard on yourself. After all, most people do lie, even if they do not admit it.
Instead, ask yourself how you can break this pattern and be more truthful going forward.
The next time you find yourself in a lie, stop and pay attention to what’s going on inside.
Where are you?
Who are you with?
How do you feel?
Are you lying to make yourself feel better or avoid making someone feel bad?
Answering these questions can help you pinpoint which scenarios, emotions, or other factors trigger you to lie. Once you have identified some triggers, take a mindful look at them and think about some new ways to respond to them.
For example, if you tend to lie when you are put on the spot, try planning out possible responses before going into situations where you know you might get in trouble with the people around you.
What types of lies do you often tell?
Types of lies
lies by omission
“gray” or subtle lies
Many of us want to seek approval and avoid rejection. Lying addiction is a defense mechanism to protect your self image against a number of things. Being addicted to lying may be the result of:
Shame: John Bradshaw, a leading authority on addiction, believes that shame is the driving force behind addiction. Shame is recognition of wrongdoing, but without a separation of one’s self from the wrongful act. Shame processes mentally as “ I made a mistake and I cannot recover. I am a failure. I am defective,” rather than “I made a bad choice and acted badly. I need to change and make up for my mistake.”
Negative Consequences: People with addictions hope that things will work themselves out without them having to take any action. So they convince themselves that they can avoid the consequences associated with their bad choices. This avoidant coping style is common in addiction.
Criticism and Confrontation: Intense shame often makes it difficult for addicts to handle criticism, so they lie to avoid confrontation or other circumstances where criticism of them may arise.
Fear of Repercussions: Addicts at some level know that sooner or later they will have to change if they are to survive. But fear of the repercussions of returning to a state of honesty (shame, guilt, possible additional damage to relationships) makes it difficult to commit to this path until all possible options for avoidance have been exhausted.
One of the first steps toward recovery is to recognize that shame and guilt and other negative character traits are not qualities that are unique to addicts. Such obstacles are in all of us, and it is simply the job of adulthood to address them and – rather than try to eliminate them – to integrate them into our larger personalities.
There may come a time when pathological liar treatment is necessary. This is where Liars Anonymous or a 12 step program for lying can help. Step 1 is about recognizing the need to align with, and ask for assistance from, something higher than the personality part that you are currently aligned with.
If you want to know how to stop lying compulsively there are a few steps you should take to hold yourself accountable. If you are wondering how to help a compulsive liar in your life it would also be beneficial to encourage them to work through these actions:
Admit that you have a problem with lying. As long as you are in denial, you won’t stop lying.
Be accountable to someone. Talk to a friend, a counselor, or a 12-step sponsor and commit to being completely truthful with them.
Consider the consequences. Sooner or later, your lies will be exposed, and you risk losing people’s trust and friendship. But by admitting your lies and committing to positive change, it is more likely that you will be given a second chance to repair broken trusts.
Journal. When you lie, reflect on the reasons for your lies. Become aware of automatic, habituated, irrational thoughts. Then consider alternate, more positive choices that will help you meet your emotional needs with honesty and honor.
Set positive, life-enhancing goals and make concrete plans to work toward these. Give yourself something to be genuinely proud of yourself about, so that lies and deceptive, pretentious ego-boosts are no longer necessary in your life.
I hope this helps even a little bit, best of luck!