Pathological lying  

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This page Pathological lying is part of the fantasy series.Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
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This page Pathological lying is part of the fantasy series.
Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Pseudologia fantastica, or pathological lying, is one of several terms applied by psychiatrists to the behaviour of habitual or compulsive lying.

It was first described in the medical literature in 1891. One definition of pathological lying is the following:

"Pathological lying is falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, may be extensive and very complicated, and may manifest over a period of years or even a lifetime."

The defining characteristics of pseudologia fantastica are that, first, the stories are not entirely improbable and often have some element of truth. They aren't a manifestation of delusion or some more wider form of psychosis: upon confrontation, the person can acknowledge them to be untrue, even if unwillingly. Second, the fabricative tendency is long lasting; it is not provoked by the immediate situation or social pressure as much as it originates with the person's innate urge to act in accordance. Third, a definitely internal, not an external, motive for the behavior can be clinically discerned. E.g. long lasting extortion or habitual spousal battery might cause a person to lie repeatedly, without the lying being a pathological symptom. Fourth, the stories told tend towards presenting the person in question in a good light. For example, the person might be presented as being fantastically brave, knowing or being related to many famous people.

Diagnosis in Psychology

Pseudologia fantastica is not currently listed as a symptom in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), nor in the The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

Reasons for including pathological lying in the DSM have been offered by Charles Dike, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist and clinical instructor in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. As a forensic psychologist, a listing would help courts work with criminal suspects. Dr. Dike's understanding is that "it is questionable whether it is always a conscious act and whether pathological liars have control over their lies."

If pathological lying can be effectively differentiated from other diseases that have a lying component (such as malingering, confabulation, and narcissistic personality disorder) further study would be required to determine optimal treatments.

Not much has been established about pathological lying, except that it is the mental state of the liar and not the lie that is abnormal.

Amongst the psychiatric profession, the condition holds perhaps even legendary value, thanks to Sigmund Freud's treatment of the subject.

See also


References and links

  • King, B. H. and Ford, C. V. (1988). Pseudologia fantastica. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 77, 1-6.
  • Hardy, T. J. and Reed, A. (1998). Pseudologia fantastica, factitious disorder and impostership: a deception syndrome. Med. Sci. Law 38, 198-201.
  • Newmark, N., Adityanjee and Kay, J. (1998). Pseudologia fantastica and factitious disorder: review of the literature and a case report. Compr. Psychiatry. 40, 89-95.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pathological lying" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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