Dear Dr. Archer,
I have been lying most of my life, and I'm a college student. I remember when it first started. I was in fourth grade, and the teacher asked if anyone was born in a different state. I raised my hand, and said I was born in Brazil and could speak the language, which obviously I can't.
When I look back, it's very frustrating to me. I have lost and ruined so many relationships and friendships due to my lying -- and yet I continue. My parents are so frustrated, because they're aware I've been telling stories all my life, and yet they completely ignore the problem.
I'm not blaming my parents; this is all my doing. But they didn't address the problem when I was younger. I guess they thought I'd grow out of it, which I haven't.
I definitely have self esteem issues, but I shouldn't. I was a great wrestler and gymnast in high school, and many people tell me I'm very good looking and ripped. So, I just don't get my problem.
In high school, I had a wide range of lies. I first lied to my friends that I was in a very successful band, which I wasn't. But, for some reason they liked me and chose to be my friend. Maybe they just felt sorry for me.
I got caught my senior year in a big lie. I made my dad out to be this big military general, which he is not. He's a complete pussy.
My friends confronted my sister about it and she told them the truth, and they never talked to me again. I'm trying to be as empathetic as I can, and honestly I would never want to talk to a person who lies as much as I do, yet I continue. Geez, this really pisses me off.
In 2009 I started college, and I was a complete facebook junkie. I started adding all the people attending and started talking to them. I told them I was this high profile martial artist, but I'm not. However, in reality, I am a very good boxer, muay thai and bjj practitioner. Recently I got caught again.
I kept those lies going up for two years, that's how good I became at lying. I can keep my lies up for two years! But, I was tired of living the lie so I gave myself up. Obviously, they were pissed with me, but my best friend wanted to help me and try to repair our friendship.
I was in a clinic for suicide and got those issues figured out, but then I lied again! I mean, what the heck, man. I have a problem. It's okay that my friend won't talk to me again; I understand. But I took a semester off from school to get my priorities straight and I'm going back to face my problem. I'm also going to get counseling.
I have recently gotten a new girlfriend. I have not told her any major lies yet, and she knows I have this problem but she is willing to trust me. I'm not screwing this up because I know she's the one.
I caught up with my best friend at home. I texted him and said, "I have been compulsive lying to you for the last seven years." He called me and said, "I know, man. You are still a great friend of mine and I'm with you, no matter what."
This summer we really had fun. I didn't stress myself lying. I could be myself and it was great. But then again, I don't have anything to not be self confident about.
I'm a kinesiology student, good looking and ripped, so what's wrong with me? I just need counseling and I think I need to find the deeper meaning to my lying. Thoughts?
My Lying Issues
Dear Lying Issues,
First the good news. I want to say you are one very lucky man. You have a best friend and a wonderful woman who both love you, lies and all. How many people can say that? AND, you realize you have a problem and want to change and went through a whole summer without lying. You are well on your way.
The thing about compulsive lying is that it becomes second nature, a habit, a way of life. It might start with bending the truth, and taking comfort because it’s an easy way out, or an escape. Then the lying starts to feel "right”, while telling the truth becomes difficult and uncomfortable. Next thing you know, it’s like an addiction.
Many times compulsive lying is a symptom of a personality disorder, often narcissistic personality disorder. But, in this case the lies are for self gain and have a purpose, and the liar sees no problem with the act, thus would never seek help.
That’s not the case with you, rather I suspect low self esteem, with the lies being how you build yourself up to feel better. I also think you could have clinical depression since you were suicidal at one point. Hopefully that has been treated.
So, I think, Lying Issues, you are on the right track here. You told your best friend and your girlfriend. I'm sure that alone was tremendously liberating, but don't stop there.
Talk to these two every week, or even every day and tell them about any lie you have told; analyze it, process it and then rectify it. Also, tell your parents and any other close friends about your problem and ask that they hold you accountable.
Before long you will start to break the habit and put in place an new standard of telling the truth. I will tell you that cases like yours are easy to work with as a psychiatrist, because you recognize your problem and want to change. Denial is the hardest issue to work with and luckily, that is not present here.
Follow the links within my responses to learn how I advise others. Keep working hard and I have no doubt you will be successful. Please write back and give an update in a few months. I’m pulling for you! Good luck.