5 Ways To Determine If Someone Is A Pathological Liar

Have you ever thought that someone was a liar? Well, you might be right — that is, if you pay close attention to a few things, such as their facial expressions, body language, what they say, and even their tone of voice.

Hearing a white lie here or there is one thing, but being lied to regularly is frustrating and hurtful. It’s even worse when you had no idea the person was lying to you. 

So what is a pathological liar — and why do they lie?

According to Psych Central’s Encyclopedia of Psychology:

“Pathological lying (PL) is a chronic behavior characterized by the habitual or compulsive telling of lies. A pathological liar appears to lie for no apparent reason or personal gain.”

Some would say that they are addicted to lying, and studies show that most who lie this way do for attention.

They tell unbelievable stories, they often exaggerate, and sometimes they might make themselves as a victim to gain attention. Studies show that people with low self-esteem are more likely to lie compulsively to make themselves feel better about what they have in life and about their accomplishments.

What is pathological lying?

Also known as compulsive, chronic, or habitual lying, compulsive liars may feel pleasure by lying. Telling the truth is not half as much fun and can affect them with “withdrawal” symptoms, like with addictions.

Compulsive liars often find the truth almost physically uncomfortable for them, and most pathological liars would even tell stories that are self-incriminating just to seek the attention.

When dealing with a pathological liar, it’s crucial to establish a truth baseline.

This is what they do when hooking someone up to a lie detector test. It’s a  crucial detail when learning how to tell if someone is lying to you.

So, how do you do this and spot a liar without one of these machines?

For starters, you want to observe them and their behavior under relaxed or stress-free conditions to see if you can detect apparent deviations. You could try to ask them a series of simple questions and observe how they behave when they have no reason to lie.

Then, pay attention to any changes in their behavior that may indicate they’re lying.

Here are the signs to look for to know when someone is lying, and whether or not they might even be a pathological liar.

1. Watch for stress signals.

It’s pretty hard to spot a pathological liar since they act very naturally when they’re lying; yet, they still seem a little stressed.

Watch for specific stress signals such as rubbing hands together or fidgeting. Do they have a forced or frozen smile? Do you notice any unusual breaks in their gestures?

Our first response to stress is to freeze. So, if you notice a significant pause break, this is a definite sign of lying.

2. Pay close attention to their eyes.

The idea that a person who is lying cannot look you in the eyes while lying to you is a myth! While this might be true for an inexperienced liar, but studies show that pathological liars use too much eye contact, because they want to convince you.

3. Keep track of contradictions.

A compulsive liar lies so much that over time, their lies will contradict.

Compare stories with others and the person you are suspecting of being a pathological liar. See if you notice that specific details have changed.

4. Listen to their vocal pitch.

Experts reveal that fundamental vocal pitch rises under stressful conditions because the vocal cords constrict.

Body language expert Carol Kinsey Gorman also says, “Under stress, people may also experience an increased need to drink water and to lick or moisten their lips, as the autonomic nervous system downloads a rush of adrenaline, causing dry mouth.”

5. Observe specific non-verbal actions.

David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, discovered four gestures that can indicate someone is lying or hiding something.

This specific cluster of nonverbal signals has been proven statistically to accompany dishonesty:

  • Hand touching
  • Face touching
  • Crossing arms
  • Leaning away

It’s not always easy to spot a pathological liar, but it’s possible to tell when someone is lying to you if you pay attention to the patterns.

Previously published on YourTango.com

Featured Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.