Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.
I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. Your question is very evocative that there is so much behind the simple few words you write. I will try to give you an answer that touches on why most people who find themselves lying compulsively do lie in spite of themselves. My answer is based both on my training as well as my experience working with people who are so frustrated with this problem.
And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. Lying often feels like it is obsessive. But it's most often not so much an obsessive disorder as it is a problem of self-worth and self-image.
Interestingly, I just finished a few months ago working with a man in my office who came with this exact problem to therapy! In his case it was this need my client had to create an image of competence and of being right. What do I mean?
If you look "as a psychologist would" at the act of lying, you will see that in a case like my client's, every lie has one of a number of common purposes: to avoid criticism, to look good in someone's eyes, to seem competent, to be the woman you think in your heart the other person would want you to be, etc. See the problem that is emerging here?
That problem is one of not feeling able within himself to make himself be the person he thinks others want him to be and that he wants to be. Yes, it's a self worth problem. And it does most often relate to one's childhood and youth experiences. In fact, my client was bullied (not sexually) very much in middle and high school.
I can't recommend the things we did in therapy because you're not in my office in therapy. Though therapy might be something you might consider to undertake. But let me suggest some things you can do on your own as well. Here's the first:
Take some time and feel what you feel when you need to lie. You have to get familiar with that feeling and need. And when you feel that feeling, you need to tell yourself to hold on and not speak. To take a minute, a full minute if you need, and breathe and not do the automatic lie to make yourself look better. Just that. Get to know the feeling and then not make the lie automatic. Take a breath first and choose how you want to answer. This self help step is very powerful if you do it faithfully.
The second step is a self-worth building exercise for self help:
And in our society the best tools we have for popular consumption when it comes to confidence in self and building self worth is the motivational speakers. Here's a simple YouTube search I put together on "motivational speakers":
Some like Tony Robbins are the classic big guys. Some are newer. There are now wonderful women speakers as well. There are now great women speakers as well if you're interested as well. Watch them all. Get inspired. Buy a book or two. Here are some possibilities, but they are only suggestions as there are so many good ones.
The first book is the father of all these type of books. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. There are classes in these books now! It was written in the 1930s and still has something to say to us today that is very worthwhile.
I think very highly of the second book on my list, which is a real classic: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is the book that has helped more people than probably any other. The third book is by Anthony Robbins. He's one of those speakers who fills up huge auditoriums. For a reason. He's a terrific speaker and writer. The particular book (if you like it, try his others): Awaken the Giant Within.
Okay, I wish you the very best!
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Hi Dr. Mark
I do feel like the information you provided for me was informative but I am still very unsure of where to start. I feel that I lie due to wanting to make people happy and for people to like me. I never felt good enough for my dad when I was growing up and I felt as if I always had to compete with my brother for my dads affection and to even feel like I wasn't disappointing him. I also grew up with a mom who lied about everything and always said that so.etimes it was better to not tell people the truth. It bevame like a sevond nature for me amd now it is destroying my relationships and people now see me as a liar which is awful. The other bit of information that may be helpful is that i was diagnosed as having a borderline personality disorder. I am currently in treatment for that but i really dont feel like i am making any progress in inderstanding why i lie and how to stop doing it. Again i really do appreciate the information but i am hoping maybe you could help me just a little more.
Dear Dr. Mark,
I apologize that I didn't get back to you sooner. I do again really appreciate you taking the time to help me out with my problem.
The treatment that I am in is one on one counseling with a psychologist as well as seeing a psychiatrist who has me on zoloft, serequil and adavan. I am required to take those everyday to stabolize my mood swings and try to regulate my emotions. My counselor is great, although sometimes I don't really feel like she wants to work on the things I see as my major issues. She sometimes will veer off and talk about other things.
I am not sure what DBT therapy is. If you could explain that to me I would really appreciate it. Is it something that I could benefit from?
Everything for me is overwhelming. Trying to hold a steady job, and be in a relationship, and handle all of this is ridiculously hard. I feel like I just want to give up and disappear sometimes. My boyfriend and I have tons of issues because of the lying, and I know I have the problem and i just can't seem to stop. And with me having BPD it makes it even more challenging to deal with the normal relationship struggles because everything to me seems like it is ten times worse than it really is.
I will begin with the small steps that you gave me though. I really do appreciate you taking all this time to help me out. I really feel like I am stuck and I am so unsure of what to do to help myself and make myself a better person.
I am a little concerned that your therapy is not really aimed at treating BPD specifically. I want you to know that I have worked with BPD sufferers from my internship on and to treat BPD effectively without taking years and years, it requires both a skills oriented approach (DBT, which can begin to help right away, as it is a small steps approach) and psychodynamic therapy, which is long term and does take years. Both are necessary.
DBT is so important because it offers relief and tools to function more effectively right away. In my experience there is a truth you need to get to if you are going to manage the disorder. That truth is that relief, your personal salvation, is not going to come through your feelings.
You're not going to FEEL your way toward feeling better. Yes, that sounds like a contradiction. But, the key for you is going to be whether you are going to be able to learn to approach life from something other than feeling. Because feelings are too overwhelming. So, life can be good for you but only if you have the patience and willingness to LEARN how to approach it from a different part of you than how you feel.
This is the key to managing BPD. To learn how to approach life from something other than feeling, the best type of therapy is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT can work in individual therapy or group therapy. I personally like when clients use both as long as the therapists doing each are different therapists so that you are establishing two relationships. I want you to learn the skills that DBT offers. So, start with the following website put together by people who aren't psychologists but who have gone through DBT themselves. Try as many of the self-help options they have. Mindfulness is particularly important for you and a good place to start there.Here's their web address:
If you connect with DBT, then find a therapist in your area who works with DBT. Even better, find a DBT group to go along together with individual therapy. So yes, therapy is the step on your road you may now be ready for. If you don't have a good referral source for yourself, here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (you can see a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list anything about personality disorders or PTSD in their orientations and what they work with. And then ask them if they don't do DBT therapy if they know someone in the area they trust they could refer you to. http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/
If you need more resources here's a commercial website. I don't like their therapist directory very much because its format seems a little hard sell to me. But they have a chat group that you might want to join:
Erin, again, focus on doing small steps and on finding experienced clinicians who have experience with BPD. I wish you the very, very best!
Thank you so much for all the information you have given me. I do feel like there is hope for me and that I will be able to handle things successfully from here... I appreciate your service fully and in the future I will definintely come to you and ask questions. I appreciate everything you have done for me :-)