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Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I am struggling to admit to myself that my friend is a liar.

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I am struggling to admit to myself that my friend is a liar. She tells insanely outlandish stories. They're not outlandish individually but they're a series of extreme events or abilities that combined become unbelievable. The thing that troubles me most is that she has no sense of how strange it seems, or how troubling it would be. She can't fathom why people don't trust her. She has a range of medical issues which have changed multiple times over the thirteen years that I've known her. She had a disease which caused lung scarring and would eventually require her to need a lung transplant. She has asthma as a result. She has had disappearing cancer, a stroke, a cesarean section which opened and spilled her guts out, broken wrists, thyroid was destroyed by steroids used to treat asthma, extreme anemia requiring multiple blood transfusions, weak veins which have resulted in an aneurysm, seizures and memory issues as a result of aneurysm (which only appeared after she was diagnosed), a number of other problems associated with the aneurysm including chronic pain. I'm sure there are things I am leaving out but these are only her medical conditions. She claims to have been basically abandoned by her mother and left to starve. She had to fish in the swamp (from age 3) and walk from the country where she lived to local gas stations where she stole ketchup packages in order to eat. She has been abused in every way from satanic church-basement ceremonies to generally awful treatment and rejection from her family. She is a martial artist (nearly a world champion), reads hundreds of books a year, and despite claiming to have terrible memory issues whenever it suits her and a brain that doesn't work very well as a result of a stroke and the current aneurysm she ...knows everything. I mean everything. It doesn't matter what the subject is, she has studied it. Her husband is a genius when she isn't having nightmares about him murdering her or when she isn't complaining about how he is physically and emotionally abusive or mentally ill. Her mother was abducted and escaped a serial killer. The list goes on and on. I have reached a point where I just can't believe all of the things she says any more. It would be one thing if she had any sense of how crazy it sounds, but she doesn't understand why anyone would find her stories hard to believe. And people don't believe her, she is called a liar all the time. I got to a point where I decided that this was how she dealt with the world. Whatever her stories I believe she has been terribly abused and I think she copes through building a more acceptable reality for herself. The trouble is, she can be really unkind sometimes. She'll use your weaknesses against you and will never ever admit to having been unkind or perhaps having said something she shouldn't. Ever, she is never wrong. I've never heard her once admit to being grumpy or out of line. If you confront her she becomes incredibly defensive and the conversation turns into how unkind, insensitive, judgmental or overly sensitive you are. I don't know what to do. She has been my friend for almost fourteen years. I was a teenager when I met her.
Compulsive liars never admit to being liars. Mainly because there is a benefit to their lying. Just like drugs there is a payoff. Most of the time due to this payoff they don't stop liar and are unaware of how ridiculous they sound. Unfortunately the payoff often keeps them from stopping such behavior. They continue to lie and move on to the next person who feeds into it or increase their lies. You have a big choice to make. Does the benefit of this relationship outweigh the stress brought on by her lying. Is it worth the effort to tolerate such deception. She is going to continue to lie especially if you have brought it up and is that worth the friendship. She has a compulsive need that is being met. This can be attention, feeling important or just the pleasure of lying. You can again bring this to her attention telling her how others perceive her stories but you run the risk of nothing changing. I would weigh the pros and cons of this relationship since you can't change anyone
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
I paid extra for a detailed answer. I already know how to weigh the pros and cons of a relationship. What I want is help identifying whether or not she is a liar. Should I trust myself? Am I being judgmental? The answer I received didn't explain anything about how she decided my friend was a compulsive liar. I also want to know how to interact with her in a way that will salvage the relationship while also protecting me from whatever personality issues might be hiding underneath the lies. I don't know how far to trust her. Also, my "expert" clearly took no time with her answer. She left parts of words incomplete. She also made multiple punctuation and grammar mistakes. It seemed like a rush job. Considering that I did pay an additional fee for length I am very frustrated with an obviously cursory effort.

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating and confusing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a caring and loyal friend. I understand: knowing her since you were teenagers makes it very hard to just say you've had enough and move on and forget about her. On the other hand, as the years go by, she is not getting better; she's getting even worse because the stories/lies are piling up on top of each other.

Let me answer the question of how to decide for sure that she is a liar. You are correct that you are emotionally very close and so it is difficult to make such a judgment based on your own experience. Your experience would indeed be colored by your close friendship. But you twice mentioned the reactions of other people who have had dealings with her and people in general, their reaction to her. And in both instances you recognized their judgment to be that she cannot be trusted in what she says. This is the evidence that you need to accept from the outside to confirm your own experience.

Interestingly, I just finished a month ago working with a man in my office who came with the same problem (in major respects) to therapy. His wife met with me first so that I could hear the symptoms from her perception. And he wold do the same thing as your friend, create grandiose stories about himself and events in his past that did not occur. Why did he feel such a need?

It was a need my client had to create an image of competence. What do I mean?

If you look "as a psychologist would" at what you wrote to me, you will see that every story she makes up that you mention has a common purpose: to avoid criticism, to look good in someone's eyes, to seem important, to be the woman she thinks you'd want her to be, etc. See the problem that is emerging here?

That problem is one of not feeling able within herself to make herself be the person she thinks everyone wants her to be and that she wants to be. So she creates two types of stories. One is to inflate herself; the other is to excuse herself (illnesses, diseases, bad husband, etc.) Yes, it's a self worth problem. In my client's case I mentioned above it did indeed relate to his youth experiences. In fact, my client was bullied (not sexually) very much in middle and high school.

We don't know what caused this incredible self worth problem in your friend. It is very extreme, sounding even more extreme than this client I told you of. And we know that it formed early for your friend: you've known her since adolescence and it was already well into formation then. I can't answer whether you should refrain from having sustained contact with her for your own wellbeing. That is a possibility and I would certainly support you in such a decision. But if you stay in friendship with her, I urge you not to try to take on a therapeutic role, not to try to help her solve the self worth issue. It is way too deeply ingrained in her and you will start feeling used and burn out over a period of time.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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