Lying is an unfortunate part of addiction and alcoholism, which perpetuates the shameful stigmatizations. Addicts and alcoholics are not pathological liars by nature, they are not compulsive liars, and they don’t lie for fun. Lying happens in addiction and alcoholism due to the way the brain makes using drugs and alcohol a matter of life or death. Going to any lengths to protect the ability for the brain to create it’s desperately needed dopamine in order to function, it can cause a little lying. Additionally, areas of the brain which help with judgment and morality are severely impaired by substance abuse.
However, pathological lying can be a pre-existing character trait which could stir reckless behaviors like substance abuse. One of the primary ways someone who pathologically lies manipulates the truth to control people is through triangulation. Psych Central defines triangulation as “any behavior that misleads, confuses, or damages the relationship between the communicator and more than one other person. In other words, triangulation is a tactic someone may use to control, manipulate, misinform, or deceive. The interaction typically includes two or more people.” Common tactics include:
Responsive Listening: Actively listening is a healthy way to make sure you understand someone. In comparison, responsive listening is a way to make sure someone can control a conversation. They only pay attention to information they can use to control, make a point, or assert their authority. If you find yourself saying “Did they even listen to me?” The answer is probably not.
Manipulating Emotions: Playing with, creating, and making use of someone’s emotions is a common tactic for lying. Having a keen understanding of how people act when they are in certain emotional states is how a pathological liar can enforce their version of the truth.
Hypochondriasis: Feeling ill, feeling sick, or suddenly being in pain is a way someone can invite sympathy and vulnerability in others.
Rehearsal: In order to control a situation and make sure their version of reality is consistent, a pathological liar might spend time rehearsing what they are going to say. You might find yourself questioning the authenticity of what they say when they say it, because it was almost performed too well.
Residential treatment identifies the underlying causes of substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Pathological lying can be identified and treated in the right facility. Avalon Malibu is one of California’s only residential facilities to provide primary mental health care. For a confidential assessment and more information on our programs, call 1 888-958-7511.