Compulsive liar and thief

‘Indecent obsessions’: A peek into life as a kleptomaniac, compulsive liar

When Prathamesh Dandekar* was 22, he stole a ballpoint pen from a colleague’s desk. He didn’t need it and never used it. A few days later, he noticed a stapler lying in the lounge area of the call centre where he worked, and pocketed it.

Pencils, erasers, sharpeners, notepads, paper clips, even stapler pins – over the next nine years, Dandekar would stockpile stationery he never really wanted, and certainly did not need.

“It was a tick that’d be the death of me if I didn’t deal with it. I dreaded waking up every day, knowing what was to come,” recalls the 38-year-old, now a Hyderabad-based area sales manager with an online retailer. “Whether it was the office, a cousin’s house, or a party, I’d flick mundane stationery even though I didn’t want to, and risk going downhill in the eyes of my friends and family.”

And go down he did. Dandekar was eventually ushered into his manager’s cabin at his last workplace. Some of the pens that had gone missing were expensive. People were upset and suspicion against him had mounted. CCTV footage proved to be the clincher.

“It took that degree of public humiliation for me to seek help. I had lost most of my friends by then, because they realised I had been taking things from their homes,” Dandekar says. “My family didn’t want to go out with me. It got so bad that I wanted to either chop my hands off or commit suicide.”

Dandekar pulled through with 18 months of psychiatric counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication.

The therapy included multiple group sessions with his family and two best friends, where the therapist explained what kleptomania was and worked to convince them that he wasn’t just a thief.

He has not stolen anything in seven years, he says. But for many like him, suffering from an impulse control disorder (ICD) can be lifelong agony.

Stealing the show

Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder (ICD).

As per the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) – the universal criterion for classification of mental disorders – an ICD is a complete lack of behavioural or emotional self-control.

Addictive behaviours [substance abuse, compulsive gambling, internet addiction, sex addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and pyromania (the urge to start a fire)] are ICDs.

The five stages of a typical ICD are Urge, Tension, Action, Guilt, Relief

Kleptomania is the rarest ICD after pyromania.

Deepika Padukone has talked about depression. Celebrities at home and abroad discuss battles with bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and ICDs such as drug or alcohol addiction.

Twitter was awash with appreciation recently when Michigan-based web developed Madalyn Parker’s request for a mental health time out got an empathic response from her boss.

The stigma is fading as they speak up.

Yet those with conditions such as kleptomania (also an ICD) and compulsive lying – which is rare, but co-morbid with anxiety and depressive disorders – find themselves in a hostile environment.

Despite the person’s clear need for help, prevailing attitudes are very intolerant, says Dr RC Chandrasekhar, a senior professor of psychiatry at NIMHANS [the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences] for over three decades, who now consults at Bangalore’s Samadhana Counselling Centre.

Dr Chandrasekhar recounts the time a woman was brought to his centre by her in-laws and parents, who’d taken to hitting her “to set her right”.

This compounds the patient’s internal struggle.

“Kleptomaniacs have tremendous self-loathing and even depression, because they are at the mercy of impulses,” says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Pavan Sonar, who has treated 30 cases of kleptomania.

He recalls a patient who, on her first visit, stole a paperweight from his office. She was so ashamed, she doubled over and pleaded for help.

“As an ICD, kleptomania is repeated engagement in stealing – mostly to release anxiety,” says Dr Chandrasekhar.

Pack of lies

The terms pseudologia fantastica (or pathological lying aka mythomania) and compulsive lying are often used interchangeably.

However, there’s a marked difference between the two.

Pathological lying is a symptom of several personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder.

Compulsive lying can be a symptom of co-morbid conditions like anxiety, depression, and BPD.

In 2005, Mahender Khatri*, 42, was forced by his family into the cabin of Dr Rakesh Pal Sharma, a Kurukshetra-based counsellor who headed the department of psychiatry at Chandigarh’s Government Medical College & Hospital.

Khatri’s decades of weaving elaborate stories – to the extent of posing as a government employee and a doctor – had led to him committing frauds.

“He once posted a job selection letter to his own sister, even marking the correspondence with faked seals of that particular institute. When she went to the place, she was told they’d never sent her any letter,” reveals Sharma. “Although Khatri would feel miserable after, he’d get gratification while lying and backing up lies with more lies.

Khatri, says Dr Sharma, was saved from legal repercussions due to the intervention of his parents, neighbours, and Sharma himself. It also helped that most people in the area “knew something was off with him, but were not sure what”.

It took a combined therapy approach of pharmacotherapy, behavioural therapy and back-to-basic procedures such as pairing undesirable behaviours with unpleasant outcomes to deter Khatri from lying. Finally, after nearly seven months of daily sessions, Khatri showed a marked disinclination to lie and went on to bag a job in a local factory.

Khatri became a case study for pseudologia fantastica or pathological lying in a 2007 case report in Delhi Psychiatry Journal. But, Dr Sharma says, there’s little consensus on habituated lying even among psychiatrists.

Lying, whether pathological or compulsive (see box for differences), is more pilloried than kleptomania. Its common association with sociopathic, even psychopathic behaviour, means those who need help hardly seek it for fear of being further ostracised.

“Pathological lying isn’t mentioned as is in DSM 5 because it’s an umbrella term comprising several disorders,” explains Dr Sharma. “It’s associated with personality disorders, but also with imposter syndrome (as with Mahender Khatri), factitious disorder (feigning or exaggerating physical or mental illness for no clear motive), and malingering (lying for a motive).”

Where do we go from here?

What differentiates kleptomania and compulsive lying from other mental health problems is that they traverse a grey line between the ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’. If left undiagnosed and untreated, both behaviours may veer into illegal territory, to the despair of the very people who are victims to them.

“There are no Indian statistics on both conditions because there’s just not enough information. Why? Because the stigma is so great, people are afraid to come forward and do something about it,” concludes Dr RC Chandrasekhar. “The only way to change this is to bring these disorders into popular discourse.

(* Names changed on request)


Liar and Kleptomaniac - Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Panic & Bipolar Disorder


I am a compulsive liar as well as a kleptomaniac. I have been confronted by former roommates about my stealing from them and was subsequently kicked out of their apartment. A few months ago I was arrested for shoplifting and taken to jail. However, I was able to have that sentenced reduced to an infraction. I have tried many times to stop stealing and lying however I don’t know how. I am currently rooming with a friend and I have stolen from her as well. For the most part, I take money. I am not necessarily in need of money (as my parents still support me) but I feel like I never have enough. I cannot think of a single person I know whom I have not stolen from. I know that I have a severe problem but I do not know how to solve it. I would not even know where to start with seeking professional help. I am not writing because I am feeling quite nervous and paranoid around my current roommate and I would like to remedy the situation without completely ruining our friendship.

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One of the pitfalls of a problem such as the one you are experiencing is that people tend to be ashamed of themselves and actively avoid getting the help they need. You would appear to have what is termed an “impulse control disorder” – which is a fancy way of saying that you can’t control your impulses to do socially unacceptable things (like steal, lie, etc.). If you want help for this problem, my suggestion is that you fight off whatever shame you might feel in asking for help, and make an appointment with a Clinical Psychologist for some psychotherapy. In extreme conditions, there may be medications that can help you, but I tend to think that you are best off starting with a psychological doctor and not a medicine doctor.

Try to find a psychologist who is more senior and has been around for a while. If you can find a recommendation for someone who is good, then go with it – but otherwise just make an appointment with someone from the phonebook, or from your health plan book. Speak clearly and honestly about your problems with this doctor – he or she will not be able to help you if you don’t speak honestly. Stay with the therapy program for at least three months before you make any changes. Try to make all of your scheduled sessions. If you miss one, don’t give in to the temptation to miss all the rest. Instead, call and reschedule.

When you steal from or lie to a friend, you seriously undermine their ability to trust you. Trust is the basis of the friendship and of all healthy relationships. You have to work on being trustworthy. You do that by being responsible and honest in your dealings to the best of your abilities. Good luck.

- Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

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Pathological liars: what makes them lie?


Man among menKnow thyselfPractices how to


Will you swear that you will always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Hardly, like 99.99% of the people in the world. Anyone who claims that he has never lied is clearly disingenuous. However, most can honestly say that they are at least trying not to cheat.

But there is a special category of people for whom lying is a way of life. It is easier for pathological and compulsive liars to make up three boxes than to tell the truth. Why do they do it and how to crack them?

Pseudology fantasy

Pathological lie, mythomania or Pseudologia Fantastica, causes a lot of controversy among psychologists and psychiatrists. Some believe that this is only a symptom of a more complex disorder (for example, borderline personality disorder, sociopathy or narcissism), others are convinced that this is a deviation in itself.

It has been suggested that this is a special form of addiction: a person cheats under the influence of a psychological impulse, like an alcoholic, a smoker or a gambler, in response to specific triggers. However, the fact remains that some people lie all the time.

Their deceit can be called chronic, since it is observed throughout life, or habitual in the sense that it becomes second nature

People of this type always act under the influence of internal motivation, and not external factors. In other words, they lie not so much to avoid the unpleasant consequences of the truth, but for the sake of "sport interest".

Pathological liars are not so easy to recognize, especially on a superficial acquaintance or at the beginning of a relationship. They may seem interesting, intelligent, sociable, charming. Their true face is revealed only with time, and then communication becomes strained. Lying endlessly can destroy friendships, loves, work relationships, and even families.

Pathological and compulsive lying: what is the difference?

Two types of lies have their own characteristics. How do you know who you are dealing with?

Pathological liars:

  • Lie down with a specific purpose,

  • Invent fantastic stories that can endlessly complement with new details,

  • Believe everything that the outfits,

  • are indignant when they are suspected in deceit,

  • lie to strengthen their authority,

  • do not blush or feel embarrassed.

Compulsive liars:

  • seriously believe that they are obliged to lie: either because they do not know how to do otherwise, or if it is inconvenient to tell the truth,

  • often lie for no clear reason and without any benefit, 9003

  • make up fables on the go without really thinking about credibility,

  • prefer "holy" lies, which they think others would like to hear,

  • tend to feel someone else's distrust,

  • when they are caught, they confess that they are lying, but continue to fool others.

These differences are very conditional, because deceivers easily change masks.


What caused this behavior?

There is no clear scientific explanation for the tendency to communicate deliberately false information. This behavior is due to many genetic and environmental factors, but this set is unique for everyone. Here are the most common reasons.

1. Personality disorders

As mentioned above, lying at every turn can be a symptom of a mental disorder.

2. Features of the brain

A number of studies point to structural abnormalities in the brains of pathological liars. One such study revealed increased white matter volume in three regions of the prefrontal cortex.

Other authors believe that a persistent tendency to lie is formed as the restraining emotional reaction of the amygdala weakens. Earlier studies found that 40% of pathological liars had damage to the central nervous system caused by epilepsy, head trauma, or dangerous infections.

3. The costs of education

In childhood, we all learn what is good and what is bad. At an early age, a person may lie out of fear of punishment or for profit, and later this becomes an unconditional attitude.

4. Chemical addiction

Drug addicts and alcoholics often use cunning to hide their problem and at the same time swindle money: addictions “turn off” conscience.

5. Other psychological problems

A person who lies frequently may suffer from depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Such behavior may be associated with fear, guilt or shame, unwillingness to admit their condition. It is important to understand that not every person with such a diagnosis is a pathological deceiver!


Signs of pathological and compulsive lying

If you suspect that you are regularly fooled, pay attention to the characteristic signs of lying.

1. The stories of the liars are absolutely unbelievable

If you find yourself shaking your head often, refusing to believe the fables, it seems that you have come across just such a person. Someone tells how they dined with Tom Cruise or set a world record for eating sausages? You are not mistaken.

2. There is a desire to get attention

If someone lies to gain interest, and goes out of his way to prove his own worth, you are a pathological liar. They practice two ways to attract attention: Instead of admitting their mistake or honestly saying that they are in trouble, such people are talking nonsense, just to look sinless.

  • Make yourself a victim. To enlist the sympathy and support of others, they complain about imaginary misfortunes. Illnesses, death of loved ones, someone's cruelty and other catastrophes in which they allegedly suffered.

  • 3. Liars have low self-esteem

    By itself, it does not indicate pathological or compulsive lying, but in combination with other signs, it completes the portrait of a shameless deceiver. Usually low self-esteem is found in compulsive liars: it hides anxiety and insecurity.

    4. They should have the last word

    Arguing with a pathological liar is like banging your head against a wall. He will give the most ridiculous arguments until you get tired of arguing, just to get out of the fight as a winner. Compulsive liars are easier: they are embarrassed when they are exposed and do not insist on their own.

    5. They are extremely resourceful

    They manage to invent plausible versions for all occasions with lightning speed, create suitable lies literally out of thin air and present them in a convincing form.

    6. They know how to turn everything upside down

    If liars feel that they are close to failure, they immediately back up and change the meaning of what was said. But it is useless to catch them at their word: they will object and say that you misheard or misunderstood.

    7. Their life is chaotic and full of tragedies

    They get out as best they can, trying to seem honest, but sooner or later people realize that something is wrong here. Relationships crumble, another job is lost, friends turn away, but the pathological liar is still rushing about in search of simpletons who can be hung noodles on their ears.

    8. They do not know how to keep secrets and love to gossip

    They are not familiar with the concept of decency: they enthusiastically discuss the details of someone else's life, including intimate ones. Nothing is sacred to them.


    How to behave with them

    It would seem that there is nowhere clearer - to stop communicating and delete from life. But it's not always easy, and it's not always necessary. Not all deceivers are notorious crooks.

    If you are convinced that you have encountered a narcissist or a sociopath, then there is no question: stay away from him, and do not let your conscience torment you. But if someone close to you has serious psychological problems or addiction, you probably shouldn’t say goodbye to them. What to do?

    1. To believe… if necessary

    To look for a lie in every word is more expensive for yourself. Yes, a person often lies, but still able to be honest. He may be exaggerating, but he's basically telling the truth. At the very least, try to figure out when to trust him and when not.

    Do you remember slippery topics, during the discussion of which you often caught your interlocutor in a lie? Or periods of exacerbation, when the propensity to lie became too obvious?

    A healthy skepticism doesn't hurt, but if you're not completely sure that everything you've said is a complete lie, why not assume that you're being told the truth? Of course, this does not apply to important issues: here you need to check everything.

    A modicum of trust is needed: when a person knows that he will be accused of deceit anyway, why should he be honest? Those who are trusted are more likely to reveal the truth, especially if the lie is associated with guilt or shame.

    2. Understand why they lie

    We feel bitter when we are deceived, and this is a natural emotional reaction. Critical thinking can help you deal with it. Think: why does a person lie? What drives them? What is the reason?

    If you can figure out the motives, a little bit of sympathy will surely appear. Your emotions may not subside immediately, but sooner or later you will calm down and be able to take a sober look at the situation.

    3. Accept it as a fact: lies will be repeated more than once

    Pathological or compulsive liars do not always control their speech. Therefore, it is wiser to admit that they are like that and you have to live with it somehow. This does not mean forcing yourself to believe tall tales or accepting their behavior as the norm. The main thing is to realize that not every lie is said with malicious intent.

    They can't help but lie. At least not now, given certain circumstances. Of course, no one forbids fighting this, but you yourself will not change anything. Try to look at it philosophically and not take it to heart.

    4. Convince them to ask for help

    If the interlocutor has developed a tendency to lie relatively recently, you can guess what the matter is (depression, addiction in the initial stage, childhood psychotrauma) and the person is dear to you, try to persuade him to see a psychotherapist.

    People who constantly lie are not easy. And yet, do not rush to write them down as scoundrels or malicious manipulators. There are many causes for pathological or compulsive lying, and although this habit harms both those who are lied to and those who lie, it is treatable.

    Daniel Levitin "Guide to Lies"

    This book will help you recognize lies and process any information critically. From it you will learn how to critically evaluate news, advertising, reports; it is easy to be persuasive by telling stories that subtly deviate from the facts - and how to recognize such stories; work with graphs and recognize data manipulation using visual means; determine who is behind the expertise, words, website, information.


    Text: Natalya Spiridonova Photo source: Shutterstock

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    Pathological lies: causes, symptoms. consequences

    Experts say - a lie does not always mean a bad character, a desire to offend, manipulate. A pathological liar is regarded by experts as a sick person. What is the basis of such behavior, which can lead to serious consequences?

    Definition of pseudology

    Normally, a person resorts to lies to achieve goals. Pathological deceit is found in people who do not want to benefit, deception in this case is obsessive. There is no motivation. The official medical name for pathology is pseudology. It exists as a separate diagnosis, may be included in the symptom complex of diseases. The most common type of pseudology is Munchausen's syndrome. It lies in the fact that an absolutely healthy person behaves like a sick person. Allocate delegated syndrome and by proxy. Delegated occurs in mothers. Foaming at the mouth, they prove that their child is sick and demand medical assistance. Although in fact the child is absolutely healthy.

    Reasons for constant lying

    The mechanisms of this behavior are not fully understood. Experts identify 9 theories: neglect, childhood abuse, genetic, biological causes, low self-esteem, depression, substance abuse, personality disorders.

    Psychiatrists, psychotherapists claim that the causes are not always related to mental health. It can be TBI, organic brain damage. The list of diseases can be quite extensive.

    Differences between lies and pseudology

    Mythomania allows a person to feel his importance, to attract attention. Each event can be seasoned with lies, enjoying the process.

    Main differences:


    Plain lies

    Purpose: none. Lies break into facts

    Purpose: hide mistakes, attract attention

    False stories are overgrown with a lot of details

    Mostly to the point, without small details

    Lies are the meaning of life, everyday, repeated

    Mostly isolated cases

    A person does not always give an account that he is telling a lie. found in pathologies

    The liar clearly understands what he is doing, knows the consequences

    In both cases, the revealed lie leads to a deterioration in communication with the person who lied.

    Example A man is in despair - he is on the verge of being fired. The reason is lies. He told his colleagues about his non-existent incurable disease. According to him, he is undergoing palliative therapy. At first, colleagues sympathized, helped, cared, showed sensitivity. After a couple of weeks, they began to have doubts. The pathological liar was forced to lie even more. The goal was to close the previous untruth. When he was cornered, the man stopped appearing at the workplace. The consequences of his behavior were emotional distress, dismissal. Relatives say that such behavior is normal for him. Previously, the man was fired from three jobs for the same reason. Relatives try to explain to him and prove him wrong, but this is impossible. The liar proved his truth.

    Manifestations of pathological lies

    Constant lying has a number of pronounced symptoms. Mythomaniacs lie convincingly, a lot and colorfully. They easily manage to convince the interlocutor of the sincerity of their stories. The trouble is that such people do not realize that they are constantly lying.

    Clinical manifestations of pseudology can be:

    • lie for no apparent reason;
    • faith in what was said;
    • self-doubt, low self-esteem;
    • inability to keep promises;
    • exaltation of oneself, praise;
    • communication problems.

    Important! Experts say that sooner or later lies will be revealed. the desire to communicate with such a person disappears. In the end, he ends up in splendid isolation. Which negatively affects the psyche.

    How to live with a person who lies all the time

    Living with a chronic liar is not easy. This requires endurance and patience. A chronic liar does not try to harm others. To set up life with such a character, you need to know the basics of lies. With personality disorders, a person is explained that he hurts others, harms, will lead to a break in relationships. The reaction to a lie should not be violent, negative. Quite the contrary - calm.

    In cases of the birth of a lie due to an organic brain lesion, it will be difficult for a person to understand the essence of the claims, and will not be able to give feedback. In this case, hospitalization, drug treatment is indicated.

    Relatives should not be indulged in the pathological lies of an adult. A pathological liar must understand that there will be no concessions for his behavior. It shouldn't be ignored either. There is no corresponding response, no incentive to improve.

    Sign up for an online consultation if you notice that there is a pathological liar in your environment. Our psychologists will help to cope with this problem, provide psychological support to loved ones, and draw up a plan for further action. Our experts are ready to answer questions at any time of the day.

    Recognize lies by non-verbal cues

    If a person knows how to control his voice, then body language, facial expressions remain uncontrolled. There are a number of signs in cases where a person is constantly lying. It is the unconscious that will give it away. What to pay attention to?

    Obvious signs of deception:

    • muscle clamps. It looks something like this: when talking, a potential liar begins to swing one arm strongly, while the other is pressed against the body. It is possible to increase the timbre of the voice to a screech;
    • the depth and frequency of breathing are accelerated;
    • the person blinks frequently;
    • dry mouth, sweating;
    • aggression;
    • theatrical movements;
    • the desire to straighten a shirt, unbutton buttons, loosen a tie.

    It is equally important to remember that when evaluating a liar, they look at a combination of factors: the situation, the correspondence of words, facial expressions, movements, postures.


    What is the psychology of a person who lies constantly?


    If a person lies all the time, this is considered a pathology. There are many underlying reasons. It can be mental illness, a desire to exalt oneself, to pay attention. Quite often, the patient is not aware of his lie, believing in it sacredly.

    Is there a concept of "lying syndrome"?


    This is understood as Munchausen's syndrome. When a person is lying, telling tall tales or acting like a sick person. This state is characterized by embellishment in colors of either past events or fictional ones.

    Can a potential liar lie to the eye?


    Of course, that's usually what happens. Recognizing pathological lies is sometimes quite difficult, as a person sounds convincing. In this case, asking leading questions, you can understand who is in front of you.

    Why, when a person lies, does he continue to invent fables?


    It is a natural desire to hide one lie with another. The deceiver understands that he needs to somehow get out and begins to lie even more. Thus burying himself with his head.

    Expert opinion

    For a constantly lying person, life becomes a continuous overcoming of obstacles. The reasons for this behavior are varied. It is difficult to identify a pathological liar right away. To do this, just watch him, the dissonance of words, physiognomy, body language. Several leading questions can be asked. Those close to such a person need to be patient and not indulge in lies. If necessary, seek help from specialists.

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    Article author

    Monakhova Albina Petrovna clinical psychologist

    Experience 17 years

    Consultations 1439

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    Specialist in clinical psychology.

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