The truth about deception


Lying can often escalate to compulsive lying. Photo: Anneka James

From little lies such as excuses for being late at work, or age old lies, including, ‘my dog ate my homework’ it’s fair to say that the act of lying had become something of an art form over the years. A study commissioned by the Science Museum has found that males lie more than females. Something you might be surprised to find out.

The study found that men are likely to lie twice a day, which results in men lying a massive 1092 times throughout a year, compared to women who tell white lies approximately 728 times a year. One of the most popular fibs men tell are the act of false reassurance with the line: “No, your bum doesn’t look big in that”.

The act of telling white lies has become a part of day-to-day life, with many believing it is acceptable to lie in order to protect people’s feelings. The commissioned survey showed that 71% of people thought this was reasonable excuse to lie.

However, lying does have the potential to escalate into darker depths, resulting in compulsive lying. People who constantly lie usually finds that it becomes second nature to automatically react with a lie. It might be to ease uncomfortable situations, such as anxiousness, or to gain some attention, but eventually the act of lying becomes an addiction, which ultimately turns into compulsive lying.

Psychiatrists believe that compulsive lying can stem from trauma caused in childhood, usually due to the child being placed in an environment where lying was necessary. This can then escalate into compulsive lying later in life, Sarah*, 22, has been a compulsive liar since the age of five and knows the desperation that many in her position face, she says: “the first time I lied I was maybe five or six. I remember telling my best friend that my brother had died. Even then I knew that I had lied for attention – to have a story to share.”

There is no simple cure for a compulsive liar, but steps can be taken to try to battle the condition that has become an addiction. Adam Szmerling is psychotherapist that deals with patients who cope with compulsive lying and says: “Effective treatment for compulsive lying involves mindfulness therapy, counselling and hypnotherapy. The techniques are combined to work with both conscious and unconscious habits of mind.”

Overcoming compulsive lying is never easy, especially if this has been present since childhood. As Sarah experiences, it is something that controls the person, and is hard to break, she says: “It seems I lie to make myself into the person I wish I was. I don’t want my life to be like this, but honestly, I don’t see myself changing any time soon.”

— To protect the privacy of the individual in the article, their name has been changed.

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