Education, study and knowledge

Why do I tell so many lies? Causes of the tendency to lie a lot

Lying is defined as a "manifestation contrary to what is known, believed or thought". We all tell lies, some authors suggest that we tell an average of 20 lies a day and some days even 200, as Pamela Meyer, author of the book liespotting in her TED talk about her.

Psychologist Bella DePaulo of the University of Virginia concluded in her research that we lie in about a fifth of social exchanges that last more than ten minutes. The latest studies seem to see us as more truthful and show that, on average, we tell one or two lies a day. It seems that there is no unanimity on the number of lies that we actually tell a day, but more than the number, we are interested in knowing why we lie and who lies more.

In this article we will explain the most common reasons why people lie, we will talk about mythomania and we will explore possible causes in cases where there is a tendency to lie well above the average without this being considered pathological.

  • Related article: "What is social psychology?"

'Why do I lie so much?' Possible causes of the tendency to lie

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We can lie out of courtesy, out of compassion, out of kindness, to avoid harming someone close to us, or also for our own benefit, to get rid of of a reproach or a compromise, although psychologists recommend not telling the truth rather than using a lie, for example, by changing theme. In these cases we are aware that we are lying, but... Why do we sometimes make up stories instead of telling the truth?

Some people lie a lot more than others. Surely you have heard of mythomania. Mythomania is described as the pathological tendency to lie, mythomaniacs do not seek to avoid punishment or obtain a benefit, but lie compulsively.

There's also people who do not fit into a clinical category but lie more than average, within this group of people will be found, for example, people excessively concerned about their image, such as politicians, who can tell 4 times more lies than the rest. The same study that he concluded that people tell an average of 2 lies a day, following up for three months, he also heard the Trump's statements during the same period and recorded that the former US president uttered an average of 9.9 lies per day, 5 times more than the rest.

There is a long list of reasons why people resort to lying. The main or most frequent causes for not telling the truth are related to the avoidance of punishment, this seems very logical in children, but for adults this is also the main reason to lie, to save ourselves some situation unpleasant. As it explains Paul Eckman, we lie to protect ourselves, maintain our privacy, or save ourselves from embarrassment; not all reasons are selfish, sometimes we lie to avoid harming others or to avoid suffering, for example, with pious lies.

Mark Twain already said: "No one could live with someone who told the truth on a regular basis." We lie because others exist, basically by socialization. Relationships sometimes require lies; we are not going to explain our life to the neighbor who asks us how we are in the elevator, nor tell to our grandfather or grandmother that we do not like that gift that he has given us with great enthusiasm for Christmas any. In addition, society often demands that we show an improved image of ourselves, on your Instagram only part of the truth is shown.

  • You may be interested: "The 15 types of lies and their characteristics"

What is mythomania?

Some go beyond these little lies and fictions that we may even consider necessary. Cases in which the lies take disproportionate magnitudes, there is no behind them, avoiding an unpleasant situation or obtaining some kind of benefit, there is something gratuitous in lying, he lies to himself without the need to lie, out of compulsion. Pathological liars or mythomaniacs come to create great stories around them.

Mythomania was first described by Anton Delbrück. This German psychiatrist and hospital director was surprised to find that some of the patients he treated were able to tell invented stories as if they were true, providing great detail and data. Delbrück used he termed "fantastic pseudology" to refer to this behavior that he found so strange. Since he first named it, Delbrück identified five more cases related to mythomania that he would analyze exhaustively.

Mythomaniacs are also known as compulsive liars. In history we can find some well-known cases, such as that of Anna Anderson who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, the youngest daughter of the last tsars of Russia, Nicholas II and Alexandra, murdered along with all her descendants in 1918. For many years the whole world believed her, and the mystery continued until, in 1991, the DNA of the Romanovs was compared to that of Anna Anderson, giving a negative result. Finally, Anastasia's remains appeared in 2007 and it was confirmed that she, along with her entire family, had indeed been murdered that night.


The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not consider mythomania as a mental disorder in itself, but as a symptom or condition within the antisocial disorder of the personality. As there are no general diagnostic criteria, it is difficult to decide who is a mythomaniac and who is not. However, it is understood that a person is a pathological liar when his lies are totally disproportionate to the purpose, it is a behavior that also has to be repeated over time, mythomaniac people deform and falsify reality constantly.

Normally, mythomaniacs know they are lying, but as some experts explain, at some point they may lose their sense of reality and allow themselves to be swallowed up by their own lies and inventions, which they begin to consider real.

But what drives someone to lie compulsively? The causes of mythomania are not really determined. Apparently there would be a biological component: the brains of mythomaniacs would have a greater amount of matter white in the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, this would mean that they have more connections than the rest of the brain. people. Science then seems to say that mythomaniacs lie because they have the ability to do so; By having a greater number of connections, they can associate their ideas and memories much better and, therefore, they are able to tell more coherent and credible lies and maintain them over time.

But having the ability to do so doesn't really explain why you lie. Other social and psychological factors would hide behind the need to lie compulsively; the construction of the personality of the mythomaniac person would be associated with his own lies, without them he does not know who he is. This can start with little lies that get bigger and bigger to keep the character created.

Finally, many mythomaniacs have problems of low self-esteem, which can be derived from a childhood where they did not receive much affection. Frédéric Bourdin was famous for supplanting the identities of children who had been missing for a long time. He even spent time with some of the families and gave unlikely explanations for the physical changes that he presented with respect to children, such as having been subjected to experiments that had changed the color of his eyes. The police said that he lied for pleasure, but whenever he was questioned by the police about "why" he answered with a simple, but significant: "to endear me".

  • Related article: "Mythomania: symptoms, causes and treatment in children and adults"

Frequent reasons why we can lie a lot

As we have seen, one of the causes associated with mythomania is low self-esteem, let us explain why this condition, in addition to others, considered non-pathological, make individuals more prone to to lie.

1. self esteem issues

Self-esteem is the appreciation that one feels towards oneself. Low self-esteem can come from different places, for example from the inability to accept yourself and life as it is. The inability to accept ourselves can make us add some details to our lives and our abilities or those of others, for example, parents who lie about the results of their children, to be seen as better parents, or to lie about the trips we have made and the places we we know. Deep down, what we feel is an excessive concern for making a good, favorable impression on others, derived from a lack of esteem for our real life or true abilities.

  • Related article: "Do you really know what self-esteem is?"

2. extreme shyness

Shy people don't like to speak or express themselves in public, be the center of attention, or spend too much time in conversation with strangers, so They may resort to lying to avoid prolonging interactions with strangers or semi-strangers or participating in events that involve many people who are not they know.

To avoid going, they can invent that they have some other commitment to attend or some other matter to attend to. It is true that it is a good strategy to get rid, but lying can generate stress and in this case it is better to say that we don't feel like it and why to create spaces and places where we can be comfortable with the people who have invited us to the party.

  • Related article: "The 10 keys to overcome shyness once and for all"

3. Socioeconomic precariousness

People with economic difficulties or low income are often motivated not to say publicly what their situation is. This, on many occasions, leads to end up lying so as not to feel judged by their surroundings or to be deprived of job opportunities.

4. addictions

One of the characteristics of addicted people is lying. Lying in people with addictions is considered part of the disease. It is important to remember that an addiction is a chronic brain disease, where the way of thinking has changed. The maximum concern of the addicted person is to consume and, for this, resorts to lies and self-deception.

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