Do you know someone who is prone to exaggeration? Or perhaps their version of events strays into all-out fantasy? If someone you care for demonstrates pathological lying, they might be experiencing mythomania – but getting support is a real possibility
Loving someone who frequently alternates reality at their convenience is a difficult task, and requires infinite amounts of patience. Especially if that person is undiagnosed, and you have no idea how to act or combat their tendency to compulsively lie.
Maybe, like me, it took you years to realise that your loved one is struggling with mythomania, and the thought of talking to someone else about it terrifies you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Since we’re talking about a complex and often misunderstood disorder, that affects both the mythomaniac and those around them, underestimating it only results in broken relationships and undesirable consequences, as mythomaniacs may even break the law without being aware that they are doing it.
Now that you know the risks of remaining silent, let’s look at what this disorder is, how it manifests, and what the possible treatment options are for your loved one.
What is mythomania?
According to the experts, mythomania, also called pathological lying, is the strong impulse to magnify reality to either play the victim or hero. Once it becomes a habit, mythomaniacs can use lies to:
- Protect themselves from being held accountable.
- Seek attention.
- Take revenge on someone by causing turmoil and conflict.
- Try to emulate the exaggerated version of themselves that lives in their heads.
- Get a break from what feels like a monotonous life.
As you can see, mythomaniacs use lies to shape reality to their liking, and to help them, we must identify the root cause – the initial thing or things that made them feel insecure or threatened, and prompted them to use lies as a protective measure.
Counsellor, and director of Hope Therapy, Ian Stockbridge, explains: “They potentially can come from a variety of places, but I think that childhood trauma and childhood insecurities, more generally, and a wish to constantly please your caregivers, your parents, and to protect yourself in vulnerable situations as a child, can be associated. I think we can potentially learn at a very young age that to lie can be a protective factor.”
Are there types of mythomania?
Since every mythomaniac has a different reason for lying, that is, a different root cause, it’s difficult to classify them between those who lie to perpetuate their fantasy, and those who do it for the thrill of positively or negatively influencing their environment.
“I think the problem with mythomania is that it isn’t recognised by the DSM5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5, as being a psychiatric disorder, so it doesn’t get split out in any diagnostic sense,” Ian explains. “I think, from a therapeutic point of view, it is more about recognising that there can be different underlying causes associated with it rather than different types of it. For e