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The Sad Story of a Compulsive Liar: Lies Fathers Tell Their Kids

Compulsive lying destroys families. This post includes John’s story of how his relationship with his father was ruined by his father’s habitual lies.

Even though compulsive or pathological liars tell lies constantly, it’s shocking to note that compulsive lying is not strictly a diagnosed condition.

Paul Ekman, in his book “Why People Lie” says that lying is like a drug to them. It gives them adrenalin and makes them feel in control of the person they are lying to.

Other theories on the phenomenon of lying state that it occurs because of emotional issues, neglect, or something that has happened to them in the past.

But these are not the only reasons people lie. Jerald Jellison a professor at University of Southern California, says that once compulsive liars start spinning tales they simply can’t stop. It becomes a habit to them and after a while they do not even know they are doing it. Of course, more lies follow in order to cover up the original ones.

Let’s look at an example. John did not speak to his father because his father was a compulsive liar.

His habit was so severe that it caused the break down of his marriage to John’s mother when he was a small child.

Typically, his father’s habit had got worse over the years. John remembers many distinctive times as he was growing up when he was lied to and then he would be made to feel guilty for what he done to him. John realized that his father had a problem and tried to help him. He begged and pleaded with him many times.

There is one particularly bad episode of his father’s lying that especially stuck in John’s head. It was when he was about 12 years old.

He called him up and told him he had sent his birthday present, which was already a week late. Jon waited and waited while his father called him to tell him “oh it will be at your house by 10:00 am so it will be waiting for you after school.”

John would come home from school everyday and nothing would be there. His father would call him again and keep making excuses about how it would be there and he would pull the “do you not trust me” routine on him.

Eventually, after about three months of nothing but lies he gave up. John got nothing, not even a card, Ironically, young John would have been very happy with a call on his birthday; but instead he got nothing. Worse, he got lie after lie from his own father.

Do Liars Have Different Brains?

A study at the University of California discovered that there are differences in the brains of compulsive liars.

The pre-frontal cortex region of the brain, the part which enables people to feel remorse or learn moral behavior has a different structure than that of a non liar. The study examined more than 100 people who all did a series of 12 pathological tests.

The tests concluded that there was a 25.7% increase of white matter and less gray matter in the prefrontal cortex compared to normal controls. Because the liars had more white matter, the study found that they have a greater capacity to lie and less moral restraints than others.

How Can You Spot a Compulsive Liar?

Eye Contact

According to Dr. Gail Saltz, if a compulsive avoids eye contact often while having a conversation then they are probably lying.

Voice Changes

If the person’s voice has a variation of pitch and mutters a lot of umms and ahhs that can also be a hint that they are lying.

Body Language

Also, body language can be a give away. Watch out for hands going up to cover the mouth for example.

As we heard in John’s sad story, people that constantly tell lies leave a trail of misery and heartache wherever they go. The first step in curing a compulsive liar is to find out what is driving them to lie and then start the healing process by visiting a psychologist.


Wednesday 22nd of November 2017

Lack of eye contact and stuttering are also symptoms of anxiety or basic shyness! I hate that people think shy people are sinister because of the western cultural norm of requiring direct eye contact (which is considered intimidation and/or rudeness in other parts of the world, and also the norm in the animal world). Gives shy people a bad rap for no good reason.

The best way to oust a liar is to have them give you evidence of their wild claims. If something they say seems off, uncanny, or worse they have made claims before that don't add up - they are probably lying. Get evidence, get sources, think critically.


Wednesday 29th of March 2017

I've recently come to accept that my father is a pathological liar. It's something I've fought against for my many years, never wanting to accept or believe, because it's really hard. Especially when your dad is your hero.

But after his lying and explosive and screaming personality destroyed my three year relationship, sent me on a year long waste of my time working for his con artist friend, and he's attempted to screw me out of $17,000, I've angrily acknowledged it. It's just so disappointing.

He lies about things big and small, and it's eroded our once good father-son relationship to nothing. I spent years of my life listening to his advice, believing his stories, and generally following what he said. It's hard to realize what a mistake that was, but it's necessary.

The money was the last straw. After borrowing $17,000 from me when I was 18 years old and taking out my first car loan (he tacked the extra money onto it, literally maxing out what I could borrow) he told me he'd pay me back in 6 months, and that his company for which I worked just needed a brief cash injection. Being a nieve 18 year old who looked up to his dad, I agreed.

But after not being paid back in over a year, I asked him when I could expect it back again. "A few months, I'll get it soon." This continued for the next 7 years, never being paid back. Finally, after we flipped some vehicles together (I did all of the work, he contributed nothing, like usual) I informed him I'd be lowering what I take back to 15 and would be taking it out of the vehicles we sold. He exploded. Lied and said he'd paid me that money back (he never did) and used things like living at his house rent free as a teenager, buying groceries, and family vacations from 7 years ago as justification for not paying me back, as he'd paid through these means. He attacked me, called me a liar, said I was screwing my own dad, made baseless personal attacks, and attempted every way he could to try to shame me and manipulate me into listening to him. That was the last straw.

I can't stand to even see the man at this point. He's narcissistic and manipulative. Everything he does is with the aim of gaining control over someone. He always acts like he's generous to others, inviting them to events and social gatherings at his house where he provides all the food, booze, etc, but it's never out of generosity. He does these things so he can hold it over their heads at a later date when he wants something from them.

He also loves to gossip about others and create drama and fights. This is what lead to destruction of my three year relationship, which has left me utterly heartbroken.

And he bullheadedly wants my brother and I to follow & believe everything he does. He convinced me to not attend post secondary after high school so I could go to work for his business (at a salary approximately 50% less than industry average, so he could sit at home and do nothing). After the business closed, and I worked for his conman friend who ripped me off, I decided that I need to go to university and pursue a career I'm more passionate about. Even now, he's still trying to convince me to not take what I want in university, but instead run his new business he wants to start and take night classes in an entirely different subject. I'm so angry, and yet so sad. Sorry for the absolute mess of a rant, but I just wanted to get it off my chest with some like minded people. Thank you.


Sunday 15th of January 2017

Sounds like you all have more experience with this than I do so I ask for genuine advice. To give some background my ex is a liar but somewhere between persistent liar with low morals and narcissistic which turned to abusive and inevitable break up. We have children together and I am doing my best to see them maintain a healthy relationship with their father, they are only early school year age.

My problem is every boundary we set or agreement we make, regarding the children, he thinks can be broken and lied about until caught. Everything from what they ate that day, to why he was late (covering himself type) to where they intend to go, what time they will return, how they will get there (more concerning as a parent). Most recently telling the children to lie also with the added "because mom will be cross", which the eldest found naturally very emotionally difficult and broke down to me with the shame and weight of it. They love their father dearly and if I could trust him I would have no problem with the time they spend together but as I speak today I have ceased visits at least until I work out how to be sure the kids are safe and I'm not being deceived as to their whereabouts. Is there any advice you can give for getting a liar to see that some things cannot be lied about? Or understanding that teaching your kids to lie is bad parenting?


Thursday 15th of December 2016

Where do I start?. My father is an impulsive liar. I am from a big catholic family 8 kids. We had a hard upbringing eg poor and got lied to and beaten on a daily basic. It wasn't just a smack it was more like get hit with a pole and brake your collar bone beating. My brother and I Left as soon as we could 16 other sisters left home at 13, 16, 16. They all do not talk to them. So we my brother have kind of started to have a better relationship over a common interest as he is a welder and we are building a trailer its has been two months of excuses every time there is another reason why not. My question is do we just have no contact with him ever again? PS yes we were paying him and paid upfront


Monday 24th of October 2016

I have social anxiety and I put my hands over my mouth. Its not because of lying, but simply because of an anxiety twitch.