Lying is a primitive coping mechanism that protects us from feeling bad about ourselves. It can develop very early in childhood and persist into the teen years, later becoming a habitual behavior in adulthood.
Most teens and adults have learned that acting out and lying are not effective behaviors. However, it is typical for those who have either some traits of Borderline Personality Disorder or full blown BPD to keep using these primitive defenses well beyond young adulthood.
The question is… Why do they lie?
Why do people with borderline personality disorder lie?
The types of lies people with BPD tell
There is a form of lying that I observe frequently in individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder that I call the What Character Am I Today Lie. In this case, the person with BPD tells a far fetched story story about themself that doesn’t quite add up.
The story may be an indicator or reflection of how the individual wants to be seen and can be a way to improve other people’s opinions of them.
Very often, the individual does not believe there is anything noteworthy about their life or their experiences, which leads them to lie in order to make themself more interesting, more important, or to fit in with a specific group.
Such stories can be an attempt to fulfill the need for love, affection and belonging. Most importantly, the ultimate goal is to protect themself from shame and fear of being alone, abandoned and/or lonely.
Some untrue stories I've heard over the years from BPD people:
- Multiple miscarriages or death of newborn when there is not actual history of pregnancy.
- Being in various branches of the military when they never actually served.
- Promotions in high profile companies when they actually have an hourly paying job.
- Attendance of multiple ivy league colleges when they did not actually attend any of them.
- Saying they had been kidnapped when they actually hadn’t.
- Saying they had been divorced when they actually hadn’t.
- Saying they had been stalked when they hadn’t.
- Saying they had been sex trafficked when they hadn’t.
- Saying they were addicted to heroin or other drugs when in fact they never were.
- Claiming to be a cheerleader, dancer, performer or award winning gymnast when that wasn’t the case.
- Various health problems and near death experiences that were made up.
- Accusing a parents or other innocent individual of sexual or physical assault.
When to get professional help for BPD and lying
I’ve put together some tips on how to respond when your emotionally sensitive person lies and you can find them here.
Seek professional help when any of the following are true:
- Lying remains constant over time. This might signal an emerging personality disorder, conduct disorder, or learning disability.
- Lying is used to deal with difficult situations on a regular basis.
- Lying occurs with such frequency it is habitual or compulsive.
- There is no remorse about lying, even when caught.
- Lying is coupled with other extreme behaviors such as fighting, stealing or cruelty.
- Lying is used to cover up harmful behaviors such as drug use.