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Psychoanalyzed compulsive liar: a real case

Psychoanalyzed compulsive liar: a real case

May 19, 2024

Compulsive Liar and Psychoanalysis: a real case

In this article I am going to tell the story (1), the analysis and the results that the American psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz arrived with one of his patients. This patient was sent by his GP for being a pathological compulsive liar, in order to see if Grosz could offer him the therapy he needed to stop lying.

A history of lies: compulsive liar

The doctor sent Philip (2) to visit Dr. S. Grosz after meeting by chance with his wife and that she, with tears in his eyes, asked him please if they could talk about the possible options they had for treat your husband's lung cancer . As the doctor told him, actually Philip was completely healthy , but apparently, he had invented this lie to tell his wife.


In addition to this fact, during the first session, Philip confessed other of his innumerable lies to Grosz himself:

  • He had told his father-in-law, who was a sports journalist, that on one occasion he had been selected as a substitute for the English archery team .
  • At a school fundraiser, he told his daughter's music teacher that he himself was the son of a famous composer , who was also gay and was single.
  • He also said that the first lie he remembered telling was one he told a classmate, aged 11 or 12, telling him that he had been recruited by MI5 to be trained as an agent .

Lies too risky?

If there is one thing that the psychoanalyst realized soon, it was that his patient he did not seem to care that his "victims" knew he was lying . In fact, as Grosz recounts, when asked if he cared that they thought he was a liar:


"He shrugged"

And he added that the people he lied to rarely challenged him . In fact, his wife simply accepted the miraculous recovery of her husband; or in the case of his father-in-law, who simply kept silent.

On the other hand, when asked about how his lies affected his work environment, he argued that in him, "everybody lies "(Is a television producer).

Lying to the therapist

From the first moment, Grosz was very aware of the possibility that his patient also lied to him , and this happened a month after starting therapy. He stopped paying.

It took five months to pay and until the time he paid the fees, told lies of all kinds , since he had lost his check book, until he had donated his money to the Freud House Museum.


The moment he finally paid, he assumed on the one hand, a relief and on the other, a restlessness . In that moment he realized that he had been telling him bigger and bigger lies to avoid paying, but more importantly, he began to understand why he was lying.

Why do you lie pathologically?

When analyzing the situation he had experienced, he realized that as Philip was lying more and more he was retreating, showing more and more reserved .

It was then that he fell into the possibility that Philip was taking advantage of that social convention according to which we are silent when someone lies to us. But this would not explain why you need to get that control over the situation and cause such silences .

This point was the central axis of the therapy during the following year.

The root of the problem

How could it be otherwise, they talked about their childhood and about their family. Apparently there was no remarkable data that seemed to explain the reason for his pathology. Until one day, Philip recounted a seemingly insignificant event, which proved transcendental .

From the age of three he shared a room with his twin brothers. Sometimes, he would wake up in the middle of the night because of the scandal that the customers who came out of a pub located in front of his house were riding. When this happened, sometimes he wanted to urinate but he remained motionless in bed. This is why when I was little I used to wet the bed, and so that no one would notice, she wrapped her pajamas soaked with her sheets .

The next night, when he was about to sleep again, he found the sheets and pajamas clean again. Evidently, he knew that it had been his mother, but she did not tell anyone about it, and in fact, she did not talk about it with Philip either.

As Philip said during the session:

"I think my mother thought I would get over it.And I did it, but when she died. "

It should be added that, given the family atmosphere, Philip never had a chance to talk to his mother since it was always busy with the twins (who were younger than Philip), so, in the words of Grosz himself referring to his patient:

"I did not remember ever talking alone with her; One of his brothers or his father was always there. Wetting the bed and her silence gradually became a kind of private conversation, something only they shared. "

But this conversation disappeared when Philip's mother died suddenly. What led Philip to reproduce this type of communication with the rest of the people. When Philip tells a lie to his listener, he trusts that he does not say anything and becomes an accomplice of his secret world .

From all this, it follows that Philip's lies were not a personal attack on his interlocutors, but a way to maintain that closeness he had known with his mother , which was also the only close communication he had with her.

In short, a compulsive liar is for experiential reasons .

Author's Notes:

1 This case has been extracted from the book "The woman who did not want to love And other stories about the unconscious" p. 57-6, ISBN: 978-84-9992-361-1; original title "The Examined Life".

2 Throughout his book, Stephen Grosz uses other names to refer to his patients, as well as other personal information to protect their confidentiality.


Pathological Lying, Accusation, and Swindling -- A Study in Forensic Psychology - part (3 of 5) (May 2024).


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