March 25, 2023

It’s no secret that everyone tells a lie now and then, but some people become so adept at lying that it becomes second nature, potentially putting their personal and professional lives at risk.

Pathological lying, clinically called factitious disorder, is a condition characterized by compulsive fabrications and a lack of remorse, usually to advance one’s career or social status.

Republican congressional newcomer George Santos — who has passed Anthony Devolder, Anthony Zabrovsky and Kitara Ravache in the past — has come under fire for fabricating much of his resume, education, career, love life and family history.

One of Santos’ most blatant lies is that he is of Jewish descent and that the 9/11 terror attacks “claimed my mother’s life” — while his campaign website said she worked in the South Tower and fled her office in time , and later died of cancer.

Representative George Santos’ web of lies has already jeopardized his political career when fellow New York Republicans called for his resignation. There is no suggestion that Mr. Santos suffers from any of these traits

He also said that his mother was Jewish and that his Jewish maternal grandparents had escaped the Holocaust by moving to Brazil.

But genealogical records show that his maternal grandparents were Catholics by birth in Brazil. He also lied that four of his employees were killed in the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub.

Dr. Drew Curtis of Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, and an expert in the psychology of pathological lying, told, “With pathological lying, the lying usually causes more problems in their lives, so they lose their jobs. or losing family. (There is) a real impairment in functioning and they don’t like doing it… but mostly it serves their career and their life.”

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Even Washington’s most jaded voters and public figures are shocked by the scale of the deception, which for many is an essential part of politics today. Mr. Santos’ lies have catapulted him to great notoriety and become the object of ridicule on late-night comedy talk shows.

But a pattern of compulsive lying is not harmless fodder for comedians. It has a psychological underpinning.

Research indicates that pathological lying can be not only a mask for insecurity, but also a defense mechanism.

Many people lie to protect themselves from an unpleasant situation or conflict.

This is often evident in children who lie to avoid getting into trouble or to avoid unpleasant consequences or punishment.

Others lie compulsively to get ahead financially and professionally, for example by inflating their achievements. In fact, 13 percent of people consider themselves pathological liars, or say others consider them pathological liars.

Compulsive lying may indicate that the person doing it has endured emotional trauma or has a history of being neglected; it could come from there serious uncertaintyor even a mental or mood disorderexperts say.

Munchausen’s syndrome, for example, is a mental illness characterized by pathological lying, pretending to be sick, or deliberately inducing symptoms of illness in order to be the center of attention and gain sympathy.

Dr. Curtis said, “One of the ways that disorder comes about is that the lying is reinforced, we give it attention.

“So if someone is lying about being sick or lying about absurd made-up things, we pay more attention to that. And that attention can have a reinforcing effect on behaviour.’

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Reinforcing a pattern of compulsive lying can mean something as innocuous as reporting on the absurdity of the lies. For many people, any press is a good press. If the lie impresses or elicits sympathy, that behavior will be encouraged.

Dr. Curtis and his research partner Dr. Christian Hart, a professor at Texas Woman’s University, argue that there should be mimic disorder designated as its own diagnosis in psychology.

They claim that it leads to clinically significant impairments in social, professional or other functioning, causes distress and poses a risk to the person lying or others around them.

Classifying it as its own psychological diagnosis would also open the door to more treatment options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and insurance coverage.

Dr. Curtis said, “Part of lying is predicting a future, you predict, if I lie now, it will spare this person negative feelings or it will give me an impression.” But some people who lie, even pathological liars, will say the moment they lied because it relieved their anxiety.”

“If there is no distress or remorse, it can look like psychopathy or an antisocial personality disorder. Someone lies for their own gain.’

Dr. Curtis and Dr. Hart also argue that a true pathological liar maintains that pattern for six months.

Mr. Santos has embellished many aspects of his life since his first run for Congress in 2020.

Dr. Hart told the Washington Post, “In one study, we found that low self-esteem was one of the strongest personality predictors of a person’s propensity to lie — and thus this pervasive sense of inadequacy and worry that you’re not going to measure up. upwards.’

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“On the other hand, we’ve done other research that suggested that having a dark, manipulative personality is also associated with a lot of lying. These people see everyone as a pawn in their game, and they like to manipulate people to get exactly what they want.’

George Santos’ lies are jeopardizing his political career. He has resigned from his committee duties in the House of Representatives under public pressure and members of his own party are demanding his resignation.

In an environment where stretching the truth is second nature, Congressman Santos is an extreme case, and his professional survival is at stake.