What is mythomania?

What is mythomania?
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Pathological lying was first described in medical literature in 1891 by Anton Delbrück. It is a mental disorder in which the patient compulsively lies to the point of being able to believe their own lies.

How does a mythomaniac lie?

The stories told by pathological liars are extraordinary or fantastical, but never beyond the realm of believability. They usually present the mythomaniac in a positive light, portraying him as a hero or a victim. The propensity to lie is chronic. It is not directly caused by any particular situation or social pressure. It is an innate personality trait.

When we talk about mythomaniacs, we basically mean people for whom lying is part of everyday life and behavior. They are most often accompanied by:

  • fears and anxiety – mythomaniacs are people who are frustrated by their own reality, thus suffering from various anxieties and fears that encourage them to create their own lies, distort reality and misrepresent facts;
  • low self-esteem – the inability to accept themselves causes liars to draw a profile of themselves that is completely disconnected from reality;
  • tension – people who lie compulsively experience real stress related to telling the truth. They constantly have to create situations and contexts with which they can escape the facts and support their version of reality. If a myth teller is aware that he or she is lying, then when faced with the threat of being exposed, his or her brain begins to work harder and creates more lies;
  • belief in one’s own lies – the mythomaniac has the ability to assimilate their own experiences or experiences invented for others, so they maintain a natural connection to their lies, and often even perceive them as memories;
  • exaggeration – it is quite possible that a liar of this type will tell the truth, but exaggerated and hyperbolized.

Causes of mythomania

Research has emerged in psychobiology that shows that pathological lying is the result of neurological imbalances, particularly in the frontal lobe. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that pathological liars have an increased amount of white matter in the brain. And the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience found that people with this disorder suffer from circulatory dysfunction.

Many psychiatrists and psychologists believe that mythomaniacs are people with low self-esteem who consciously or unconsciously try to gain attention, popularity, love or to hide failures. There are also often opinions that compulsive lying is a symptom of a larger personality disorder, such as borderline or dyssocial personality.

Differences between a mythomaniac and a liar

A liar always has a reason to lie – to protect themselves or someone, to gain some benefit, to hurt someone, etc. This type of lie is “reasonable,” meaning logically thought out, believable, and planned. The liar is always aware of what he is doing. Meanwhile, a mythomaniac lies compulsively, often without clear motivation or reason. It is also not uncommon for his lies to be absurd and borderline implausible, and the mythomaniac simply believes them.

Mythomania is a serious disorder that affects not only the liar, but also his closest environment. Pathological liars are people who lack certain moral values and a sense of shame. This creates a huge problem for relatives and friends who are lied to every day and stop trusting the mythomaniac. Thus, he or she becomes a lonely individual and incapable of forming lasting social relationships.

Main Photo: Priscilla Du Preez/

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