Mythomania: the pathological lie

Mythomania: the pathological lie

The Mythomania or fantastic pseudology, is a psychological disorder that leads the person to lie and distort reality compulsively, to the point of believing their own lies. In most cases it is found in people with low self-esteem who seek the attention of others.


  • 1 What is mythomania
  • 2 Mythomania and brain disorders
  • 3 Features of fantastic pseudology
  • 4 Famous cases of pathological lie
  • 5 The discovery of the lie

What is mythomania?

The mythomania was first described in 1891 by the Swiss Anton Delbrück. The pathological lie is the constant falsification of reality, this falsification or distortion of reality is usually considerable and at the same time very complicated, and can manifest itself for years or even a lifetime. The pathological liar may be aware that he is lying, or instead believe that he is telling the truth. Often the individual may be lying to make his life seem more exciting when he really thinks his life is unpleasant or boring.

The lie is a daily behavior in the human being and is still a useful resource in some occasions, either to achieve their purposes or to fit better socially. A lie is a statement whose falsehood only knows who says it and is an attempt to achieve a predetermined goal.

Mythomania and brain disorders

Mythomania is a pathological picture where the continuous manufacture of disproportionate falsehoods can become a complex organized deception, and that, unlike ordinary lies, originates from pathological motivations and psychopathological mechanisms.

Although there are few writings on pathological lies, one study found a prevalence of almost 1 in 1,000 minors and 1 in 10 in adulthood. It has been described that in 40% of cases there is a prior alteration of the CNS: traumatic history, infections, epilepsy or pathological findings in the EEG.

Some research suggests that certain people have a "predisposition to lie." A study conducted observed a higher proportion of prefrontal white matter in people who lie compulsively. The presence of a right hemodynamic dysfunction has also been observed. All these findings suggest that physiology may play a role in its origin. Likewise, this pathological process has been attributed according to various authors to psychopathic factors, such as borderline, narcissistic or histrionic personality disorders.

Fantastic pseudology features

This is a disorder that continues to have harmful consequences. In society a mythomaniac ends up losing all his credibility and is taken as a "how many stories", at intimate levels they are seen as people who are not trustworthy, and friends tend to move away from them and end up being isolated from group.

Its symptoms are characterized by:

  • The stories they tell are not entirely unlikely, they often have some glimpse of truth and are very well formulated (this may be because the mythomaniac thinks thoroughly about all the probabilities of answering the questions of his interlocutors). The stories are not delusions or a manifestation of psychosis: if pressed, the person may admit that what counts is not true, although reluctantly and in more persistent cases the individual will not admit the truth, usually end up diverting the conversation with physical compliments or other related topics that contain greater truth.
  • The tendency to lie is lasting, it is not caused by an immediate situation or by social pressure, but it is a characteristic of the disturbed personality.
  • The ultimate reason for his lies is internal, not external.
  • The stories told tend to present you favorably. For example, the person can present himself as someone incredibly brave, generous, wise ...

Mythomania can also be presented as Falsos memories, where the liar really believes that the fictional events are true, without being aware that these events are fantasies of his mind that have never taken place.

Famous cases of pathological lie

The late writer and journalist José Saramago, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, once said: "Humanity reflects that it has passed through different ages: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and so on until today, the Age of Lying. It is as if the lie had become a habit, a habit, I would almost dare to say, a culture".

Mythomania is a problem that generally affects people with low self-esteem, who lie to feel important and because they are not able to communicate well with other people. With this strategy they are able to attract attention, as they exaggerate or invent entertaining stories and anecdotes.

The case of Enric Marco

An example of this is that of Enric Marco, a Spaniard who spent 30 years of his life saying that he had been imprisoned by the Nazis in the concentration camp in Flossenbürg (Germany). It was also President of the Amical Association of Mauthausen, which brought the Spaniards deported to concentration camps. He even received the Sant Jordi Cross award in 2001, which was granted in recognition of his long social and political struggle.

Later Enric Marco explained that the lie began in 1978, and that it continued because it seemed that people paid more attention, which allowed him to highlight the suffering of the many people who went to concentration camps. "I did not lie for bad reasons"he explained.

The case of Heather Mills

There is also a case of mythomania in the entertainment world: Heather Mills, the model and actress who rose to fame after her wedding with former Beatle Paul McCartney. Her desire to attract public attention led her to talk about the details of her life that were far from the truth.

Mills said in an interview that when she was 14 she ran away from home to live on the streets, but school records confirm she was attending classes. She said she worked in a circus cleaning horses, when the truth was that she used to go with her boyfriend who worked in a traveling circus on weekends. If this was not enough, it is said that one of his ex-boyfriends was a secret service agent, when he really wanted to be one, but never was.

The discovery of the lie

Paul Ekman, a prestigious American psychologist who has specialized in the study of emotions and their connections with facial expressions, and author of a book titled 'Telling Lies', says that the detection of lies is not something simple.

"The detection of lies is not easy. One of the problems is the enormous amount of information - there are too many things to consider, at the same time, too many sources of information - that is, pauses, sounds, expressions, movements of head, gestures, breathing, blushing, sweating ... "says Ekman in his book.

In any case, mythomania is not a disease in itself, but represents a set of symptoms that can show themselves in different mental illnesses, particularly in personality disorders.