Pseudologia fantastica is a disorder in which a person makes up stories that might be complex and repeated over many years or a lifetime. It is also called pathological lying, mythomania, and morbid lying. Fabrication becomes a lifestyle for the pathological liar and provides the person with some kind of internal reward. Pathological lying is seen in other psychological disorders, but pseudologia fantastica itself is not listed as a recognized illness in medical literature.
A person suffering from this condition is not insane and might be highly successful in his or her profession. The lies may be based on partial truth, and the person might acknowledge part of the falsehood if confronted. Usually, the lies are not told to gain external benefit, but they provide the liar with some internal gratification. Pseudologia fantastica is not clearly understood by experts, and scant research has delved into the disorder. It presents challenges for psychologists when they attempt to determine if a patient suffers from a recognized disorder, in which lying is only one of the signs.
One disorder that involves pathological lying is malingering. A patient suffering from this condition invents physical or psychological symptoms to obtain something, such as drugs or money, or to avoid prosecution or work. Pseudologia fantastica differs from malingering because the reward is external rather than the internal satisfaction sought by a pathological liar.
Confabulation is another disorder where lying is common. A person with this illness might invent stories to cover up a lapse in memory. The lies are commonly linked to amnesia, and are usually connected to recent memory loss. During confabulation, the patient knows he or she is lying, unlike pseudologia fantastica, where amnesia is absent.
Facititious disorders involve lying about symptoms, either psychological or physical, to convince medical workers that a person is ill. Ganser’s syndrome is one such disorder where a patient might undergo numerous tests or surgeries in an attempt to prove an illness. Faking an illness is not included as a symptom of pathological lying, meaning the disorder does not completely fit with Ganser’s syndrome because the morbid liar’s stories are commonly not willful or done consciously.
Psychologists are split on whether mythomania is a primary disorder or secondary to some other mental disease. Lying is common in several mental illnesses, including borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and narcissism, but pathological liars do not meet most of the criteria for these recognized disorders. Some psychologists believe that pseudologia fantastica might stem from childhood fantasizing that is carried into adulthood. Studies have also shown a possible link to central nervous disorders in some patients.