Maryann Bucknum Brinley

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Extraordinary at Ordinary

Searching for extraordinary science and understanding in the everyday ordinary of life

Extraordinary Liars

Maryann Bucknum Brinley - Thursday, August 11, 2016

My grandchildren are incapable of lying. Even if I have broken unwritten rules while babysitting and allowed them to pick anything they want to eat at the Red Store, Finn and Charlotte will share the news of their secret treats immediately with their mother. “Guess what Grammy let us have?!” 

Charlotte and Finn having fun at Hershey Park in front of a Hershey Bear! It was a chocolate lovers' weekend.

This is good news according Howard Forman, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center. In fact, when children are caught in lies, parents must discipline them or risk telling the child’s brain that lying works. In his Medical Daily article published online last year, “A Pathological Liar is Made, Not Born: When Telling the Truth is Nearly Impossible,” author Chris Weller explains that the kind of pathological lying that comes so easily to Donald Trump “doesn’t drop up out of nowhere like a tumor. Somewhere along the line, and then for multiple years thereafter, it gets learned.”

In the psychiatric community, pathological lying (PL) is a “controversial topic,” says Charles C. Dike, MD, MPH, MRCPsych, writing in Psychiatric Times, “Pathological Lying: Symptom or Disease?” The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSL) doesn’t even list PL as it’s own pathology, Dike says, but instead calls pathological lying an antisocial personality disorder. It’s a symptom of a larger diagnosis. “PL is characterized by a long history (maybe lifelong) of frequent and repeated lying for which no apparent psychological motive or external benefit can be discerned…In some cases, they might be self-incriminating or damaging, which makes the behavior even more incomprehensible.” Yesterday, Trump announced that President Obama is a founder of the terrorist group ISIS. Wow. I can only say wow. This is the kind of distortion that pushes Trump’s mental state way over the edge of normal. Are we looking at a patient, a presidential candidate, suffering from “pseudologia phantastica?” That’s the name given to PL by German physician Anton Delbruck to describe these kinds of liars.

I grew up with a budding pathological liar. My younger sister was so skillful and convincing at times that I would question my own memory of what she was so obviously lying about. I’ll bet Donald Trump’s siblings know exactly what I’m talking about. Did they shake their heads in wonder at his audacity, as I did, about his lying?

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