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Credibility and BPD: The Assumption of Lying

I recently re-read parts of my journal that I kept while I was in the state hospital system. One recurring theme is the assumption that I was lying. This often impacted my treatment, and often impacts the treatment of other people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

The presumption of guilt

Are people with borderline personality disorder liars“Some theorists argue that patients with BPD often lie,” reads a Wikipedia entry. “However, others write that they have rarely seen lying among patients with BPD in clinical practice. Regardless, lying is not one of the diagnostic criteria for BPD.”

So how does this assumption affect people with BPD? Wikipedia continues: “The mistaken belief that lying is a distinguishing characteristic of BPD can impact the quality of care that people with this diagnosis receive in the legal and healthcare systems. For instance, Jean Goodwin relates an anecdote of a patient with multiple personality disorder, now called dissociative identity disorder, who suffered from pelvic pain due to traumatic events in her childhood.[127] Due to their disbelief in her accounts of these events, physicians diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder, reflecting a belief that lying is a key feature of BPD. Based upon her BPD diagnosis, the physicians then disregarded the patient’s assertion that she was allergic to adhesive tape. The patient was in fact allergic to adhesive tape, which later caused complications in the surgery to relieve her pelvic pain.”

I have my own experience with this presumption: my suicidal symptoms sometimes have not been taken seriously. When I was at Richmond State Hospital, I told multiple staff members I was suicidal, showed my therapist the note and told the staff I had plans. They assumed I was lying until I made an attempt. After that, there was no apology – just an explanation that they assumed I was lying to get attention.

Why people with BPD might lie

Psychology Today‘s website, reads “not all people with BPD or knowingly NPD, lie. It’s just that those who do, lie so thoroughly and often that they spoil it for those who do not.”

So why do those who lie do so? It’s all about self-perception.

According to BPD Central, “In the essay ‘Lies and Their Deception’ in the same book, Lying, Cheating, and Carrying On, Clarence Watson, JD, MD pulls no punches when he says:

Given that a BPD hallmark is interpersonal relationships that alternate between idealization and devaluation, the person with BPD may distort facts aimed at the person with whom they desire a personal relationship. … In the moment, their desired objective, whatever that may be, takes such precedence over speaking the truth or behaving honestly that the potential consequences of their conduct are reduced to shadowy details.”

The site continues:

“People with BPD–especially the conventional type–may judge themselves harshly and expect others to do the same. Lying serves to deflect shame when something might make them look bad, thereby maintaining whatever self-esteem they have on a temporary basis. … People with BPD believe that anything ‘bad’ would make others reject them. … Lies may mask real feelings and put up an impressive façade; this is especially common with invisible BPs. Lies may help make sense of why things happen to them in their mixed-up identity.”

In other words, some people with BPD lie to avoid abandonment or to avoid self-hatred.

Not all with BPD lie

I wrote in my journal: “I am many things, but I am not a liar.” Mental health professionals should judge whether or not a person with BPD is lying based on that person’s case history, not the diagnosis.

Based on my experience, very few people with BPD knowingly lie. Very few set out to intentionally deceive someone. But many people with BPD lie based on perceptions, what they believe to be the truth. A classic example is “He doesn’t like me” when the person with BPD really means “I hate myself because I’m not like him.”

What are your experiences with lying and the presumption of lying?

14 thoughts on “Credibility and BPD: The Assumption of Lying”

  1. My mom sister and middle son seem to have many traits of BLP disorder.They all have issues with being honest.Faking illness and injury is a big one.I don’t see them as bad.I see it as emotionally they are trying to cope,maybe trying to feel loved, perhaps so they don’t have to deal with forms of rejection.I use to confront my son to try and help him and it just caused him to lie more to cover up and also anxiety.My mom lies it seems to have control over peoples emotions if I am scared about surgery she lies and says someone else she knows had the surgent and they are good.If she is upset with me she will tell me someone else is mad at me.I will say some times, that’s hard to believe are you sure or that wasn’t my experience if they are talking bad about someone else.The faking illness and injury because I am not in their head or body even if it seems they are not really hurt I give them the benefit of the doubt and go along with it.My sister has lied she had cancer 3 times,her husband told me she didn’t and he would of got billed. I also don’t like how some stuff you read puts down people calls them emotionally immature with BLPD because I don’t see it as helpful to the person suffering from it or the person who has a loved one dealing with it.I have read books to help me understand. Any info anyone can give about their experiences on how I could cope better would be helpful I get depressed some times dealing with some of the stuff they do thanks in advance

  2. My wife lies all the time to the point where I have to catch myself or I am likely to get hurt. My problem is that Initially I almost always believe her thereby going through twists and turns as slowly figure it out. The larger problem is trying to discern the truth. If I confront her nicely, she immediately turns into something akin to a rabid dog attacking me for even doubting her. I am fit and easily way well over twice her weight but am scared of her viciousness which I am sure is part of the reason I initially believe her even though she’s proven herself to be largely unreliable. While the lying is bad, the abuse I suffer for just trying to figure out the truth of things is incredibly belittling.

    It’s very difficult to have sympathy for people who won’t work on their problems. No one should ever be in a relationship with such people unless they are getting paid as a shrink. Of course she can be great but it’s hardly worth it, and if you think it is, you are almost certainly codependent, masochistic, or suffering from something else and very much need to get help before you toss much of life away.

    She has been diagnosed with BPD.

  3. I learned from different sources that each BPD case is different. In my case my girlfriend did lie a lot but they were nothing major. It was a series of small lies that add up to a big lie actually. And I am saying this cause I have proof/evidence. However – she is extremely smart about detecting a lie; almost like she can smell it. Her honesty is like this – she would rather not tell or say she doesn’t want to talk about it – when asked or confronted. In some serious case she was really cornered and had no way out. She has a tremendous tendency of turning things 360 degrees and blame me instead. One day she admitted that I cannont bul*** a bulsh**er (her). And yes – there is manipulations.
    I wrote mostly about Lie just to prove the point. I really admire her ability and courage to be honest in many instances where a normal person wont be sometimes.

  4. In my experience lying occurs no more or less in BPD people than in non-BPD people. Lying is viewed with a high degree of contempt in society and, since BPD is a condition so universally misunderstood and maligned, it is hardly surprising then that lying is so easily added by society to the pile of supposed BPD ‘offenses’.

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