Credibility and BPD: The Assumption of Lying

March 5, 2013 Becky Oberg

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?

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, March 5). Credibility and BPD: The Assumption of Lying, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Becky Oberg

The Alfabet
December, 4 2022 at 4:40 pm

I Have always thought I dont know how to lie. And when intentionally Ive tried to (seeing The normies do that alle The Time and get away with it, I tried to learn), I cant. BUT now, Ive caught myself few Times afterwards, after catastrofizing when The Head clears Out from deep feelings of being "destroyed", Ive noticed that things Are not that Bad Ive told people when asking for help etc. (Crying for help actually) BUT is it lying when I myself truly Believe on what on saying, I really feel that way at The Time, and when The situation has calmed down, I am embarrassed that I was so dramatic and basically making a Bull from a fly, yet IT confuses me because I really truly deeply thought IT was a Bull and that I cant get trough IT on My own. Another things I noticed; If I feel belitlett of Ive for example read a fact from an internet, tell to My friend what I read and she belittles me, or says IT cant Be true, and I know it is true (forexample a Science article) I might quickly add up that someone I know had this Said things happened to him, so Ive seen My own eyes that its true, just so she cant deny that its true (allthough she could just Google and see for herself, BUT she never does, she just wants to question things that gives her cognitive dissonanse (like everyone- totally Normal)) and I cant stand that people dont Believe me, Even for The most BASIC stuff, Even tho If on not sure about If something IS true I always point that Out. Its because nobody believed I was raped and I got bullied for years because nobody believed me. So I kinda Have problems with not being heard and taken seriously. My doctor things I might Have bpd, I am neurodivergent and ocd. I Have a chaotic childhood and The rape happened when I was 18, got bullied by The friends of The rapist for Many years, so im not sure what situation was The ultimate damnation to this personality. The Point is, I cant lie on purpose, If I try I either laugh for My own stupidity or apologize and correct, because My Brain starts emmidiately mocking me and I cant stand The self loathe for a Even second, cant lie Even to a police just to not get a Ticket, cant Even shut up, and The overexplaining and spiralling just to Make sure to myself I wasnt Even accidentaly saying anything that could Be interpreted as a lie. However, when My perseption of The situation is worse than IT actually is, that might uknowingly happen at The Heath of The moment. But according to NLP Our conscious mind as a humans van only perseive very small fraction of The informaation Our Brain receives, and The filteration of The informaation that is left to Our conscious minds to perseive is highly filterated and coloured by numerous individual factors of believes, traumaa, experiences, culture, etcetc. So inevitably nobody has The same interpretation of The informaation, nor do we Even perseive The same parts of IT normally.. So when The bpds perseive this informaation trough The traumatic events that almost cost us Our lives, The same approach is taken as Paranoid or Lying depending of what we Are looking at, by The eyes of those who hasnt almost got killed, nor suffered unbearable vastity of pain and feat for prolonged periods of Time. So inevitably its not being manipulative, deceitful, Lying etc. Its literally a panic responce or something like that for a Life that to us survivors has showed that anybody can and Will eventually try to "kill" us, and this is a conditioning due to repetitive attacks on Our safety and usually by The people WHO was supposed to Be Our safety (family,friends etc) Even its not true anymore. But normies, a question, If every christmas for lets say 10 years you get hit by The same truck at The same Road at The same time, would you get Scared of anything that resembles that truck, Road or christmas Even? Would IT Be crazy to not to get Scared of them? Anyway, I got carried away-again.

June, 11 2016 at 2:47 am

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

June, 1 2016 at 12:38 am

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.

March, 26 2016 at 5:44 pm

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.

February, 24 2016 at 10:59 pm

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'.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 9 2018 at 9:07 am

I don’t necessarily agree and this is why. Those diagnosed with BPD are so hellbent in protecting their always temporary or fading self esteem that that will literally do anything to protect it depending on who’s witnessed them or asked the question and if what has happened is severe enough TO THE BPD to be worth protecting themselves with the lie or seemingly thin threaded truth connected to a large spindle of falsehoods. You are correct to a degree that because this persons disorder may mark them more prone to or capable of being dishonest. But that does not take away the merit of that observation in people with BPD based on their reasoning for so desperately protecting their facade in which they want so deeply to be accepted by everyone.

January, 23 2016 at 4:19 am

PLEASE - all those arrested are innocent until proven guilty in court - so all people with BPD are not all liars - until proven not abuse the abused more by denying their true needs to identify themselves and recover from the abuse they have endured from one source or another. I have BPD due to abuse but I strive to learn and fight those twisting their lies due to cover how they failed me - not all dogs bite or attack just because some do - dont judge us all....we suffer too you know - do you think we like who we are at times and how we feel? apart from those living with us making themselves into victims - we are too...

March, 24 2015 at 6:08 pm

My stepdaughter openly admits to lying. She is EXTREMELY manipulative. I believe she lies the most to herself, but there is ZERO doubt she knowingly lies frequently. Her mother is equally dishonest. She cannot possibly believe ALL of her lies given the sheer number of lies she tells. Confronted with irrefutable proof, she will still lie.

July, 11 2014 at 1:47 pm

It is not true that "very few people with BPD knowingly lie." I believe, also based on my own experience, quite a number of people, I have to say most, with BPD lie because of their twisted perception of reality and lack of moral.

ELizabeth Garcia
June, 6 2014 at 11:09 am

Actually I have to ask. Do you think it is better to just ignore it then? Because it seems to just cause more anxiety and feelings of rejection.

ELizabeth Garcia
June, 6 2014 at 11:07 am

Thank you so very much for posting this. I am trying to figure out whether it is best to ignore what I suspect are my son's lies or draw attention to them to help him more. This give me the understanding of what he is trying to accomplish or the why of it. WHich doesn't really help me decide but still helps.

Neb Folkstrom
June, 5 2014 at 8:28 am

a believe the lying is fantastical way for the borderline persons to create an identity. a see a lot of borderline persons at group therapy compare themselves to other persons and celebrities, some of whom are also borderline. it is not in a bad way, just for the borderlines persons to feel that they have an identity, that being someone else.

September, 23 2013 at 11:24 am

I can't stand Psychology Today anymore. They always seem to have bad things to say about BPD and some of the blogs there say down right horrible things about people with BPD including that we have the emotional functioning of 18-24 month olds and that were severely disabled and will never survive alone.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 11 2019 at 2:35 am

Well... one of those things is absolutely true. Our emotional system stopped developing at a very young age. All borderlines are emotionally, around 2-3 years old. I do want to believe, however, that our emotional system can grow... I always thought I was about 5 years behind my peer group. But as I got older I recognized that we are indeed emotional two year olds and my emotion system would most likely never grow. I swear though, ive begun to actually experience brief flashes of what I would explain as grey thinking. Integrated thoughts which are neither all good or all bad but a blend of both sides. This gave me a lot of hope. Anyway, regarding being a two ear old. Bingo. Our identity diffused when we were young. Once an identity diffuses, it cannot be brought back together. An assumption that we have built a real identity or are getting better is just a symptom of a diffused identity. Usually in the form of a false self. Some bpd's are so good at the false self that they live "happy" healthy lives of constant activity. A lot of bpd's living like this eventually become exhausted / depleted and need to curl up into a ball and recover. So back to the actual reality of empty loneliness. Wooh. Hope you have vacation time and no other obligations... I always end up quitting a job just because I cannot tolerate certain situation that it forces you into. I look at that as rape. And that's another reason borderline never get better. The constant bombardment from the stresses of daily life

September, 11 2013 at 11:47 pm

Feel that professionals expect those living with BPD to be manipulative and therefore constantly lie. In my experience it is the opposite and maybe too much honesty is expressed to the wrong people who then use it as a weapon!

June, 27 2013 at 6:43 pm

I once dated someone who I now believe could be borderline, and she did an incredible amount of lying. But it's as you said--her lying usually doesn't seem intentional, but is instead based on her perception of reality. I still have a lot of trouble wrapping my head around the idea that she truly and honestly believed things were one way when they absolutely were another, but I read somewhere that people with BPD could lie as a means of protecting themselves from rejection or a survival technique, and it did seem that a good deal of the lying was some kind of defense mechanism to avoid any intense feelings of failure and self-loathing. For example, when she first started to believe I was going to leave her or that I didn't love her, she created an untruth (I won't call it a lie, it was more like a complete manipulation/twisting of reality into something else) to blame me for something that hadn't happened, in order to make herself into a victim. I'm not sure if this is also characteristic of BPD, but personal victimization was pretty consistent in virtually every conflict she had, whether it was with me or anyone else.
I'm glad I read this post though, because as a result of my experience with this one person I thought a common symptom of BPD was lying/untruths, when that is apparently not the case. I'm not a mental health professional, so this belief is just that--belief. But reading this post gave me a good deal of closure. Thank you.

clara koblosh
March, 7 2013 at 6:49 am

I was given the bpd diagnosis and nobody belived me either. I believe I lied to other people but I did believe my lie. I honestly thought that I was telling the truth. In retrospect I probably lied but not to manipulate but to communicate (badly) what is going on with me. However, I was serious when I said I wanted to die. I should have been hospitalized then but I wasn't. I went through many years of depressions after that. The type of lie that borderliners do is basically to themselves.

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