In my personal experience, lying and Bipolar Disorder have always gone hand in hand. I grew up surrounded by what I call ‘Bipolar liars.’ My parents, grandparents, aunts, cousins, and sisters were plagued with a chronic problem with lying and I have told more than my own share of lies.
Can lying be a symptom of Bipolar Disorder?
Lying does not specifically appear in the criteria of Bipolar Disorder symptoms. Therefore, in the strict sense, it is not part of the clinical criteria.
However, many of us with the disorder, and those of us with loved ones who have struggled with Bipolar Disorder, have had life experiences that lead us to conclude there is a definite connection between Bipolar Disorder and lying.
Before we get into the reasons people with Bipolar Disorder tend to engage in what sometimes seems like a constant stream of lying, let’s start by clarifying that everybody lies! In fact, “everybody lies” is one of today’s pop culture mantras. It is the signature line of Dr. House on TV, and you can even buy a t-shirt with the saying, “Everybody lies”.
So, in fairness to all of us with Bipolar Disorder, the issue could be more accurately cast as whether people with Bipolar Disorder lie a little (or a lot) more than the average person.
As much as I hate to say it, my own experience leads me to say, yes! People with Bipolar Disorder engage in what I consider “serial lying.”
However, Bipolar Disorder and lying is a complex and nuanced issue and I hope you will keep reading to discover some of the factors that drive this apparent lack of honesty.
First, let’s quickly review why people (and I mean all people) are sometimes not entirely truthful. In general, folks lie because:
1. They feel guilt and/or shame.
2. They are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth.
3. They feel compelled to cast themselves in a more favorable light.
4. It is a “white lie” to make someone else feel better and has no malice attached to it.
5. They are manipulative sociopaths or narcissists who enjoy the power that comes from deliberately deceiving and making fools out of other people.
6. They are politicians or secret agents or parents or are in some other situation where it appears to them that the ends justify the means.
It is easy to see why at least the first three of these common reasons for lying may arise frequently in the life of someone with Bipolar Disorder. It may also help to learn about the general pathology of compulsive liars.
For someone with bipolar disorder there are, in my opinion, at least six additional factors linking bipolar and lying:
2. Memory lapses and other cognitive problems.
3. Manic symptoms such as grandiosity and impulsiveness.
4. The bipolar/creativity connection.
5. Collision of racing thoughts and pressured speech.
6. Having a lot to cover up and hide. For us, maybe more than for other people, the truth really can hurt!
(An interesting portrayal of a compulsive liar with bipolar is Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre in the movie The Informant.)
Is bipolar and lying a perfect storm?
The symptoms of mania lead to a series of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that create a predisposition for the affected person to telling lies. When several, or all, of these symptoms are combined, the likelihood of lying compounds and amplifies. Lying and mania share the same dark core. Wish fulfillment, selfishness, delusion, deceit, egomania, self-gratification, escapism – these are words often used to describe the psychic landscape of the liar and are strikingly similar to the experience of bipolar mania.1
In my opinion, Bipolar Disorder and lying go hand in hand with Bipolar grandiosity, diminished need for sleep, racing thoughts, and overall impulsivity and impaired judgment. The person with Bipolar Disorder may be experiencing a powerful sense of superiority and entitlement, and/or an unshakable conviction they are above the rules and/or an aching feeling of being misunderstood and under-appreciated – this is the perfect storm for lying!
During an episode, the normal self is temporarily replaced by someone who is convinced they are special and superior. He or she is now so wrapped up in themselves that they can only perceive other people and events through their own self-engrossment. Nothing has significance except for how it relates to their wonderful, perfect self – right here and right now. What are some examples of our society’s “special” or “superior” people? Think about royalty, celebrities, presidents, and third-world dictators. Often, we see such people acting as if they can play by a different set of rules. They are above the law. Bipolar liars may have such an inflated sense of self-importance that they feel suffocated and constrained by everyday life. “Great Ones” do not have to stick to drab and suffocating circumstances, especially if the truth stands in opposition to seemingly brilliant insights and moments of revelation (rather than the base and tawdry need for excitement that others may perceive).
Remember, when a person is grandiose, they don’t just believe they are special. It is a conviction of being “superior.” This means having more value than others and more importance than others. It is a hierarchical perception. The grandiose, Bipolar liar is not just the center of their own delusional universe – they are above others. This may mean also being above the usual norms of behavior. It is a special sense of immunity and entitlement.2
This is why it is so typical for Bipolar liars to not only express no remorse for lying (and other behaviors), but to act as if they are actually the injured party. In their delusional state, they experience any attempt to limit their behavior (for example, with being held responsible for telling the truth) as a malicious and unjustified act of control and domination. Any effort to reason with them will be perceived as manipulative, and ironically may even be perceived as selfish or cruel. They are a bright and shining star and any attempt to curb their manic behavior is a petty, jealous attack by mere mortals who resent true greatness.
So, in summary, people with Bipolar Disorder will tend to lie more than what is considered ‘typical’ or occasional lying that all people do. Constant lying, especially when in a manic state, occurs when the person believes they are special and superior to others. The person attempts to create a reality that supports this grandiosity and superiority, even if they have to lie to make up this imagined state.
Also, Bipolar liars may be expressing their heightened creativity through lies.
Sometimes the Bipolar liar is trying to communicate a profound emotional or psychic truth that cannot be expressed by sticking to the facts. In addition, people with Bipolar Disorder often lack self-awareness, especially when they are in a manic state, so they will naively make up lies and expect that their audience will believe them. The lies, in other words, are not plausible or believable, but they make perfect sense to the person with Bipolar Disorder.
Why bipolar lying is wrong
When we tell another person a lie we are behaving in a way that is controlling and contemptuous of that person. Telling someone a lie reduces the lied-to person from a subject to an object. That person cannot exercise their free will and personal judgment because they do not have all the facts. Rather, they become a prop for our playacting.3
Bipolar liars may not manipulate and attempt to control people out of malice, but mania can turn us into fantasists. And, as outlined above, there are many reasons Bipolar Disorder and lying is so tightly linked. The grandiosity, superiority, impulsivity, and loss of control experienced in a manic state contribute to the Bipolar liars’ attempts at controlling others and everything around them. Their goal is to create a new reality-a sort of alternative universe-that supports their delusional state. However, we have a duty when we are well to reflect on why we lie during mood episodes and to include strategies for avoiding lies in our Treatment Contracts and Wellness Plans.
I am a bipolar person. Your article’s focus is on lying during manic episodes. You fail to elaborate on how lying is used by a bipolar person during depressive episodes. I am now 56 years old. Throughout my life I have been bullied, ridiculed, and teased for everything from my physical appearance to the fact the I do not have children. I am always alone. I lie by telling people that I prefer to be alone when in reality I have no close, intimate companions. I lie by telling people that I never wanted children. I lie when I boast that I am fearless and unafraid when I am so scared that I do not sleep and frequently check windows and doors and am fearful when I leave my home. I lie when I answer the phone with a cheery “hello” when I was in a ball of confusion and despair before I picked up the phone. I lie when I tell myself that keeping busy will bring me peace and joy. I lie when I say “one day I will be better.” I’m lying to you now in writing this for it is not done purely to express my opinion, but also to block my thoughts for a moment so, for a little time, I will not feel so bad. Everything I do is not a desire, but a necessity. Everything I do is necessary for me to block feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, and utter loneliness. Am I lying to myself in believing that you will respond to me? I guess time will tell.
Thank you for being honest with yourself by expressing your feelings. I am not a medical professional or a counseler. Your first step is to make sure you are getting the right medical support available to you. Best of luck!
The first step is to make sure you are getting the correct counseling/medical help for all the needs you may have. Best of luck!
Lots of your examples are actually the kind of lies made by the masses. The first step for anyone in those types of lies is to just start being more honest. For instance, I lost my husband suddenly. People will often say things like this, “Oh, if you need anything let me know.” First off, I know those whom are just saying it to say it and really won’t help me out if I call. Are they lying? I guess it depends on whom you ask. It’s probably just something they say that they believe will make me feel more supported. I would be lying if I replied that I may need to. The truth is, I don’t need them to help me, I point out that basically just taking time to talk on the phone is all I need. They don’t need to buy my groceries. Some times a business person may say I must be really overwhelmed. I just say the truth – “No, I’ve just had a hard time sleeping because after I call people about my late husband it makes my stomach upset and it keeps me awake sometimes.” By simply explaining and not going to a default answer of “Oh I’m fine with ____.” You educate people about whom you are without going too far into it. I’d love to encourage you to say to people, “I would have liked to have had children, but I also enjoy having time to volunteer at the local animal shelter and that brings out the mothering instincts in me.” I was not able to have children, I don’t lie about why I didn’t. You don’t have to have BP to not have children. I am able to nurture others in other ways. Also, people with general anxiety, depression and other related illnesses also feel the same – staying busy will help, etc. It can, but it doesn’t always. You’re not really alone. That is simply an out. Many people can only trust animals, so that’s one avenue many of us sensitive people take. I highly recommend it. You can even just go visit animals at shelters waiting for a home, by petting them, talking to them and making them feel less scared, alone and panicked. God Bless.
I totally get everything you say .
Even if you had 20 “friends” around you being bipolar you would still be paranoid and alone inside ,I’m always alone im 100%nuts sometimes but getting a dog has actually helped me alot xx although I’m going through a manic stage ??I want to party do drugs drink cheat just run away from everything because they are all wrong !I see it happening I just can’t stop it ?
Describes my son perfectly. I knew he was bi polar but was seeing so many signs of narcissism. He has been lieing manipulating me since childhood ! He is so cruel to me his mother . As a child and even now as an adult he abuses me ,manipulates me and even destroys my reputation publically if I call him on his bs or refuse to do what he asks. He is doing this very thing to me right now ! He disowned me for refusing to do something for him and his girlfriend that I knew was wrong legally to do. Its hard when I love my son and he treats me this way. I always worry about his mental health and he won’t take medication
You are not alone. My older brother is the EXACT same way with my mother and myself. He is always the persecuted victim. When in fact it is his fault he has ten children with five different women and cannot hold down a job. Don’t get me wrong, I recently found out I was bipolar as well. We inherited it from our father who passed a few years ago. I worry for my mother because it is impossible for her to cut him off completely. However, as I tell her, it is most important to protect yourself and employ self-care. It has been hard for me as a person with bipolar disorder to undergo therapy and deep introspection. The lying is a way to disguise great feelings of guilt and inadequacy, warranted or not. The bottom line is that your son is responsible for his recovery, just as my brother is responsible for his, as he also neglects treatment and medication. I encourage you as I encourage my own mother to put yourself and your needs FIRST, then give your son whatever support you can, IF you can. Support is one thing; enablement is another and enablement helps absolutely no one. Best of luck, Abby!
Spot on. Schizo-affective boyfriend told me, during a major manic/lying episode, that correcting him on a fact was making his point of view (theater of thought in his words) and him, worthless. He lies so often I don’t know what’s truth and what’s not anymore. He seems to have no realization of how this affects me. The grandiose self-importance too…ugh.
Cat, my sister was recently diagnosed with Shizo-affective disorder. She is also my roommate, I am sorry to hear about your boyfriend, how do you maneuver that relationship?
female finds inmates as dates? person is educated . person hates family parents. HELP what to do. what not to do after being hurt by this family member
This is so far the best description of how it feels for me and the conclusions I’ve basically made about a loved one I have tried to have a relationship with. Going from closest friend and confident to a mere object within an hour. And when I call on the behavior I’m less than an object. Then the anger and pity party heat up in that person. I finally had to cut ties. It doesn’t mean I don’t still care for the person, but no one wants to be betrayed so deeply and so often even if the person has a disadvantage of an illness. It’s as if this person only wants to be ridiculed and cut down because the situations created even at those closest are similar to bullying mixed with lies and superiority to a point where the caring person needs to call them on the delusions and then is seen as the enemy rather than the person who cares.
My sister has lied about me to cops, stolen thousands of dollars by lying to my step mother about me and manipulating her into supposedly not leaning me anything, but in actually my sister made a fake will. She has kept my niece and nephews from me because it hurts me. She is a bi-polar that will stop taking her meds because she’s fine. In her crazy mind. The list of lies about me, lies to me and stuff she’s stolen from me are endless! I know better then to believe she is better now and actually has a heart because she is only acting that way (lying) too get me to pay attention to her and when I’m done with her drama always about her that’s when she attacks me but lying about me to other people. She is such a maniacal, calculated liar that I can’t nor would I even want to compete with her in bizarre behavior. I don’t get it and I don’t have too. Bi polar suck
My now ex girlfriend was Bipolar I with risk of psychosis. She lied about everything to her parents. We were seeing eachother and she told her parents that she was telling them she was going out to see a different friend every day. When she moved in with me because of a row with her parents, she lied and said she was sleeping on a different friend’s couch every few weeks, despite that she had asked me to be her boyfriend and had moved in with me by choice. I did let her stay here for a while and didn’t pressure her to make it permanent, but eventually I urged her to tell me whether or not she was “officially” moving in with me permanently, and after a few weeks she did.
During this time she continued to lie to her parents about the couch surfing. It eventually became frustrating, I felt like a hidden boyfriend. There was a huge age difference (she was 20 and I was 39), but after seeing her romantically for 10 months and with her moving in officially and permanently, I was wanting her to finally “come out” and at least be honest with her parents. They should know where she lived and that she was in a relationship.
Given her age, I knew she would want to go out to nightclubs with her friends, the only thing I asked was that she (a) dress down a little bit, and (b) make sure she came home at the end of the night because I know what happens “after the club”. One night she decided to go to a strip club with her friends. I didn’t mind, I hadn’t been to a strip club in a quite a while and was planning on meeting a friend anyway, and told her I might just meet up with her because it might be fun. Next thing I knew, she had “forgot” her ring (it was a sentimental band, not a wedding ring, but the kind of ring you dont take off, we had matching ones), and was going to a nightclub that didn’t allow cell phones. I told her I might meet up with her there if I heard back from my friend, and said if I didn’t have fun and just remember to come home. She then told me she left a bunch of stuff at her friend’s house and couldn’t come home. Said that the was sitting on a roof and had to “wash her legs” which is how she forgot her ring, which seemed fishy to me from the start – she was wearing pants. Only thing was, she didn’t bring any “stuff”. Just the clothes on her back and her purse. She was dressed for office work on a Friday so she was dressed nice enough. Turned out she dressed up all slutty.
Eventually the spaghetti of lies started really getting to me, those are only a few key examples. One other example, was here was this girl who I was trying to get blood tests because she was passing out, faceplant style as early as 10 oclock (weird for a 20 year old). She went to a friend’s house, and came home yelling at me at 3 oclock in the morning. I asked her what she was drinking and said they got a 24 pack of coolers. Only thing is, they don’t sell 24 packs of coolers. I knew where she was and that she had probably been doing cocaine, something that she knew I do not approve of.
Our breakup doesn’t sit well with me even still to this day. She got delusional, thinking I was cheating on her with every girl in my life. Accused me of blatantly having sex with someone on the couch while she was home and in the backyard. Seeing as there is no way anyone saw such a thing it wouldn’t even make sense that a roommate would tell her such a lie, and she only has one friend who rarely comes over.
Off her meds for about 4 months, things got really weird. It was like she was blacking out while stone cold sober. She had offered to help me with plane tickets to my aunt’s funeral, and weeks later screamed at me for telling my uncle such a thing and said she never had made that offer. Only thing was, I only told my uncle that because I thought it was a sweet gesture, and I didn’t take her up on it because I didn’t want to put her out. This happened two weeks after the funeral was over. I wanted to go camping for the long weekend, she wanted to go and see friends, but promised me we would go camping the following weekend. The following weekend, while I was looking for a place to camp, she completely denied she had ever made that promise, ended up downtown on skid row, high on crystal methamphetamine, and in jail. Over going camping.
She really is a bright, sweet, fun girl. But she must take her illlness seriously or she is going to get herself into heaps and heaps of trouble. Stomping off and doing crystal meth while black out drunk on skid row, she could have gotten raped, caught an STD due to the hypersexual behavior (bipolar mania x crystal meth = a ton of hypersexuality). Her drunken blackouts where she cant even stand on public transit could get her raped. She makes a complete fool out of herself when she drinks, it was embarassing me, but she was embarassing herself even more. Picking her up and having to dead lift her to bed 4-6 nights a week was starting to get tiring, but being accused of trying to “control her” later when she couldn’t crawl, let alone stand, trying to get her to get to bed and sleep started to really wear on me. And it wasnt even like she was drinking a ton of alcohol those nights, we would have friends over and everyone would have some drinks, everyone else was just fine, she was faceplanting into the table.
We tried everything. I tried urging her to take her meds each day. I tried videotaping her drunken stupors, showing her, and telling her when I am trying to get her to bed this faceplant stuff happens 20 minutes later. Roommates tried needling her and using gentle ridicule. I tried getting her to take off with me for the weekends, because when it was just me and her her attitude, drinking, and decision making was better under control.
After the breakup, she went completely psychotic. She posted signs all over my neighborhood calling me a liar. She left a pig mask with a clown wig at my doorstep with my name written in crazy letters. She left me notes saying she hoped I would die, threatened to cut off my small ugly penis and smash my teeth, smash my windows, and break into my house and break all of my stuff. She came to pick up a coffee maker while I was away camping after she told me in no uncertain terms that we werent even going to work on getting back together with an ex. She ended up having sex with her best friend and my roommate in my own house. When I got angry about that (with the roommate) she called me 40 times in 25 minutes (I was rejecting the calls), and then when I answered, launched into a barrage about how she could f**k anyone she wanted, I hung up. She called back another 15 times, so I let my ex answer the phone. She called the police and I dealt with 20 police visits over text messages. She even got her friend to call me, I called her back, then once I was off the phone her friend called the police. She got my roommate thrown into handcuffs.
It goes on and on. This girl, properly medicated, was probably the most amazing girlfriend I ever had. We were the best of friends. Off medications she became an absolute monster, drug user, and I hate to say it, a slut.
Lying is most definitely part of this disease.
Her best friend is also Bipolar I, and lied as soon as she opened her mouth. This girl crawled into bed to cuddle with one of my friends, and when the friend responded to her advances, she suddenly got up and threatened to have hells angels beat him up for trying to touch her. Same girl kissed a guy and went off about how much she loves to give fellatio, and when the guy tried to advance to the next stage said she was never interested. Same girl, when I told her her best friend had said she loved me for the first time, said lets go to bed and cuddle – then told my not yet girlfriend I was trying to have sex with her.
It’s too bad because when properly managed they can be bright, excellent people. They can have very attractive personalities.
My advice to anyone is, if you find out someone you are dating is bipolar, find out as much as you can about the disease, and make it a point that if they do not adhere to their medications and their doctor’s orders just break up with them.
My ex was flat out told by her doctor after a brainspect to avoid drugs or she could go into psychosis. What did she do? Stopped taking her medication, did powerful stimulants and went into psychosis, creating a wrecking ball of damage all around her.
It’s better to cut your losses, tell them why and move on if they aren’t taking their treatment seriously.
I completely agree. I have lived with my bipolar mother for 25 years and as the years go by, the lying is only getting worse! And if I call her out on them, she gets incredibly aggressive with me, she has even thrown a beer bottle at me. She misses work because she is “sick” and lies about having gone to see the doctor. She even lied to her new boyfriend about me, told him I had done something which in fact she has done but she was covering up her own tracks. She listened to him say some horrible things about me as a result, knowing they weren’t true. So there went my own reputation. It really bugs me how little support there is for people who have to live with someone who has bipolar. All the articles and what not I have read always say “just be supportive” and “try to understand”. I’m tired of it because my own emotional and mental wellbeing has been horribly eroded over the years too. What bugs me even more, when she is stable, she takes no responsibility or accountability for her actions!
The problem is that the similarity between bi polar and cluster b is so close that some diagnosis can be identified incorrectly
So BPD or even NPD can match you’re description.
Hi.I was recently involved with a bipolar man.i cannot say that he was lying about everything but he was deceiving me to get with me and then vanished so all the things he was saying and dojng at the time were premeditated .He is on 3 different meds so I wonder could this lying and deceptive behavior still be associated with his condition even though he is on medication?
When I catch my friend that is diagnosed with Bipolar in the act of lying, he quickly says sorry and reminds me that he is Bipolar and can not avoid it. Is this not intentional manipulation for him to get away with his lies or is this normal Bipolar behavior?
I’ve been married 11yrs to my husband but haven’t lived with him for the past 8 years. He knows he has bipolar but refuses to take medication. He has a good heart but when his thoughts start racing I’m the one he baggers; he accuses me of lying and cheating, spending money on someone others than him. Threatening to call me out at my work and family saying I’m having an affair with someone at my job and doing drugs. I’ve developed panic attacks and became emotional depressed from his accusations and horrible lies he conjures up in him mind. He in fact is the one who’s gone in and out of prison for drugs and has a baby by someone else during our marriage. And he blames all his actions on me…Really! I’ve come to a point in my life that he’s not going to help himself nor want the help for his bipolar. I’ve been holding on to our marriage because I wasn’t one who believed in divorce. I tried and prayed for him to better himself, but he continues to do drugs, hooks up with other females, talk lies about me and brings out my anxiety and panic attacks. I don’t like being lied, cheated and stolen from anymore.
I’m on here seeking advice/support for my current situation. I met the “perfect” person. For about three months, there were some things here or there that I thought were possible red flags, but when I tell you that dating is a second job and compared to the other flags, I thought I was being picky, and that I chalked it up to quirky.
Anyhow, the boyfriend told me Father’s day weekend he needed space. He said it once before, but the next day everything was fine. There are a lot of triggers in his life right now, but he was actually getting to a good place ( I was with him when things were chaotic) and now that he’s got it all together, he wants space again.
I saw him for the first time after two weeks today. We had a great time, except when things got intimate, he shared that he’s back on the dating scene, even though he told me that it was about getting his life together and not someone else, that we were simply on “hold”. Well, as we were about to have sex, he shared that he was going on a date tonight at 6. It was 4:30 at the time.
He says on one hand that we have potential and that I bring out everything he wants, but now that he has relocated (my next door neighbor in the city, nonetheless, he sees this need to get dating other people out of his system so he can see if I’m the one. To me, it makes no sense, but my father is bipolar, and I’ve lived with the ups and downs my whole life, bless my mom.
I don’t know about this other women thing, but it hurts so much that he can’t see what is in front of him. I guess this is the mania/hypomania part? When I left he told me that we should hang out tomorrow and that part of him wants to just try and make it work with me.
HELP! I have read and re-read that providing support is the only way to talk with the “bipolar”, but I’ve also been in unhealthy relationships, and this is kind of moving in that direction. I am falling in love with him and I care about him. It just hurts so much that he can so openly say that he wants to date and then says that he k nows of our potential.
I lie regularly but it’s a necessary task I must do, I don’t wanna be truthful in the sense that, like previously stated, I am hopeless with my life. I feel unimportant.
I know I’m not, but bipolar disorder has put me into a metaphorical closet of my own design, and I am trapped with a feeling and sense that I am much more worthy than others merely because I have to live with the torture that is my disorder. Some days I wake up and the world is gray, like everything lost color, and I can’t think straight. But not thinking straight has been a fact of life for me, the only place I feel solitude is in my lies, does that make sense?