How to Spot a Sociopathic Liar

How to Spot a Sociopathic Liar


Creating elaborate lies for their own gain with no care about who gets hurt is a hallmark of sociopathic lying. Sociopaths are compulsive pathological liars. 

Sociopaths lie without conscience.

That means that they can look you right in the eye and lie to you and not show the usual markers that would give them away.

It also means that they don’t care about collateral damage.

They get their mind set on a goal and they will make up whatever they need to in their attempts to achieve their goal. It doesn’t matter what the consequences are to others as a result of their lies. It doesn’t matter if other adults get hurt and it doesn’t matter if children get hurt. It doesn't even matter if their own children get hurt. 


What's in This Article

What is a Sociopath?  Malignant Narcissist?
Cluster B Personality Disorders
What is a Sociopathic Liar?
Education is Protection
Sociopathic Symptoms that Help Sociopaths Get Away with Their Lies
Why do Sociopaths Lie?
Sociopaths Abuse Their Romantic Partners


For more about ways people lie, check out this post: 12 Types of Lies and Deception


Partner Abuse Books by Ann Silvers 


What is a Sociopath? Malignant Narcissist?

There is overlap between sociopaths and what is being called malignant narcissists. (I talk more about the narcissist-sociopath continuum of characteristics in this blog post: Characteristics and Traits of a Narcissist.) 

One way to define sociopath: Sociopaths are parasites. 

Like other parasitic creatures, sociopaths need a “host” for survival. They are on the lookout for strong, healthy hosts. When they find a suitable host, they latch on, and aren’t satisfied until they have sucked the life out of the person who has had the misfortune of becoming their target.


sociopath definition, psychopath definition, what is a sociopath, define sociopath, what is a psychopath, define psychopath


Sociopathic Symptoms Continuum 

When we think of sociopathic people, we most often think of those that kill. But sociopathy can be put on a continuum from zero to serial killers.

On this continuum, everyone past the half-way mark is going to cause problems for people who come in contact with them. As you move along the continuum of sociopathic behavior, the perpetrators become more and more destructive.

Some sociopaths (such as Jodi Arias or Scott Peterson) physically kill their targets. Others kill their psyches, financial health, self-esteem, reputation, ability to have another relationship, or their spirit.


Cluster B Personality Disorders

In the DSM-5 manual for psychological diagnosis, sociopathy has the official diagnosis label of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Antisocial PD is in a group of 4 "erratic and dramatic" personality disorders (enduring patterns of behavior) that have many overlapping personality traits displayed in similar personal and relationship dysfunctions:

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder
  2. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  3. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  4. Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

Like narcissists and sociopaths, Borderline and Histrionic personalities are driven by self-centered motivations. All 4 of these personality types may show similar lying patterns seen in sociopaths.


What is a Sociopathic Liar? 

Being without conscience and enjoying lying are two key elements of sociopathic personality. These elements go hand in hand in that sociopaths’ lack of conscience means that they can lie without showing the normal markers of lying. That’s how they pull people into believing their lies and get away with as much as they get away with.

They are so practiced at lying that they respond to being caught in a lie by creating a new lie. It is very difficult to pin them down. Their lies tend to be complex and detailed.


Education is Protection

According to Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, 4% of the population is sociopathic. That is 1 in 25.

We bump up against sociopathic people in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and grocery stores. Those of us who are particularly unlucky partner with one or have one in the family.

To protect yourself and people you care about, it’s worthwhile studying these people and learning what to watch out for.


Sociopathic Symptoms that Help Sociopaths Get Away with Their Lies 

Some of the sociopath characteristics make it extra easy for them to get away with their lies. 

Sociopathic liars:

  • lie without conscience

    • don’t show the normal markers of lying

      • don’t care about collateral damage

        • are very practiced manipulators

        • make up new lies as cover stories if old lies are exposed

        • can be very charming

        • can bring up crocodile tears (fake tears they can conjure up at opportune times)

        • extract people’s sympathy

        • use detail in their lies to be convincing


        how to spot a narcissistic sociopathic pathological liar, narcissist, what is a sociopath infographic


            Why do Sociopaths Lie?

            People so often grapple with “Why?” Why do they do it? Why would anyone make up such a lie?"

            When they can’t see a good “why” answer, they often conclude “It makes no sense for them to lie about this, therefore it must be true.”

            I’ll tell you why. It’s a simple answer really.

            Sociopaths lie because they perceive some benefit from the lie.

            The gain or benefit to the liar may be:

              1. control,

              2. power,

              3. prestige,

              4. glory,

              5. money,

              6. winning an argument,

              7. punishing someone they see as an adversary,

              8. getting someone out of their way,

              9. undermining the credibility of someone who could expose their lies,

              10. notoriety,

              11. an ego boost,

              12. demeaning or humiliating others,

              13. an opportunity to practice their lying skills,

              14. enjoyment from pulling the wool over people’s eyes,

              15. sympathy,

              16. protecting their previous lies,

              17. creating an illusion of who they are, or

              18. getting something they want.

              Remember, sociopathic liars don’t have a pesky conscience to hold them back and they don’t care about collateral damage. All they care about is their self-centered gain.


              For an example of a sociopathic liar, check out this post: Rachel Dolezal─Putting a Face on Sociopathic Lying


              Sociopaths Abuse Their Romantic Partners

              Not all abusive people are sociopaths, but all sociopaths are abusive.

              I talk more about sociopathic behaviors and their impact in my book Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It


              Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It



              Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It



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              • Ann Silvers
              Comments 32
              • Kate Lee
                Kate Lee

                Great resource. I spent most of my life as a pathological liar and am finally taking accountability for my actions. It’s hard not to shift blame but I’m tired of living lies, I deserve more. For me it’s mainly running from my need for constant attention from my abusive parents. I recognize their abuse and manipulation tactics in my actions, my love language is torture and abuse and that’s what I pass on. Please feel free to ask me anything, I’m trying to not be my abusers and I do want to stop transferring my pain into anyone I truly love. Recovery is possible after you stop running from the real problem, unfortunately most people will do anything to not admit guilt, those of us with shallow or no emotion don’t feel the same, I know it’s me though I want to feel real emotions and not just use people for my own sick needs that never get full filled. I punish and create pain for every one to run and not take accountability for my dehumanizing actions. I’m ready to change

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi Betty

                It sounds like you see your brother with real eyes. If you want to have a relationship with him, approach anything he says with skepticism and don’t introduce him into the lives of someone who could be used by him.


              • Betty Buchholz
                Betty Buchholz

                Hi Ann -

                My brother has been diagnosed as a sociopath by a therapist who after the first session told him that she wasn’t the right therapist for him and suggested other therapists (he told me this, so it may be true or a lie). He’s lied, manipulated and his relationships have been trade based since he was in his early teens. Recently, he lied to my aunt about our childhood and told her my Dad beat him black and blue all of the time (with specific stories), that as children our birthfather drove my brother and I up and down a highway and sold us for drugs each time we visited him, that my Mom would watch my Dad beat him and do nothing but watch. The thing is…our birthfather was a pedophile, my Dad did hit him once and our Mom would periodically go to bed with depression, but his stories were exaggerated to the extreme. My aunt was giving him money at the time ($3,000 a month) and he wanted more. The stories got more and more elaborate the more money she gave him. It almost ruined my aunt and parents relationship, because he was so convincing. It took me telling her the truth to end the loss of their relationship. However, this is my brother: incredibly funny, charming and would give you the shirt off his back. I know he loves his kids – although he constantly asks his adult kids for money. I believe that he convinces himself that the lies he tells actually happened. He can be the most amazing person and I do believe that he has strong and real feelings. My parents finally decided to remove him from their life and would like me to do so as well. But I feel that as long as I don’t give him money and ignore the lies he tells about me we can still have a relationship. I feel bad for him – he had a difficult childhood, his brain chemistry is different then most and I doubt he could be cured. There but the grace of god…. I won the lottery that I don’t have his brain chemistry. Is it safe or advisable to have a relationship with him? He really makes me laugh and I love him.

              • anonymous

                It seems that Donald Trump fits the description of a sociopath. Short of a polygraph, how can it be demonstrated that a sociopath knows he is lying?

              • Anonymous

                I have a stepson that is a sociopath. We noticed signs of this when he was young. He would get joy out of seeing others get hurt or cause arguments in the family between the parents by making up an outlandishly false story. Some of the stories were obvious lies, yet as he got older not so much. There had to be a lot of communication and it was hard on his siblings, especially when we didn’t witness what happened or couldn’t rebuild a timeline. Throughout the years he became quite adept at lying and still is. He accused various people of physical or sexual abuse and then would later take it back and say he was lying. He would lie about his lies. It was a constant battle trying to prove what was and wasn’t true. It made it very difficult to advocate for him, as we never knew if what he was saying was true. The only way we could really tell, was if he made up a lie about us and obviously we would know about that truth or lie. He could sell ice to an Eskimo with his ability to convince. It is exhausting and there is always this level of stress in the home. You wonder what you did wrong that he turned out this way. You wonder despite all the counselors, social workers and intervention specialists, he was never able to get help. Honestly, I think all that intervention made him a better liar, because then he knew how to work the system and work things to his advantage. He would even say he knew just what to tell them to pass. He even said one time that it made him happy to hurt other people. Nothing ever got done about it, despite our numerous attempts to get him help.

                He is an irresponsible adult now that can’t hold a job (always someone elses fault of course), moves from abusive relationship to abusive relationship (with abuse going both ways), and is a druggie and alcoholic on top of it all. Of course, he was lies about all of that too. He takes on other peoples issues as his own to get attention, even though he doesn’t have those issues. It is quite disgusting.

                As a parent, it is difficult. We feel we cannot associate with him because his level of toxicity just keeps growing and now he is an adult so we can’t force him into getting help anymore. Not that it helped in the first place. We don’t know what to do for him except keep our distance. How awful is that?

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi Mary,

                Thanks for sharing your story. I think that having a sociopath as a sibling, child, or parent may be the worst placement that they could have in an individual’s life. Their power to undermine you and your relationships is incredibly profound.

                It can be challenging to decide to cut all ties with a sociopathic relative, but they are often so toxic that it is the only viable option.

                As for whether they are born sociopaths. That’s a difficult question to answer. Clearly, in a single family there can be a variety of personalities among siblings. Does that undermine an argument that it is genetics or does it undermine an argument that it is circumstances? It possibly points to a mixture of both. Genetics aren’t destiny. They contribute to predispositions that can be magnified or mitigated.

                Sociopaths that I have known personally developed a propensity to alter the truth early in life. Altering the truth worked for them in some way that they enjoyed or benefited from. They grow the lying skill like someone else might train for the Olympics.



              • Mary

                My sister is a sociopath. Even when we were children she would sabotage my friendships by lying to my friends, telling them I had said horrible things about them. When I was a newlywed she told her husband (in front of my husband) that I had hadn’t an abortion, which was an outright lie. She stole from my mother and then when she was found out she lied to make it look like I was the one who did it. Any time she lied to my mother about me and I defended myself my mother would say, “But why would she say it if weren’t true?” She was constantly sabotaging my reputation and relationships. She destroyed the relationship of a man she didn’t like by falsely accusing him of being a pedophile. She has never had a conscience. I remember thinking there was something different about her when we were small children. There was a coldness in her eyes. She has to fake empathy. So I wonder, are sociopaths born that way?

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi Feeling Used. The name you chose for yourself “Feeling Used” describes very succinctly what’s it like on the receiving end of a sociopath’s lies and manipulations. You have my sympathy for what you are going through. I’ve heard that on average it takes 5 attempts to leave an abusive relationship before you actually get out. Experience tells me that whatever the actual number of attempts—it usually takes multiple times of getting to your breaking point. The abuse cycle that you’ve been in is a common factor in keeping people stuck in a loop of abuse and promises of change—then abuse and promises of change — on repeat. I talk more about the abuse cycle in this post: . Good to hear that you found my post helpful. —Ann

              • Feeling Used
                Feeling Used

                I have been with a sociopathic liar for 8yrs. I don’t know how to get out. Everytime I think I’m done and have had enough I get sucked back in. He has stolen from me and made me think I miss placed it or someone came into my home and took it. (Keep in mind it was locked in a safe inside a safe, where he was the only other person who new where it was) Some how he made me second guess myself. I caught him cheating and talking to other wemon and he can manipulate me into think he didn’t cheat or it happened so long ago I can’t be upset. I keep saying this is the last chance and yet every time I let myself get dragged back in. I also should mention I have children with him, which makes it even harder to leave because, my children absolutely love their father. He is mentally abusive and I feel like I must have low self-esteem or am afraid to be alone which is why I can’t leave.
                I wish he would get help or when he does get caught in a lie just admit what he did. I think that’s what I wish for most of all is him just taking responsibility. Thank you for this article it really opened my eyes to what I’m dealing with.

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi Melissa. I’m sorry for what you are having to deal with. Sociopaths are draining. -Ann

              • Melissa Vosloo
                Melissa Vosloo

                I work with a sociopathic liar. She goes and tells the most outrageous lies about me straight to my manager. Me being an empath and her senior makes it an extremely painful and difficult situation. I’ve tried to defend myself and have the managers investigate her claims, but they refused to. Now i dont interact with her at all if there are no witnesses present. It’s very draining and im constantly stressed because i dont know what lies she will come up with next.

              • Lunch Lady Sadie
                Lunch Lady Sadie

                My boss is one and every year he gets worse. He truly has no soul, conscious or empathy about anything or anyone. He is a textbook sociopath. They literally thrive off of making us miserable. It’s almost comical how bad he is..almost. Thankfully we don’t see him very often besides his occasional pop-ins and even that is too much. My sympathies to anyone who has to live with one. Run away and save yourself. They will never ever change. EVER!

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi Christa. Sorry you had to go through all that. Good to hear that you now have clarity and can move on. -Ann

              • Christa

                Thank you so much for this information. For the past year and a half I thought I was losing my mind… seeing things with my own eyes, only to be told “that wasn’t there” or “I would never lie to you!”. It was too much, he’s a sociopathic liar through and THROUGH. I always would think, is he lying?? Why would someone lie about that!? The lies were never ending and the arguments were intense. He was very controlling, always needed to control the outcome or situation. He’s slept with so many women behind my back, I’d beg for him to tell me the truth. One day I said out loud “God, show me the truth and show me all of it, I don’t care how bad it hurts me.” The very next day I was guided to an old cell phone of his, I turned it on and went to the email and almost choked at what I had found. At least 40 other women he was talking to and hooking up with. I hope that one day he gets the help he needs, God bless.

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi AMY COOPERMAN. Thanks for sharing your story. Even people educated in psychology can get taken in by a sociopath or malignant narcissist but first-hand experience helps you be able to spot them the next time (and there will be a next time since there are lots of them out there.) – Ann

              • AMY COOPERMAN
                AMY COOPERMAN

                I am a therapist recovering from being taken in by a sociopathic liar pretending to be autistic!
                She was an amazing actress. I believe that her parents have primed her for this.
                She indeed the sucked the life out of me as well as other professionals. Very scary and traumatizing!

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Thanks for sharing your story Connie. Often the easiest way to get out of a relationship with a malignant narcissist or sociopath is if it’s their idea. Best of the best is if they have moved on to their next target.

              • Connie

                I got married at 18 & over time I realized my husband wasn’t who I married. We had alot of major trauma in our lives & I believe HE DIDN’T process all the loss we experienced. When he later got into a high paying job he definitely got way worse. We were married over 33 years. I suffered multiple abuses from him & thru taking a great course for 6 months, my eyes were WIDE open & discovered he was a nacissist AND sociopath. He refused marriage counseling & filed for divorce. I actually thank God for saving my life! I wish I hadn’t stayed with him for so long but I was & still am a very strong Christian.

              • Gazel

                I believe it is possible to be a psychopath and be bipolar or to be a psychopath misdiagnosed or pretending to be bipolar.
                I know several people that are diagnosed as bipolar that are not pathological liars, however, I believe a bipolar person could also be a part logical liar and not be a psychopath.
                It’s unreasonable to label bipolar people as lazy; some of them are the hardest workers I know, when they are able to function on their higher level.

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                To t dog: With 4% of the population having sociopathic tendencies, we will bump up against them in our lives. It’s good to get better and better at spotting them and trying to get out of their reach.

              • t dog
                t dog

                took me ten yrs to realise I had four following me, luckily I met a girl and got rid of her for her psycho behaviour and that made it obvious three of my mates were also horrible liars.

                so now I have to reflect on myself, its quite clear im easily duped by exciting lies, so boring is best, also I believe im an expert in detecting lies and manipulation now, but still I can improve

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Roxy. Thanks for sharing your story. It is very challenging to see reality when we are inside a relationship with a sociopath. It’s good to hear that you got out and it sounds like you are thriving now.

              • Roxy

                I was married to a man for 14 years whom I now I am convinced is a sociopath. I tried very hard to make my marriage work. I watched him turn into someone I didn’t respect, or like. Once he came home from a neighbors house sat down on the couch and told me the neighbor was going to tell me he slept with a girl down the street and not to believe him. Then he got up and went back outside. Did he ? I am asking myself. He would tell me his sacrifices to our marriage was that he didn’t cheat on me or drink. But he got high regularly.
                He became reckless, uncaring, angry. Belligerent. An all out loose canon. And he was proud of. Distant, bad attitude, disrespectful, bullying. He was uneducated. He lied and was manipulative. I got to where I couldn’t even be around him. I couldn’t get him to move out. I paid for everything and he wasn’t budging. I owned my house and a business I took care of him. I spent so much money on him for years. I loved him and wanted it to work but it continued to unravel at a rapid pace toward the end. I just couldn’t figure it out, till one day God gave me discernment when I was talking to my husband. My eyes were opened wide. It was so hard. I divorced him to survive. 14 years I was so naive. It is hard to even think about how I was so easily duped. I was a widow at the time this began and Satan the father of lies and manipulation got me sucked in for 14 years. But God brought me out of it to freedom. I am thankful and in awe of how Awesome God is and how He has provided for me through this.

              • steverinnm

                “Just Some Guy”:

                If the descriptions you provided of your partner’s behavior are accurate, the “Bipolar” diagnosis is a sham. A “Bipolar” diagnosis these days seems to be a general catch-all diagnosis by general practitioners and sub-standard psychologists and psychologists whom are not specifically trained in identifying and treating Bipolar Disorders, are lazy, are inept, and/or see another repeat customer for their paycheck.

                Was your partner’s “Bipolar” diagnosis determined by peer-reviewed psychiatrists or psychologists specifically specializing in Bipolar and mood disorders? (Note: at least two specialized professionals diagnosis needed to verify “Bipolar”). A real “Bipolar” diagnosis will detail a specific Bipolar category and include a lengthily discussion outlining the severity of each subcategory of behavior, not generic overview. A diagnosis followup generally includes medications and regular visits to a licensed professional trained in bipolar and mood disorder therapy.

                Have you considered that your partner may have manipulated the diagnosing healthcare individual, thru falsifying questionnaire and interview responses, to obtain a “Bipolar” diagnosis? It’s what a sociopath would do!

                A “Bipolar” diagnosis is a “Get out of Jail Free” for a sociopath as it denotes being a “victim” rather than a “predator”, and allows the sociopath to manipulate the diagnosis as camouflage and an “excuse” when their actions are exposed.

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi “Just Some Guy”. Thanks for telling your story. Feeling foolish for being duped is often part of the aftermath of being partnered with manipulators. Remember that it isn’t about being smart or stupid. It’s about being nieve and becoming wise through experience.

              • Just Some Guy
                Just Some Guy

                After 3.5 years I’ve finally found the answer I’ve been looking for. My partner was diagnosed bipolar, although as time passed my gut told me something was wrong.

                So many lies and these were detailed lies way more detailed than the normal person would say, these were almost script like?

                Yet he always managed to make me believe it 🤷‍♂️ I don’t know how.

                He took a lot of my money through what I now know was manipulation, stole money out of my wallet and blamed me for losing it.

                Never accepted he was wrong and then when most of money had gone he as good as disappeared with word??

                I spent ages trying work out what I did wrong, until I researched pathological lying and discovered what I now believe him to be “sociopath”

                Him being gone is not so much of an issue, but dealing with the emotions of being conned and used is hard.

                I’ve taken the no contact rule, as he still got in touch when he wanted something which was mainly sec! And I went running like a lap dog.

                I’ve reprogrammed my brain and boy does he not like not being in control of me.

                I feel for anyone who has been in this situation, lol what a mug I was, I believed everything to the point I must have said it done what he said even though I never

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                Hi Anon. Unfortunately, personality disorders like pathological lying, narcissism, and sociopathy are not very changeable. Most of the time these people are attached to the benefits they get from their way of being. Analyze the data points you gather about who he really is. When people are caught in lies and they make up other lies or diversions to cover up their lying, those are signs of a practiced liar. You might also benefit from looking at my post about different ways people lie:

              • Anon

                I’m married to one. And I’m hurting. All he does is blame me on why he lies, and gets upset at me when he’s caught! I even started to approach him calmly about his lies and that hasn’t made him want to change. Is divorce in my future? Can these people change?

              • Ann Silvers
                Ann Silvers

                To JustSomeGuy. It is terrible for those of us who happen to get pulled into relationships and marriages by these people. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book, “Abuse OF Men BY Women” — to help people understand what to do if you’re inside the relationship, how to get out, and how to protect yourself from becoming their prey.

              • JustSomeGuy

                I wish I had found this sooner… I’ve just discovered I’m married to one – and it’s the most painful thing I have ever been through.

              • Jan Brimacombe
                Jan Brimacombe

                For the first time in 30+ years I have finally found the correct diagnosis for my 42yo daughter. I thought she was bipolar (which she said she was at one stage) but reading your article…oh my God, this is her. She has (and has done) every single one of the traits you have outlined. Thankyou so much. At least now I know what I’m dealing with.

              • Gail Owen
                Gail Owen

                I know a Sociopathic liar

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