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Teens and Compulsive Lying: What You Need to Know

teen on her laptop

Teenagers are bound to test boundaries, push limits, challenge authority, and disregard guidance at some point during their adolescence. Young people face extraordinary challenges during their teenage years, all while enduring surging hormones, physiological changes and a newfound need for autonomy. Teens are known to tell fibs, little white lies, for various reasons. It is important to establish a distinction between fibs and lies. Chronic teen compulsive lying is more than just occasionally telling a white lie. Constant lying can develop into a bad habit that could cause harm to the young person and/ or others. 


There are several signs of which to be aware that could indicate your teen may be lying. Psychology Today provides the following examples:

  • Changing the topic or offering irrelevant information when put on the spot
  • Higher than normal vocal pitch
  • Long lag time between question and response
  • Stuttering not present in normal speech
  • Lack of natural silence or pausing. Faster than usual talking
  • Physical distance, barriers and non-verbal communication cues of dishonesty (e.g. ease of arms and legs, stepping behind a piece of furniture to create a physical barrier, etc.)
  • Avoiding eye contact 

Please be aware that even in situations where your teen exhibits one or more of the above traits, it is possible that he or she may be telling the truth. 

Why Do Teens Lie?

It can be incredibly challenging for parents to grasp an understanding of why a teen may want to be persistently dishonest. Most often, the lies teenagers tell do not appear to serve a larger purpose in the eyes of the parent. However, teenager typically begin to tell lies that fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Maintaining control over privacy
  • Playing the victim
  • Avoiding parental disappointment
  • Elevate status
  • Concealing a truth
  • Gaming the system

Some teenagers reinforce lying behaviors to the point that they become unaware that they are even telling lies. It is at this point that lying becomes a tactic used to manipulate the world around the teen to enable him or her to experience the least amount of friction from others. 

What’s The Cause?

While most typically developing teenagers are likely to be sporadically untruthful, dishonestly should not be the norm. Mythomania is the term used to describe pathological lying. Teens that habitually lie for no reason may be struggling with an underlying mental health condition. Compulsive lying could be a symptom of: sociopathy, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), anxiety, low self-esteem and/ or bipolar disorder. It is important to note that not all teens that go through a period of compulsively lying necessarily have an underlying mental health condition. However, in order to rule out a deeper reason for your teen’s habitual dishonesty, it may be advantageous consult with a mental health professional. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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