What is mythomania?

Mythomania is the tendency to tell invented stories or to twist real facts .

It comes from the Greek “mithos” (fable) and “mania” (madness). The definition of mythomania indicates the overcoming of the boundary that distinguishes the “normal” liar from the “pathological” one . Other diagnostic labels associated with this behavior are “pathological lie” and “fantastic pseudology”. Whoever tells lies, knowingly or not, can be defined as such only he can no longer control this behavior.


  • What is mythomania?
  • History of mythomania
    • Mitomaniacs and Munchausen Syndrome 
  • Symptoms of mythomania
  • Considerations and causes
    • The first lie
  • Possible solutions
    • The overwhelming idealization

History of mythomania

The first physician to classify this trend as pathological, and therefore not deliberate, was the psychiatrist Delbrück in 1891, who coined the definition of phantastic pseudology. According to the German doctor, some of the patients examined were pathological liars suffering from mental illness, and their lies were symptoms of these diseases. In this sense, lies are not told to deceive the other but because they acquire, for these subjects, the traits of reality.

Helen Deutsch differentiates the pathological liar from the daydreamer and defines pseudology as a daydream communicated as reality, the subject in question therefore needs an audience to communicate his fantasies to so that they rise to the level of reality. He really believes what he says.

According to the current classification of the DSM there is no precise diagnosis of this category , it is considered a behavior and is usually associated with personality disorders such as narcissistic , histrionic , hysterical or antisocial .

Mitomaniacs and Munchausen Syndrome

This lying behavior is also typical of those with fictitious personality disorder . In this case, the sick person compulsively and continuously lies about their own health or that of their loved ones – in this case they define themselves by proxy , simulating, falsifying and even procuring wounds or pains necessary for their cause. Those who suffer from it implement these behaviors even in the absence of secondary benefits offered by the image of the patient.

This disorder is also referred to as Munchausen syndrome, with reference to Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Münchausen, a character who really existed in the 1700s. The baron was famous for being a great inventor of absurd stories, later collected in a novel first by an anonymous author and then by the writer Raspe.

Symptoms of mythomania

As already explained, the mythomania or pathological lie cannot be considered as a disorder in itself, but rather a transversal symptom of different disorders. The main aspects of this symptom are:

  • Whoever tells the lie does not say it so much to convince the other but because he himself believes in it;
  • Lies prevent a normal family, emotional and working life;
  • To cover up the previous lies, they invent ever larger and more unlikely lies.

The pathological lie triggers a vicious circle that pushes the subject more and more towards a point of no return. At the same time it is very difficult for those who suffer from it to break this cycle precisely because they try to remedy a lie with another even greater.

Considerations and causes

There are different types of lies that we can consider normal to the extent that they are deliberate and lack the compulsive characteristic. The “white” lies belong to this group,  that is, those we say so as not to hurt someone. Then there are the lies that are told to obtain material gain or avoid punishment, lies spoken so that something is obtained at the expense of the other.

The first lie

The child begins to tell her to avoid frustration. He may say “it wasn’t me” to avoid the parent reproaching him. It is an attempt and the actual outcome of these first attempts will give direction to that subject’s relationship with the lie . In the first instance, therefore, telling lies is a functional strategy which, however, in the mythomaniac is completely out of control. This is the watershed between the “normal” lie and the pathological one.

In the most extreme case the pathological liar is no longer able to tell the truth, even if he would like to fly . This makes him sick: he does not tell lies for economic or material gain, he tells them because he can only exist in this lie that he has built and if he did not continue to hold it, he would collapse. This is why he always says bigger ones to cover up the previous ones or turns the accusation of lying against his own accusers.

Possible solutions

What the mythomaniac points to with his lie is the recognition of the Other. Being recognized by the Other, as Lacan said, is the desire of every man. These subjects satisfy their narcissism because they create an image of themselves that reflects the ideal, a phantastic image . Social media today offer a lot to this game of rigged mirrors, giving the possibility to show only what you want to show and there are skilled conjurers who, through fiction, embody the collective ideal.

The overwhelming idealization

These people, first of all , deceive themselves because they so ardently desire to achieve the image of their ideal that they do not care that this ideal does not correspond to thickness. Perhaps they are afraid of not being able to do so and right here is the most vulnerable aspect of the narcissist , that weakness that cannot in any way emerge, on pain of the darkest depression.

Of course, history but also the most recent current affairs offers us an endless process of this kind of characters, from their rise to their ruinous fall.


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