a brown fish caught in the net

Mental Health Issue or Intentionally Bad Behavior?

As time progress we are becoming more & more open about & aware of mental health issues. It’s a great thing, but with so many voices contributing to the cause there seems to be – in my opinion – confusion about what is a diagnosable mental illness/disorder, what is a symptom of a diagnosed disorder, & what is just terrible behavior.

Let’s use U.S. Representative George Santos as an example.

Rep. Santos has lied about:

  • Being Jewish
  • Where he went to college
  • Where he worked
  • Where he lived
  • Being previously married
  • Being the founder of an animal rescue group
  • His parents surviving 9/11
  • Being connected to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting
  • Being the victim of a crime

This is just a summary of some of the things he has lied about & these lies, since they’ve been committed by a public figure in congress, have encouraged some mental health professionals to push stronger for pathological lying to be considered a mental disorder on its own.

Historically, lying or pathological lying has been considered a symptom of mental illnesses such as borderline, narcissistic, and antisocial personality disorders. I’m inclined to agree; I’m a firm believer that lying specifically is a symptom of one or more larger problems. An action or habit that has developed as a result of experience, trauma, or upbringing.

Lying to any degree, whether it’s a “white lie” or a significant lie, is attractive to people because there is a perceived or actual reward on the other end of it. I can say this confidently because I’ve lied before, but it’s also been researched extensively (studies referenced in the article). After reading the 30 reasons why people lie on PsychCentral, the case for not making pathological lying a mental health disorder on its own is stronger in my opinion.

People lie because it works in their favor, especially if there are no consequences or the outcome is perceived to be positive & outweighs any negative consequences. In the case of George Santos, it seems lying got him a seat in Congress. For anyone else, lying could be tempting or considered the best option if it prevents them from getting punished, saves a relationship, or serves as a means of protection/security.

We would do well to be honest about that.

Allowing this to be considered a mental health disorder on its own would just add more confusion to the already muddy waters of the mental health field & worse, potentially lead to repeat offenders being absolved of responsibility for their actions.

To be fair to Mr. Santos, I can’t & won’t speak to the possible reasons how & why he developed this habit for himself since I’m not his therapist (if he has one), I don’t know his upbringing (what’s true or what isn’t especially), & I don’t know him at all. What I do know is that it’s been honesty & openness that led to the decrease of stigma surrounding mental health – lying (especially about a diagnosis; when applicable) for connections, clout, or protection is harmful to those of us who struggle.

If you need additional resources for mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention, head over to the “get help” section.

If you want to share your story or journey or experience of overcoming mental distress or as someone with a diagnosed mental health or mood disorder you’re OK with that being shared publicly on the YNF website, shoot me an email at brittany@yourenotfinished.com or stories@yourenotfinished.com, or contact me through the site.

Anonymous submissions are always welcome.

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