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Why All The Lies?

The new buzz-word for 'pathological lying' is APD and it can lead to a heap of BS

By Michael Learmonth

THE TERM "PATHOLOGICAL LIAR" is used so frequently that it's become part of the vernacular. But the psychological disorder is, in fact, relatively rare. "A pathological liar would be someone who can't not lie," says Judith Shernock, a local family counselor. In the case of John Michael Gentes, his profligate lying was probably more calculated, she says.

"I would imagine that he knows what he's doing, and maybe he enjoys lying," she says.

There are psychological disorders, she says, that can lead to what seems like compulsive lying.

Shernock believes Gentes' pattern of deceptive and cruel behavior more closely fits the description of Antisocial Personality Disorder, a sociopathology that afflicts, to some degree, about 3 percent of males and 1 percent of females.

She directed me to page 645 of the weighty Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

"The essential feature of Antisocial Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood."

Some of the behaviors that could lead to such a diagnosis are eerily familiar: repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to meet financial obligations; and lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is more common in urban settings and in populations with low socioeconomic status. That has led some psychologists to argue that these behaviors may result from a "protective survival strategy" rather than from a mental disorder.

Those with Antisocial Personality Disorder are often intentionally deceitful in order to gain money, sex or power. Some also have inflated self-images that lead them to believe that an ordinary job is beneath them.

While they wreak havoc on others, people with Antisocial Personality Disorder are more likely to become homeless, spend years in prison or die violently. In short, these perpetrators are also victims.

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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