The Link Between PTSD and Lying

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition that can have profound effects on various aspects of an individual’s life. One intriguing and often overlooked aspect is the link between PTSD and lying. This connection goes beyond mere deceit and involves a complex interplay of psychological mechanisms. In this exploration, we delve into the nuanced relationship between PTSD and lying, shedding light on the underlying factors that contribute to this behavior. For those seeking understanding and support, particularly in the realm of online therapy, recognizing and addressing the link between PTSD and lying is a crucial step towards healing.

Understanding PTSD and Its Impact

To comprehend the link between PTSD and lying, it’s essential to first grasp the nature of PTSD itself. Traumatic experiences, whether from combat, accidents, or abuse, can leave a lasting impact on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. According to Santiago Delboy of Fermata Psychotherapy, “Trauma is an experience that overwhelms our capacity to regulate our emotions and results in fragmentation and dissociation”. PTSD manifests as a response to this frozen experience, with symptoms ranging from intrusive memories to heightened anxiety, affecting a person’s ability to navigate daily life.

For individuals grappling with the aftermath of trauma, lying can become a coping mechanism. It serves as a shield, protecting them from the perceived threat of judgment or further harm. Sabino Recovery states that a person may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their experience and may lie to avoid judgment or to maintain a certain image. Lying becomes a way to deny or reshape the narrative of traumatic events, creating a semblance of control over a reality that feels overwhelming and uncontrollable.

Shame and guilt, often intrinsically linked to traumatic experiences, play a pivotal role in the relationship between PTSD and lying. Individuals may fabricate stories to avoid confronting the overwhelming emotions associated with their trauma. Psychotherapist Janina Fisher notes, “Shame lies at the core of PTSD, the unspoken ‘I am bad,’ which underlies the trauma response.” Lying becomes a protective mechanism, shielding the individual from the perceived judgment and condemnation they anticipate from others.

PTSD can significantly impact an individual’s communication skills, leading to difficulties in expressing themselves authentically. The heightened state of arousal that often accompanies PTSD can make it challenging to convey thoughts and emotions accurately. According to trauma psychologist Peter A. Levine, “Trauma is not what happens to us but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.” Lying may emerge as a way to navigate this internal chaos, presenting a facade that appears more composed and in control.

The Intersection of Memory Fragmentation and Lying

PTSD often involves fragmentation of memories, with traumatic events existing as disjointed pieces rather than a cohesive narrative. This fragmentation contributes to the complexity of the link between PTSD and lying. Minnesota Iron (Wo)Man stated that their time capsules of traumatic experiences cannot be thrown into the ocean in a glass bottle or put in a wood box buried under dirt. Theirs has been stored within their body.  Lying may be an unconscious attempt to fill gaps in the fragmented narrative, creating a more coherent and manageable version of the traumatic experience.

Lying in the context of PTSD can also be viewed as a quest for safety and control. Trauma disrupts a person’s sense of security, and lying becomes a way to establish a semblance of order in the aftermath of chaos. According to trauma therapist Babette Rothschild, “Trauma is hell on earth. Trauma resolved is a gift from the gods.” Lying becomes a survival strategy, offering a perceived refuge from the ongoing turmoil within the individual.

The link between PTSD and lying inevitably affects interpersonal relationships, particularly in the context of trust. Partners, friends, and family members may struggle to reconcile the discrepancies between the fabricated narrative and reality. According to Zach Brittle, LMHC, trust is built as you express compassion and empathy for one another’s feelings, and this foundation is essential when you face the inevitable betrayal. Recognizing and addressing the link between PTSD and lying is crucial for rebuilding trust and fostering healthier relationships.

In conclusion, the link between PTSD and lying is a complex interplay of coping mechanisms, shame, guilt, communication challenges, and the quest for safety and control. Understanding this connection is essential for individuals navigating the impact of trauma on their lives. Online therapy, with its accessibility and professional support, becomes a valuable resource in addressing and unraveling the intricacies of this relationship, offering a pathway towards healing and genuine self-discovery.

About the Author

Dr. Rahmany began her academic journey at San Francisco State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She furthered her studies at the California School of Professional Psychology, obtaining a master’s and a doctorate in clinical forensic psychology. She started her career at the California Department of Corrections and then joined Cyti Psychological and became the National Clinical Director. Her diverse experiences have reinforced her commitment to psychology and its impact on communities

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741