Pseudologia fantastica- telling stories that have a fantastic quality

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Pseudologues engage in a fascinating phenomenon in which they not only prevaricate but tell stories that have a slightly fantastic quality to them. The stories are not so fantastic that they immediately create suspicion, but they do have the quality of making an individual special or unique. For example, an pseudologue may talk about graduating from a prestigious university, of athletic exploits, of knowing important persons, or of having unusual adventures.

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One patient, previously reported by me (Ford, 1973), told tales (which were originally believable) of being an official in the World Health Organization with involvement in rescuing orphaned children from war zone areas. She also talked of knowing a variety of nationally known people and receiving awards for her humanitarian efforts. In fact, she was a middle-class woman who had never been out of her neighborhood except to go to the hospital.

Persons with pseudologia fantastica, at best, have marginal social adjustment. They may complete school and be employed, but at times of stress they tend to decompensate and display a variety of somatizing disorders. Of importance to note, most persons with pseudologia fantastica are the products of dysfunctional families of origin and/or demonstrate evidence of cerebral dysfimction (especially deficits in nondominant hemispheric functioning) and/or learning disabilities (King & Ford, 1988; Pancratz & Lezak, 1987).

Pseudologia fantastica is apparently the result of efforts to increase self-esteem but is also related to a failure in the ability to regulate thinking and separate fantasy from one’s verbalizations.

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