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Problems Recalling Events Accurately

A person I know has this recurring problem. At first I didn’t think anything of it, after all, we all have memory lapses from time to time for a variety of reasons. However, my friend continually recalls events and facts incorrectly.

In and of itself this might not be so bad with advancing age. However, this person does so in order to advance an agenda against a former spouse. She seems to truly believe the incorrectly recalled events and not the events as they occurred. I have called her out on it a couple times but this ended in an unpleasant confrontation so I avoid it.

She frequently carries on in front of her children and I fear the damage that she may be inflicting on the children she has with this former spouse and their relationship (I know both parents and have remained friends with them over the years.)

Is this a true pathology? Or is it willful distortion of the facts? Again, she seems to truly believe what she says. If it is a true pathology, is there treatment or therapy?

If I understand your question correctly, you are asking about whether or not a person who might be lying about events concerning his or her former spouse is doing so pathologically and if he or she can be helped with therapy.

The answer depends upon whether or not the individual is lying deliberately or inadvertently and just as importantly, whether or not the person wants help.

In the case of a person deliberately recounting events inaccurately, for the sole purpose of “advancing an agenda against a former spouse,” then treatment may be difficult. A lie involves a deliberate deception, a person knowingly withholding the truth in order to improve their position. For example, they make themselves appear to look better, often by attempting to make someone else look bad. A person who is actively attempting to be deceptive may not want help.

A person who is recounting events inaccurately because they have misperceived a situation or simply because he or she has trouble accurately recounting events (perhaps due to memory problems) may be more open to treatment than the person who is actively attempting to deceive.

You should talk to your friend about your concerns. You may not want to approach him or her in the same confrontational manner as you did before, but you can gently suggest that consulting a mental health professional could help. Focus on the positive benefits of therapy as a reason for seeing a mental health professional.

Generally speaking, whether or not therapy would help depends upon how open an individual is to change and upon his or her willingness to engage in treatment.

I hope that I have answered your question. If not, please consider writing back and providing more details. I may be able to provide you with a more complete answer. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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