Suzy Bass — What is Pseudologia Fantastica?

She Said She Had Breast Cancer—But She Lied

Glamour

“Suzy Bass had less than a year to live. The Knoxville, Tennessee, high school math teacher was battling stage IV breast cancer, and it had spread to her shoulder and heel. . . . “Everyone just loved her immediately. We could tell her anything.” . . . Webb’s students dedicated their prom fund-raiser to her . . . A week before the big dance, though, the school received a series of troubling phone calls. Bass, they said, was making the whole thing up. . . . A week after getting exposed, Bass pulled down her Facebook account, changed her phone number and disappeared. In her wake, she left a community of angry, bewildered people with many unanswered questions: How did she do it? How could we not have known? And the biggest, most puzzling one of all: Why?”

I first learned of pseudologia fantastica from a Discovery Channel documentary, Why We Lie. The only reference to the documentary I can find is at a business ethics site (they are extremely harmful to the workplace): Why We Lie

Though the word wasn’t used, it was apparent that pseudologues were also sociopaths — guileless manipulative ability, inspiring pity, geniuses at making others feel sorry for them, the truth was of no concern, amoral, etc. Apparently some researchers agree, some don’t — but there’s very little material on pseudologues. Wikipedia entry

From the few (two to be exact) I believe I have known I would say they are definitely sociopathic, but with a twist. Most sociopaths are not impaired at all in terms of reality testing. Pseudologues however don’t seem to realize there is a difference between reality and the stating of it, apparently unaware that reality is actually real. Furthermore, apparently their brains are structurally different. Habitual Liar Brains Look Different On Scans

The ones I knew were extreme sociopaths, they might as well have been emotionless machines that could calculate the proper emotional response incredibly quickly. In acting terms, the reaction was however a beat off, a noticeable delay — but why notice if the sociopath is saying everything you want to hear or has drawn you into their fantasy or has captured your caring nature to take of them.

Latest pseudologue (9/10/10): One more cancer hoax story: Jessica Vega, http://www.aolhealth.com/2010/09/08/jessica-vegas-cancer-hoax/. While the article doesn’t mention pseudologia fantastica or sociopathy directly, it does mention antisocial personality disorder which is a great advance.

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7 thoughts on “Suzy Bass — What is Pseudologia Fantastica?

  1. Unfortunately no psychological treatment has a track record of changing true sociopaths, pathological liars & pseudologues I believe. In my opinion, these people are human alternates with different brain structures and DNA. Their brains give them phenomenal lying ability and the ‘pity play’ is their main hook to manipulate others. (There are faux-sociopathic conditions, of course, in which individuals have sociopathic like behavior for psychological reasons — but this blog is dedicated to identifying the true sociopath’s behavior and thinking.)

    In terms of psychologists thinking they’ve never met sociopaths or pseudologues there are several factors at play, I think. First, in my opinion, any middle-aged person has met at least tens of sociopaths. It would seem that psychologists would and should be able to recognize them. Now science is supposed to be emotionally deaf, dumb and blind, i.e., conclusions are arrived at non-emotionally. However I see no reason scientists (and I consider myself one) should themselves be. Further some individuals seem to wish to apply courtroom standards of proof to their own thinking. They think they know only what they can prove to a court’s satisfaction. In my opinion this is a way to keep the world small and understandable for people who are afraid of complexity (ooh, it’s so scary). Then, annoyingly, these individuals seem to think this stance makes them superior rational beings. And finally, sociopaths and pseudologues don’t tend to present themselves to clinical psychologists, so psychologists probably don’t know them from their practices. When a sociopath does go to a therapist the real purpose is to become a better wolf among the sheep (I’ll do a post on this sometime).

    I’ve noticed this Suzy Bass post is one of my most visited posts. She and/or her story seem to have left a very strong impression.

  2. Wow! Some psychologists have never seen one case of this kind of sociopathy and I have seen two here in Knoxville, TN. As a temp, I was sent to work at a company that had the same exact situation. An employee was claiming to have cancer and I was filling in for her while she was having a “treatment”. The ladies showed me a picture of the woman and I asked them if it was recent. They said yes and I commented that she sure did look pretty healthy to me! They told me she was having a “new cancer treatment”. I was in awe that they would believe such a thing. They also said they chipped in and bought her a car, helped to pay her mortgage, and that she had a disabled child. The kid looked NOTHING like her. It probably wasnt even her kid! The HR dept. finally must have gotten a hint and found no dr. visit’s on her co. insurance for cancer or any kind of treatment. She was subsequenty fired but it clearly took a huge emotionally toll on the entire company. I think if the employees were able to take a step back and see how healthy this woman obviously was, they would have gotten a few hints earlier…..
    The second time I was sent to temp at a place in Forks of the River for the woman who was supposedly completely recovered from cancer. She played on sympathy like you would not believe. Several people at this company did not believe her story because like the other lady, she looked too darn healthy and made some impossible healing claims. She missed next to NO work too. I think I got an “OH, thats what I am dealing with” clue when she was training me prior to going into the hospital: Her son basically disowned her and she “had no idea why”…. We can only hope these people find good psychological help soon….

  3. Jabb,

    That seems to be the way it usually is, there are those who see through a sociopath and those that don’t — there is no common ground.

    I just did three separate searches, “Suzy Bass” and sociopath, psychopath and pseudologia and found only myself! That is incredibly irresponsible of the news media. How are people supposed to recognize the next similar situation? It is apparent that public education regarding sociopathy has to be from the bottom up or rather from the internet up. It seems the engine driving this increased knowledge are the discussions among those with personal experiences with sociopaths.

    I must say, your comment made my day — I just knew some people had to have seen through her. That sociopathic arrogance is such a big tip off.

  4. Pathwhisperer– Your comment about the extreme arrogance displayed by these people absolutely resonated with me. I worked with Suzy Bass at the Georgia school she scammed, and it was her irrational attitude that she was always right and that no one should ever question her actions that made me realize (her first year at the school) there was something “off” about her. When she first claimed cancer I, and many other teachers at the school, had our doubts; but her defenders were so vehement in their support of her condition, we largely kept silent because of our fears of the “kill the messenger” mentality. Vindication, when the tuth came out, was bittersweet.

  5. Able2love,

    Isn’t it amazing that the public is actually ahead of the professionals in recognizing sociopaths. As you said, it’s actually not that hard — at least not after recognizing your first few. There’s nothing like that first “oh, moment” — “oh, that’s what I’m dealing with.”

    I’m sure there were a few people around Suzy Bass who recognized from the beginning her arrogance (sociopathic arrogance is often remarked on by many people with no realization that it is in fact sociopathic arrogance), her deep contempt for the duped and her prodigious lying ability. I’m also sure they had to keep quiet lest they be the ones attacked not Suzy Bass. Pseudologues and sociopaths are phenomenal at commanding loyalty through instilling pity and the “caring instinct.”

    And of course, as you know well, romance is one of the biggest teachers of awareness of sociopaths in daily life. It’s almost criminal that young people of serious romance age have no idea sociopaths are out there. It’s like wandering through a mine field without knowing there are also nuclear mines.

    In the Nov. 10 issue, The New Yorker featured an article by John Seabrook, “Suffering Souls — The search for the roots of psychopathy.” http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/10/081110fa_fact_seabrook In it he writes, “Unlike most academic psychopathy researchers, [Kent] Kiehl has spent many hours in the company of his subjects. When he meets colleagues at conferences, he told me, “they always ask, ‘What are they like?’ These are guys who have spent twenty years studying psychopaths and never met one.”” I find this an astounding statement. These researchers really believe they’ve never met a sociopath? Impossible.

    Thanks for your comment and thanks for your too high praise. Also thank you for your site. To any individuals who believe they need never be concerned with sociopaths in their own lives, I recommend they visit http://able2love.wordpress.com/ .

  6. Pathwhisperer,

    Thank you for this information, this is really intrigueing to know that there are so many other indications that someone is a sociopath, and yet the public and professionals alike come up with a new name for it rather than acknowleging sociopathy as a final destination. I realize that psychopathy is one of the most complex sciences to discern from a technical-psychological sense, mainly due to so many variations with personality disorders and the risk of declaring one “without conscience”; but once the media and public become educated on the signs & of basic traits then it becomes very easy, actually, to spot a sociopath.
    There are a lot of people who have been victims of these heartless manipulators around the world, and continue to work towards educating others, and getting the word out. You are one of those wonderful people.
    Thank you!

    Able2Love
    http://able2love.wordpress.com/

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