All of Turkey is talking about Ayşe Özkiraz, who has been called the “fake doctor” for days. Mind-blowing details emerge one after another. However, it seems that Özkiraz is neither the first nor the only one. A very similar case made headlines in the US press recently. The lies told by an American named Christopher Massimine are as shocking as Özkiraz’s. Here are all the details…
Christopher Massimine does his best not to lie. His wife asked, “Did you take out the trash?” when he asks her or her mother-in-law “Do you like the pastries?” He tries to tell the truth when asked. He also tries to tell the truth to his therapist, who applies cognitive behavioral therapy to him for the treatment of his lying habit.
Massimine began her practice of telling the truth 15 months ago, a man who has told unimaginable lies throughout his life.
At the time, he lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, and was the executive director of Pioneer, one of the country’s leading theater companies. Massimine was forced to resign after an investigation by a local journalist revealed that there were many untrue details on her resume that had gotten her this job.
Moreover, as it later became clear, the lies in Massimine’s resume were the tip of the iceberg. Throughout her life, Massimine deceived everyone around her by telling huge, elaborate, and at times purposeless lies.
For example, in a Facebook post he made while sitting in a hotel room in Cambodia, he states that he climbed Everest over Tibet.
He told reporters that he was born in Italy (but was born in New Jersey). He had told his schoolmates that his birthday was in September (in fact, it was May). He told his wife, “I’m cheating on you with Kourtney Kardashian”. (It didn’t even matter.)
Massimine’s life is turned upside down when these endless lies begin to surface; her marriage was in jeopardy, and her young successes in New York’s theater world began to be questioned.
Massimine, now 36, told The New York Times that she wanted to “fix a very fundamental misunderstanding” and suggested that she was an indomitable mental patient, not a swindler plotting to deceive people.
IS PATHOLOGICAL LYING A DISEASE?
Massimine is not the first to claim that lying in this way is a compulsion.
German psychiatrist Anton Delbrück coined the term “pseudologia fantastica” in 1891. Delbrück described her patients in this group as “people who make up strange things to portray themselves as heroes or victims and to impress others”.
The book titled “Pathological Lying: Theory, Research, and Practice” by US psychologists Drew A. Curtis and Christian L. Hart, which hit the shelves recently, Is based on Delbrück’s argument. argues that pathological lying should be added to the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual on mental illness.
According to Curtis and Hart, psychiatry is currently unable to accurately diagnose this group of patients. According to the authors, the patients in question are seen as “dark, abusive, calculating monsters.” However, these people are actually “often harmed by their own behavior but fail to change on their own”. Experts also state that these patients can benefit from behavioral therapies with proven effects in disorders such as stuttering, nail biting, and hair pulling.
“DIAGNOSE WAS A TURNING POINT”
Shortly before his lies were exposed, Massimine was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Here she was diagnosed with “cluster B personality disorder”. The syndrome has symptoms such as the desire to deceive people and attract attention.
For many around Massimine, this diagnosis set the tone. “Christopher is not a liar, he can’t control himself about it,” said Massimine’s 37-year-old wife, Maggie.
Stating that she has considered divorce many times in the past, Maggie said, “It was a turning point for me to realize that this is a disease.”
Maggie, who has been working hard to help her husband recover since then, said, “This situation is similar to Tourette’s syndrome. After admitting that the cause of this behavior is the disease, you can accept the situation even though it is a bit strange and disturbing.”
* * * * *
Maggie remembers with painful clarity the day she realized how big her husband’s problem was.
The calendars were showing the year 2018, and Massimine was sending an e-mail to Maggie saying, “I’m in Tibet. Don’t be mad at me.”
There was a photo attached to the e-mail. A Sherpa and a blonde mountaineer were smiling at the camera. In the background, the peaks of the Himalayas could be seen. Massimine stated that she had secretly entered China with the help of kindly Buddhist monks, and the monks escorted her to Camp No. 2 on Everest, adding: “Let me introduce you, Tsomo. He is such a wonderful person. If he comes to the USA, you will love it too.”
Massimine also shared the same photo on Facebook. However, Maggie couldn’t make sense of this frame. His wife, whom he has been married to for 5 years, told him that he was going on vacation to Cambodia. He had no preparation to climb Everest, no mountaineering experience and no Chinese visa. How could it be in Tibet?
Maggie said, “First I’m like, ‘Why is he posting this, is he thirsty for his life?’ Then, as the amount of craziness in the posts increased, I started to think, ‘These are not real, none of them are real,'” he told about his reaction in those days.
That weekend, with the help of a friend, Maggie began scouring her husband’s Facebook page and emails. What they found was unbelievable: voice changers, fake email addresses, fake correspondence… Maggie was horrified. “Who is this guy?” She was saying, “Who did I marry?”
Massimine’s love of theater was evident even as a child
EVERYTHING STARTED WITH A LOW GRADE IN THE MATHEMATICS EXAM
Growing up in Somerset, New Jersey, Massimine’s lies began when she was in her sophomore year of elementary school.
Little Christopher was worried about telling his parents that he had gotten a B+ (87-89 out of 100) on his math test. Instead, he fabricated a lie to his parents that he was invited to perform at school to sing with a professional actor in the musical The Lion King.
Over time, lying has become a “defense mechanism”. When he was worried, he lied to calm himself. He didn’t even care if others believed in him or not.
According to his friends, Massimine’s lies were not in a way that would hurt anyone; it was rather “exaggeration” or “ornamentation”. “It was like making a dome,” said Jessica Hollan, who shared the stage with him in a play.
His college friend, Lauren Migliore, said that no one had ever slammed Massimine’s lies in her face. Describing Massimine as a loyal and affectionate friend, Migliore added that she is also sensitive and caring “like a puppy”.
“I always thought the reason for the lies was a lack of self-confidence. I didn’t see it as something worth mentioning. It was about attracting attention,” Migliore said.
Massimine was a successful theatrical producer known for her workaholicism when she met Maggie. Working day and night, Massimine became the top manager of an important theater at the age of 29.
However, this was damaging to her marriage. They even broke up for a few months. They reunited when Maggie softened, thinking her husband’s lies were due to her feeling inadequate. Massimine started therapy and antidepressant treatment. In this process, they put their heads together and talked about the truth by discussing the lies that Massimine had told Maggie since the day they met.
* * * * *
Experts from Michigan State University conducted a study in 2010 to determine how often Americans lie. The results were quite interesting.
60 percent of respondents said “I have never lied in the last 24 hours”. On the other hand, 24 percent stated that they had lied once or twice in the same period. However, the average of lies per capita was 1.65 because a small group of respondents were lying too much.
“This small group of prosperous liars,” as the researchers put it, made up 5.3 percent of the sample but accounted for half of all lies told, averaging as high as 15 per person. Some of them had to lie by their profession, but there was no clear reason behind the lies others told.
It was the people in this group that intrigued Curtis and Hart. Unlike previous researchers working on criminals, Curtis and Hart set out to find the liars among us and found their subjects through online mental health forums. Examining this group of ordinary people, experts came up with a psychological profile.
All of the liars were attention-hungry people seeking social approval. They were losing friends or jobs and suffering when their lies were exposed. Most did not have a criminal history or any illegal activity. On the contrary, a significant number of them were writhing with guilt and remorse. One said, for example, “I know my lies are poisonous and I’m trying to get help”.
This profile did not fit with the psychiatric views most often associated with liars. Liars were often diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, and were described as manipulative and calculating. Hart and Curtis, on the other hand, emphasize that this misconception hinders research into treatment and creates a pessimism that people with the habit of lying cannot change.
“YOU CAN’T TRUST THEM BUT…”
In the book, the experiences of some liars are told firsthand. One of them is 34-year-old writer Vironika Wilde.
Wilde started lying in his teenage years. “He was a chubby immigrant boy with an accented English,” and tried to garner sympathy by making up stories that included exaggerated details like being shot at and falling from the roof of his house. But over time, keeping these lies in mind became stressful and complicated for Wilde. As he developed deeper relationships with people, his friends began to lied to him.
Wilde stopped lying in his 20s by practicing strict self-discipline. Every time he told a lie, he corrected himself. To gain people’s empathy, she began writing and reading poems about her traumatic past. As he spoke the truth, the guilt in him slowly melted away.
In this process, there were other compulsive liars who came to him with coaching requests. Wilde stated that they could not progress more than a few sessions with these people because they were not ready for change, and said, “I had the impression that they were trying to avoid negative results.”
When it comes to people who lie a lot, this observation is also common among researchers.
For example, Timothy R. Levine, who studies lies at the University of Alabama, said, “You can’t trust them, but at some point you find yourself drawn into a trusting relationship, otherwise it’s impossible to talk.”
“Once you lose faith in what people are saying, communication loses all functionality and you’re stuck in a lousy spot. You find yourself in an unsustainable situation.”
* * * * *
In October 2019, a year after the Tibetan lie was exposed, Massimine called Maggie with some very exciting news. She was honored with the National Performing Arts Action Association’s Philanthropist of the Year award, she.
The Massimine family had recently moved to Salt Lake City. Massimine was head of the Pioneer Theater Company. However, things were not going well. In his own words, “the people who should have listened were not listening to [Massimine]”. As a result, she started working day and night again, she. He even went so far as to scold Maggie, who was pregnant at the time, for calling her during business hours.
Hurt, Massimine took refuge in her old defense mechanism. This time she had told a lie that far exceeded her previous lies, and she needed Maggie’s support. “I knew it was a huge lie and I wanted everyone to believe it. So it would feel like the truth,” Massimine told me at the time.
Maggie wasn’t quite convinced, but thought, “I guess she really got the prize,” as Massimine went to Washington for two days, returning home with a medal and photographs that looked like they had been taken from the White House podium.
Meanwhile, his new colleagues were following Massimine closely. For example, at the end of her first month, she asked her colleagues for an observer card for a United Nations conference and later claimed to be the keynote speaker at the same conference. According to Kirsten Park, the theater’s marketing director at the time, it was a “huge exaggeration,” but it was possible in the theater world.
He was giving interviews to journalists and telling that he has been successful in his career. He even prepared a press release announcing his award and shared it with Park.
When Park searched for the institution and the award on the internet, he could not find anything and said, “I definitely thought it was a lie.” However, he hesitated to convey his suspicions to his superiors. In fact, when Massimine went to Washington with the theater’s money to receive the award, she began to think it was unfair. “The only thing worse than lying is accusing an innocent person of lying,” Park said.
THE LIES WAS SLOWLY STARTING TO GET OUT OF CONTROL
Massimine’s behavior became non-negligible by 2021. She often shared articles about herself that were obviously made by an amateur (she later admitted that she had paid for these articles). The things mentioned in these articles were very absurd: It was said that he was the vice president of MENSA International, the club of high IQs, that he was an advisor to Aretha Franklin, that he held a minority stake in a diamond company.
“I thought half of what was written was untrue,” said Jill Goldstein, who knew Massimine from her theater company in New York.
While the balloon was inflating like this, it suddenly burst. University of Utah officials, to which the Pioneer Theater Company is affiliated, informed Massimine that a group of employees had filed a complaint against her for mismanagement and absenteeism. Moreover, A Reporter Working For A Local Television Channel Was Preparing A News Report that would expose Massimine’s lies .
Speaking to The New York Times, Massimine stated that she felt more resentment towards her colleagues than regret when she talked about those days. Stating that the employees were constantly fighting with him, Massimine said, “I was trying to come to terms with them because I had no other choice. When I realized this fact, everything suddenly got out of control.”
Maggie, on the other hand, stated that she had never been so afraid in any other period of her life, and said, “I was afraid that Christopher would do something to her. Even when she entered the toilet, I was waiting at the door.”
Finally, Maggie admitted her husband to the psychiatric clinic of the university hospital. Once again, he was left alone with Massimine’s lies. “She did the same thing again,” said Maggie, when she called back her friend Vanessa, who had helped her with her previous research.
* * * * *
The psychiatrist who handled Massimine’s treatment in Utah, Dr. Jordan W. Merrill stated that his patient was in an alarmingly sensitive state at the time.
Unlike today, Massimine’s treatment was not initially focused on her lying. Merrill described what Massimine made up as “benign lies” and stated that it was intended to “preserve the vulnerability within”.
Merrill said, “The goal is not to take things from you, but to try to cope. I’m not sure if they know they’re doing something like this. After this behavior is consolidated over and over, it becomes the person’s way of running the world.”
Massimine’s diagnosis changed everything for Maggie. Maggie’s anger gradually weakened as she tried to understand her husband’s condition by doing research with the advice of doctors. The diagnosis also affected the University of Utah’s approach to the subject. While Massimine resigned from the school, the parties signed an agreement stating that it was no one’s fault.
Massimine sees her therapist every week these days and tries to work out what she feels when the urge to lie is strongest. Stating that she calms these urges by writing and sharing social media frequently, Massimine tries to strengthen her will by taking deep breaths not to speak when she finds herself among people telling stories.
The family is now trying to establish a more modest life than before. One of the most important pillars of this is getting away from the theater world. Massimine expressed that she wanted to leave the lies behind and change at every opportunity, but also stated that she missed the “fictional Chris” and added:
“He was a great character, he did things that I and no one else could do. In some ways, I regret saying goodbye to him.”
* * * * *
In October, Newsweek magazine published an article by Massimine. In the article, Massimine summed up her diagnosis and said, “When I’m feeling mentally under pressure, I make things up to get myself up because I don’t have self-esteem. To make up for it, I created my own reality, which has affected my work life.”
While Massimine declared herself the victim of office politics and internet trolls in the article, it was evident from the comments that the readers did not approach the situation with sympathy.
In one comment, “He made up and accepted a charity award that didn’t exist”, and in another, “Why should we believe the accuracy of your statements in this article, given that you are a confirmed liar describing how you lied?” it was called.
Similar comments came from Massimine’s circle. For example, Park told The New York Times:
“I have no doubt that Chris has mental health issues. Almost everyone has had these in 2020. But lying is still a choice. The urge to lie doesn’t mean you have to lie. What’s more, knowing you have this problem means continuing to lie and doing it.” Not revealing is also a choice. “
Massimine with her husband Maggie and their 20-month-old son Bowen…
Reminding that Massimine was nominated for a Tony Award twice, received a master’s degree and found a respectable and well-paying job in Salt Lake City through her resume, which she adorned with lies, Massimine said, “If these are the characteristics of her illness, as she said, It is obvious that he managed to use it for his own benefit to gain prestige, position and money.
Some of his friends stated that they questioned whether Massimine’s announcement of his illness was a lie or a kind of reputation management move. “I would love for Chris to be well. I love him very much. But I also don’t know how much of what he said is true,” Hollan said.
Massimine said: “Of 100 people who believe that I am lying, if there is one person I can help by sharing my story, that is enough for me.”
His wife, Maggie, said Massine even “adorned” the article she wrote for Newsweek. “I doubt that Chris is not 100 percent honest in his conversations with his therapist,” said Maggie, adding that Massimine was looking for lies by closely following her social media posts.
Maggie said, ” I’m not sure she’s stopped Lying completely. But I can’t keep watching her,” while Massimine said, “I don’t agree,” adding: “I think I’m behaving.”
The New York Times’ “Can This Man Stop Lying?” Extracted from the article titled.