Is Psychological Illness Behind Repeated False Accusations?

A story out of Pennsylvania caught my eye earlier this month.

Apparently, a woman called the police alleging an intruder had been chased out of her home by her dog. Based on the woman's descriptions and statements to police, a neighbor was arrested and released on $500,000 bond.

What could have -- and likely would have -- ended as a heartwarming dog story to share on Facebook has taken an unusual turn.

It turns out the purported victim, according to her neighbors, has a history of making false accusations against others.

I have no idea, obviously, what happened in this case. But it made me think about certain false abuse cases I have heard about and/or worked on ...

Mainly, it raises the question: is there some certain psychopathology at work when a person makes false abuse accusations, at least in some cases?

Even if that is the case, of course, the presence of mental illness in the accuser is not always a fact that's readily available or discernible -- not to police, and certainly not to attorneys like me who represent the falsely accused.

Moreover, mental illness may explain why a person makes a false accusation, but it cannot excuse that act, at least in the moral sense. The damage has been done as soon as the allegation is made.

But it is an interesting question -- one that bears some further thought.