ASK DR. LEEDOM: Why are addicts and sociopaths similar?

Tough Cookie wrote:

I have found that sociopaths often tend to be abusers of drugs. In my case, my sociopathic boy friend was addicted heavily to drugs. It seem to me that sociopaths and drug addicts tend to hold very similar characteristics (i.e. manipulative, selfish, impulsivity). How is one able to tell the difference between the characteristics of sociopath and the characteristics of a drug addict?

You made a very good observation, that is, many sociopaths are addicts/alcoholics and many addicts/alcoholics have sociopathic tendencies. Remember, sociopathy is a spectrum, with mild, moderate and severe cases. Severely sociopathic people are called psychopaths.

Why the link between sociopathy and addiction? If you have read the material on this blog and on my website, you know that I propose that the best way to understand sociopathy is to consider the Inner Triangle. Addicts/Alcoholics have severe impairment of the Inner Triangle. I believe impairment of the Inner Triangle causes addiction in people who expose themselves to substances of abuse.

Coincidentally your choice of adjectives manipulative, selfish, impulsivity directly corresponds to the Inner Triangle! Selfish relates to an inability to love-the base of the Inner Triangle is Ability to Love. Impulsivity relates to Impulse Control and manipulative relates to Moral Reasoning- the sides of the Inner Triangle.

Why would an impaired Inner Triangle lead to addiction/alcoholism? The short answer is that balance in life means that loving the people in our lives has to be our greatest pleasure. When other things are more important to us than love, we become susceptible to substance abuse. People who are also impulsive and who lack moral understanding, do all kinds of things trying to fill the void caused by an inability to love.

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30 Comments on "ASK DR. LEEDOM: Why are addicts and sociopaths similar?"

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I did say my ex psychological abused me. I didn’t even realize it until I started seeing my therapist. He was the one that put it in perspective for me. I was so confused and my head was spinning with everything I was going thru. I guess because I led a life of no abuse, my head was in the sand as far as psychological abuse. It happens to you, but at the time it’s happening you have no idea your being abused. I guess that explains the lies,gaslighting, manipulative behavior. That’s the whole thing of it. Unless you’re aware of this maladaptive behavior, you have no idea it’s happening to you until after the fact. After the fact your head is spinning, you have no idea what the truth is, your life gets turned upside dowwn. So yes…I’m fully aware that I was psychologically abused.

You are right about emotional abuse being worse than physical abuse. Any kind of abuse is horrible, but emotional really has to be the worst. It’s still even hard for me to say I was abused. It takes away your innocense.

Dear Aerin,

I understand your take on this, believe me I THOUGHT I was not being abused either because I wasn’t being hit by a husband, and I actually felt SUPERIOR to women who were hit and went back because “I would NEVER do that”–yet I let my SON hit me and abuse me, use me and lie to me, and didn’t count that as “abuse” or domestic violence which it was!

I’m sorry if I thought you still hadn’t clued in on the emotional abuse you suffered, but do not be ashamed of what HE did—and yes, I know that it is easy to feel ashamed of what someone else did or does, I’ve been there on that one too. LOL To feel ashamed that we were abused and continued to allow it (not even being aware it was abuse)

I got a BIG dose of humility when I realized I had been JUST as allowing of abuse as the women who went back over and over to men who beat them and broke their bones…and as a health care professional I “should have known better” but I didn’t. I was like the man in the Bible that Jesus talked about who tried to get the splinter out of his friend’s eye, while having a LOG in his own. I needed to clear my own vision before I felt superior to anyone else.

The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. That doesn’t mean that people can’t change, but it means that they seldom do. There are substance abusers and others who clean up their lives and reverse course, but the percentage is not big, so I am not willing to trust someone until they are WELL down the road on their reformation. I think you aren’t either, and I am glad, because I think that will protect your daughter and you from this kind of man and that one in particular. I’m glad you are getting it! Your daughter needs you to be a good role model for her and accepting abuse of any kind isn’t good for you or for her. Good [email protected]


You’re right, in some ways it DOES take away your innocence…I understand this and how you feel. But I just want to make one thing clear about that


There. I hope you got that I wasn’t yelling, but underscoring a point for you, sweetheart!

So now…………here’s where the work begins for you……and for your child too and her emotional/physical/spiritual/ well being in the future 🙂 : Find out what made you VULNERABLE to him……if you have NEVER been abused, had a healthy upbringing, just ask yourself………..what made me VULNERABLE to him? Was I lonely? Was I wanting something in life that I wasn’t aware of that HE offered me? Did he use the pity ploy to exploit your KINDNESS (You are so obviously kind, even I see it!)…what are your boundaries? How can you protect yourself in the future by becoming AWARE of these people, AS WELL AS your vulnerabilities so that you are NEVER victimized this way again?

Just some questions to ask yourself now.

I have a feeling you’re going to be JUST FINE Aerin. Cuz guess what….if you had a loving, warm, supportive, MAINLY LOVING environment growing up…your child has an even BETTER chance if you can do the same, but with your new knowledge, in the future, arm her with the reality that yes, Virginia, there ARE truly evil people in this world………and THIS is what we need to do to PROTECT ourselves.

IT’s a hard lesson to learn. I was abused all of my life, Aerin, so NOT being abused is foreign to me and I think takes a lot longer to heal because I’m learning something TOTALLY different than what I’ve seen……..but you KNOW what it is, and now you can take whatever naivete’s and vulnerabilities in that everyone else is as kind and thoughtful as you are, know it’s not true, and learn to protect yourself and your child.

What a beautiful lesson you are learning so young and for your child too!



Yeah…I didn’t realize I was abused until 8 months after I broke up with my ex. I broke up with him because he was making my life miserable and knew I couldn’t have in my life anymore. The sad part is I was ready to break up with him months before he really hurt me, but I found out I was pregnant and thought he would start doing the right thing for me and our unborn child. I saw a good post on here before….the woman said they’re great to you until you become dependent on them. I wasn’t dependent on him until I got preggars, and thus the true sociopath came out.

Do you know what he told me right before I knew I was pregnant? We went out to dinner, the movies, had a really great night. He knew at the time his drug abuse was getting worse, but I didn’t yet. He told me he wanted me to be happy, that if I wanted to move on without him he would understand. He didn’t want to hold me back and said I deserved better. Of course I had no clue what he was talking about. I thought his insecurity was just coming out because everything to this point was so good between us. I just kind of laughed it off. Then a couple of days later I found out about his drug abuse, and his run in the law as a result of it. I knew in my gut I had to break things off with him, and I was, even though I still loved him. I knew something was off and knew I couldn’t have in my life. And then not even 5 days later I found out I was pregnant. Horrible timing…and there in a nut shell is my story!


I know you weren’t yelling…just some miscommunication.

For awhile I was trying to figure out how I got involved with someone like this. I think I explained in the above post that my being pregnant made me vulnerable to him. To think I was ready to walk away from him basically unhurt, and finding out I was pregnant and “stuck” with him, is still hard for me. My therapist said there was a reason for him to be in my life. I got my precious daughter. But then I told him, I got my beautiful daughter but I have all this pain I’m dealing with. I told him my dream became my nightmare. But…I just need to deal with it. The funny thing is I was always so picky when it came to men. My ex and I just clicked and got along so well.

I appreciate your feedback and kind words. It’s so hard to think its not my fault sometimes. I think why did this happen to me, why I am being punished like this. I consider everything a life lesson, and know eventually I’m going to come out stronger & wiser!



It wasn’t your fault. It’s okay to ask why this happened to you and that’s a VERY good question because it will lead you to the answers as to why you were vulnerable to begin with, and WHAT the vulnerabilities were that got you INTO the relationshit to begin with.

You’re not being punished, sweetheart, even though it probably feels that way, you are being blessed. 🙂

And you WILL come out wiser and stronger!!!



That’s so sweet, I’m being blessed. That’s a nice way to look at it.

I guess I liked all the fun & excitement that we had together, that was missing in my previous relationship, even though that bf loved me more than anything and would have done anything for me.

My ex proclaimed that he loved me, who doesn’t want to be loved, and at the time I was lonely, and I knew I wanted to get married and have children. Have a great life! I guess at the time too I felt safe with my job, but I always wanted to start my own business. So now…here I am a single mother having to support a child…and it’s the best time for me to start my own business (which,btw, I am doing). Maybe it’s God’s way of saying I have the capabilities to do this on my own and to give me and my daughter a great life. It’s really giving me the confidence to go out & get what I want. Even though that thought is still so scary. It’s scary knowing I’m the sole provider for my daughter.

I think too my ex reminded me of my father. Fun, nice, outgoing, successful. My father is deceased and I guess missing him in my life led me to my ex. Of course my dad wasn’t a sociopath, my ex displayed all the good signs of my dad, but my dad didn’t have my ex’s bad sides. That was something I realized a couple months ago. He hid this dark side from me. I even told him that…he just kind of shrugged it off.

So yeah…that is kind of good to get all of that out. I have a bad habit of keeping everything bottled up inside of me.

Thanks for opening my eyes to that!!


GOOD GIRL…… as you THINK about this, refer to your OWn post here often………

I see your vulnerabilities here but a spath would see them more…….the fantasy of hearth and home and a GOOD man to share that with and that’s not BAD, sweetheart! That’s GOOD stuff, but only with a man who is so DESERVING of you..

Maybe some therapy would help here too…..another vulnerability, missing your DADDY!!! A GOOD man…..and all the stuff your ex displayed……and I”m betting you SHARED that with him in your vulnerability to him? We often reveal, while vulnerable and in pain about sometihng not having anything to do with spaths at all……… THEM that they hone in on. Do you see?

Missing your daddy. Take care of it. Whatever is leftover from the pain of that loss.

MAKE a HAPPY family, with just YOU AND YOUR CHILD in your visual………..maybe the right HIM will pop up later, you’re GETTING THIS! I KNOW IT!

Spaths feed on what you are missing, a vulnerability as simple as loneliness, for some of us, as big as endless abuses…



This is a GREAT learning curve for you!

Fun, excitement? Yep, very VERY COMMON behavior, called “love bombing”……..but true love, chica, comes when you TAKE THE TIME TO GET TO KNOW SOMEONE……..

So be single awhile. Expound on your wonderful gifts, LEARN MORE from your newfound INSIGHTS……….

You’re so blessed, Aerin. ANd a GOOD heart. All you need is a little of the hard lesson you’ve been given and turn it into something good, just a little dirt in the road for you…so sweep it away and move on……..

What a great gift you have been given!

All the best to you!!

YOU CAN DO THIS. I don’t have ONE doubt about it.

All you need is just a little straightening of the table cloth. That’s all. An ironing of the wrinkles.

And you’re good as new 🙂

Stay positive and BE BLESSED!!!


Hi LL & Oxy,

I just want to thank you guys again for your words, thoughts, insights last night. It really brought a lot of clarity into the situation I’m in.

Your encouraging words are very enlightening, and yes LL I am going to reference back to my post referring to the vulnerabilities I had before I got messed up with my ex. I’m so glad I did that. It really was an eye opener. It’s weird how you could know these things in your head but to actually say it (or in this case write it out loud) is very therapeutic. I need to make a mental note of not internalizing my feelings anymore!!



Your insights and openness is simply nothing less than awesomeness!

you’re going to be JUST FINE! Promise 🙂

And you’re welcome!



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