Why relationships with sociopaths are so addictive

Red recycleTime and time again, when I do personal consultations, people tell me how they struggle to break away from a relationship with a sociopath.

You know the involvement is bad for you. But even when you’re not forced to interact with the sociopath you’re not married, don’t have kids with the person and don’t work together you can’t cut the cord.

Why? Because relationships with sociopaths are highly addictive.

There are psychological and biological reasons for this, which I’ll explain.

Psychological bond

Any time two human beings enter into a relationship, a psychological love bond forms.

This bond begins early in the relationship because of pleasure. In the beginning, both people are doing their best to attract and impress each other. The new involvement is fun and exciting, which creates the pleasure.

Sociopaths, of course, usually engage in love bombing. They shower you with attention and affection. They’re always calling and texting. They want to be with you all the time. The sociopath makes you feel like the most important and loved person in the world. This intensifies your pleasure.

The relationship seems to be moving ahead at warp speed, and then the sociopath does something to threaten the relationship disappears, lies, picks a fight. You were once on cloud nine, and now you suddenly feel totally deflated. This creates fear and anxiety.

Now here’s the kicker: Fear and anxiety actually strengthen the psychological love bond.

You want the relationship to go back to how wonderful it was in the beginning. So you ask the sociopath if you can talk. You try to figure out what went wrong. You may even apologize for something you didn’t do.

You get back together with the sociopath, which brings you relief and strengthens the psychological love bond again.

This becomes a pattern: Pleasure, followed by fear and anxiety, followed by relief, rinse and repeat. It becomes a vicious circle, and with each turn of the wheel, the psychological love bond gets tighter and tighter.

Here’s the next kicker: Even if you no longer feel pleasure, the psychological bond is still in place.

Pleasure is required for the bond to form. But the absence of pleasure does not break the bond.

Biological bond

There are also biological reasons why you feel so attached to the sociopath.

When you experience intimacy, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released in your brain and bloodstream. This happens with any type of intimacy emotional sharing, hugs and especially sex.

Oxytocin is called the “cuddle chemical.” It makes you feel calm, trusting and content, and alleviates fear and anxiety. Mother Nature created oxytocin to make parents want to stay together to raise children. It is critical for the survival of the human race.

But, oxytocin also makes you want to stay with someone when you really should leave.

Feelings of love also make the brain produce dopamine. Dopamine is associated with energy, motivation and addiction. In fact, that’s why cocaine makes people feel euphoric it increases the amount of dopamine in the brain.

There’s more. Sex also causes structural changes in the brain. So if you have sex with a sociopath, your brain changes to adapt to this person. Breaking off the relationship will require undoing all the changes in your brain.

Sociopaths don’t bond

Human beings are social animals, and we need to be able to trust each other and stay together to survive. That’s why these psychological and biological changes take place.

However, sociopaths don’t bond like regular, empathic people do. Some researchers theorize that sociopathic brains don’t have the right receptors for oxytocin.

But they have learned how to pretend to be in a relationship, in order to set you up for exploitation. Sociopaths hijack the normal human bonding process.

Breaking the addiction

Because of these psychological and biological reasons, relationships with sociopaths are highly addictive. So when you want to break away from a sociopath, you need to treat it like breaking an addiction.

Here’s what this means.

First: In most cases, you’ll want to go cold turkey when breaking off the relationship. That means you tell sociopath very clearly that it’s over. Here’s what I recommend that you say, which is adapted from The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker:

I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever.

I am certain I never will.

Do not contact me ever again.

Do not give a reason for breaking up, because a reason gives a sociopath an opportunity to argue with you. You do not want to attempt to negotiate with a sociopath, because the sociopath will usually win.

Second: Once you make it clear that the involvement is over, have No Contact with the sociopath. Here’s more information:

How to implement no contact, on Lovefraud.com

Third: If you’ve ever had to overcome addiction smoking, alcohol, drugs you probably know that the standard advice is to take it one day at a time. That’s exactly what you need to do when detoxing from a sociopath.

Get through today. Then get through tomorrow. Then get through the next day. Do whatever you need to do to distract yourself from any urges to contact the person. The longer you stay away from the sociopath, the more his or her grip on you will dissipate.

If you give in and reach out to the sociopath, or answer when the sociopath contacts you, you’ll be back at square one. You’ll have to start the process all over again.

Fourth: When you’re feeling the urge to contact the sociopath, visit Lovefraud. Many, many people have told me that they do this. They read the posts and comments on Lovefraud to remind them of why they are leaving.

Like overcoming any addiction, disengaging from a sociopath takes time and willpower. But your emotions, mind, body, spirit and finances will all be healthier away from this person.


Comment on this article

191 Comments on "Why relationships with sociopaths are so addictive"

Notify of

I have the same questions. Why me? Why pretend to love a person and hate them so much? I will never know what I did to her? For her to hate me and want to hurt me so bad? I can’t understand why I miss her so much!!! When she didn’t love me

They will be whatever floats their boat.

Sometimes, they’ll pick someone to cover for them with what appears to be a decent relationship. But there is something sinister that they keep doing in the background. Look at the relationship between Bill Cosby and his wife. She’s totally in denial about his “off camera” behavior.

The important thing to remember is that they intend to harm. It’s not accidental, and it’s not because they are compelled. They are responsible for controlling their impulses.

Just like an alcoholic is responsible not to drive while they’re drunk, a sex addict is also responsible to keep their harmful impulses in check. Failure to do so is morally wrong, and can be a crime, depending on the nature of their action.

If a drunk got behind the wheel of a car and someone died as a result, they’d be guilty of criminally negligent homicide. If a sexual pervert raped someone, they’d be guilty of rape. Addiction does not excuse someone from doing the right thing.

While there are behavior modifications that may improve a sex addicts self control, there is virtually nothing that will change a pyschopath into a morally intact person.


The empty shell is really him…. He has no real emotions, and never will. He only has an empty sexual appetite with which he disturbs the lives of others.

You, on the other hand, are a person who is full of emotion, caring, concern and love; even to the point of feeling immense sadness over what transpired.

Although you had a horrible encounter, you have three children who you love and who love you. They are your family, and always will be. While you may be sad because of the circumstance you went through, you are not alone.

You’re receiving the help you need to put your life back on track even though something horrible happened to you. You’re resilient, and you’ll soon be in an emotional place where you will feel strong enough to admit joy back into your life again. 2015 will be a yer of renewal for you!

He will never feel the depth of joy that a person who is capable of love can feel.

Spaths try to make life a competition, they’re always measuring themselves in some trivial pointless way against others. Try not to let him impose this on you.
You’re at home resting because it is the right thing to be doing to take care of yourself right now. There will be times in the future when you’ll feel like celebrating. Consider that the pressure you feel to be out having a good time might be coming from external cultural expectations. What do you want to be doing? What is best for you? I know it’s incredibly difficult when you’re recently out of a relationship in which your expectations were betrayed, but try not to think of what he is doing. He is doing what he’s always done and what he always will do, with just a change in tactics and victims. Sad, and kind of boring. He will probably never have anything meaningful in his life, and if he does he won’t appreciate it. I think of my ex psychopath as a lifesize cardboard cutout. I am aware that he is always dangerous to me and to others. (He continues to maneuver and conduct a malicious and salient smear campaign that triggers events and encounters in my life that set me back, but it is getting predictable, although still harmful to me.)
But he’s the one whose emotional impact is down to a lifesize cardboard cutout.
I understand you feel like a shell of a person, and that is how he wants you to feel but it’s not true. I think on a spiritual level he is jealous of your genuine character, existence, and meaningful relationships; so he tried to destroy what you are and what you have. He can’t. You take with you all of what you are and what you do. When you left him, you took with you your capacity to give and love. He doesn’t keep it, and he never appreciated what you gave him anyway. He doesn’t have anything you want or need, although he probably tried to make you think that to hook and trap you. You are a full of life and love, complete person.

I’m not sure what their brains are consciously thinking. I don’t think anyone but another spath really knows. The best measure of what’s going on in someone’s mind is what he does in his life taken as a whole.
If he’s chosen to do what he does in his life so far, unless there’s a reason for him to change, he will keep doing it. What reason would there be for him to change? He likes what he does and he doesn’t get caught. Yes, it makes one sick.
If he lies, he’s a liar. If he manipulates, he’s a manipulator.
He’s doing what makes him feel the best. He’s doing what he chooses to do.
If you’ve told him that what he does hurts you, then he knows he’s hurting you. If he does it again after being explicitly told that it hurts you, then he’s deliberatly choosing to hurt you. (If my ex P found out something he did hurt my son and/or me, he did it as much as possible all the time.) To keep you from leaving and unavailable to him to abuse, he tells you it’s your fault he hurts you, or he didn’t know he was hurting you, or blames it on someone or something else. This is extremely confusing to victims.
How their brains work and what their consciousness is aware of, I have wondered. I believe in the spirit world and good and evil as described in the Bible. I have concluded that evil spirits and probably high level demons are involved in my ex P’s existence; and that the creator God’s goodness is infinitely more powerful and has protected me. That’s my personal understanding; each person will come to her own view about what makes spaths tick, based on personal experience and philosophy.

Sounds like it could be a blessing of an opportunity to move a few hundred miles. I was able to spend a lot of time out of state with friends and family and it was a lifesaver for me.

I’d like to encourage you to do the move for these reasons:
1) getting out from under the “bombs” lets your brain recover… as my therapist told me, you can’t think straight when you’re trying to dodge the abuser’s bombs.
2) being near loving support helps to revive those good brain chemicals, as well as replacing the nightmare with good people/times also revives good brainfood
3) old city=toxic memories, new place=new possibilities/new memories/new life/new joy/new peace.

You have HEALTHY family that wants to support you. That is FAR more healing than staying in a world of pain. You are SO blessed to have your loving family. I have none so it took a LONG time to rebuild my spirits. Take hold of your blessings, that’s what they are here for. AND It’s FUN and life affirming to be a blessing back to those people.

REMEMBER. You did NOTHING to attract or bring evil into your life. This type is evil is opportunistic and predatory. It’s like… “I’m feeling peckish, wonder what sweet thing I can suck the life out of today.” This type of evil just feeds.

yep jenna23
I became agoraphobic too. A total weirdo. Shopped for food only at night because I could hide. I lived that way for THREE years before I got suicidal enough to say I did not want to live that way anymore. It was either die or do something. I learned to live off the grid, until I felt safe enough to be the me inside me. I say this to tell you I understand what you are going through and to say again… YOU have resources that will shorten your recovery and help you regain your emotional balance. GRAB those livesavers ASAP!! They are bigger blessings to you than you realize.


Notwhathe…has some very wise reasons for you to move.
I agree with what she said with an emphasis on the fact that your children have gone into repair and protect mode – this is a rare opportunity and shows just how wonderful a job you did raising your children! Take the compliment and take the opportunity!!!

Now…if you can take one tiny (I mean tiny!) Step back from your emotional pain you might just start to witness the blessing you’ve been given from those children and start to move up the emotional pain scale towards recovery. Your children have acted like adults, perfect parents and are showing you what YOU’VE done to create them – this can help you to start seeing that you’re better than what you got, that you’re a better person than the spath! Focus on the positive and little by little the negative will subside.

Also planning a move can be an exciting thing to focus on – new beginnings, new adventures, new opportunities – immerse yourself in those thoughts as they’ll take the focus of your pain.

Good luck 🙂

Good advice to jenna23, AnnettePK.
Distance and time with good people give the kind of perspective that is so very empowering. I had a place to escape to for a short time. It gave me the space to THINK and to separate reality from mindbending crap.

Yes, I know what you are referring to. I read that post… you mentioned PTSD and my immediate thought was “PTSD is POST, like in the past. Your rapist is in your current. You’ve been re-traumatized.”
…another good reason to move to where he isn’t part of your community.

Jenna, I can relate to how you feel with your ex saying “Jenna was crazy so I had to discard her”.

After 7 years together and several years planning our move and finally buying our dream house together, my ex discarded me in under 90 days after escrow closed without ever moving in. His house was still on the market. Two weeks after he discarded me, he introduced his new girlfriend to his youngest daughter, who was about 27 at the time. She was really taken aback and so as not to embarrass the woman, she waited until a couple of days later when she could talk to him alone. She asked him what was going on, what about Hanalei and the house. He answered casually “I got sick of her, and I guess the house will be sold, I dunno.” A 56 year old man said that to his 27 year old daughter”it sounds like something a 14 year old would say. Great man AND dad. On the other hand, I’m sure he told his new girlfriend(s) that I was crazy, etc. to get sympathy, because that is what he told me about his ex’s.

Beyond that, his sister, who was his real estate agent, called me a few weeks after that (she knew the details of what he had done to me with the discard) and said she was so happy we had worked things out and were moving forward. He had called her to have her take his house off the market, telling her that we had decided to rent his house out for the time being so he could move to be with me and sell it at a later date. It was all a lie! He had never talked to me at all!!

I never saw or spoke to him again (except through an attorney) and cut off all ties with his family shortly after. It was a huge loss to me to distance myself from the people who had become my family, but I needed to sever all connections in order to get a grip on my life.

Because I don’t lie, I assumed he didn’t either, and I learned the hard way that anything he said could be a complete lie, have a molecule of truth, or be a twisted truth. I learned that nothing he said had any value whatsoever, and that to spend even a minute thinking, considering, or analyzing it was a waste of my time, since truth or not, it meant NOTHING to him and was forgotten immediately. They lie even when everyone around them knows its a complete lie, and it doesn’t bother them a bit.

I think moving away is an excellent idea. The new house was 700 miles away from my ex, so I didn’t have to worry about running into him or him showing up unexpectedly, and I think your healing will benefit from not having to worry about that.

By the way, my ex has an older sister that lives in a different state, and though he was close to one brother and sister, I never knew of him speaking to this other sister in the entire time I knew him, although he often mentioned us going to visit her, or swap homes for a vacation. After the discard went down and the sister I was close to knew the truth, she told the story to the other sister. Know what she said? That she sometimes felt guilty for not being in contact with him, but that he had always given her the creeps and now she knew why.

Jenna, one reason for him making the comment was that he knew it would get back to you and hurt you. They know EXACTLY what to say to make us spin. Another is to blame you, to imply that there’s nothing wrong with him (gag). That’s why no contact in any form is so important. If you don’t hear it or see it, it can’t hurt you.

Jenna, of course you’re not crazy!

I don’t know if it’s ever enough for them. My ex outdid himself in the things he said to hurt me after he discarded me and I hadn’t figured it out yet. How I wish I hadn’t been exposed to some of the things he said! He stopped when I refused to respond to him in any way, except through an attorney. He had also replaced me, and didn’t need me anymore.

That’s why you have to protect yourself from any sort of contact. Me being in another state helped me that way. We are in the same line of work, and he may have said and done some things that have hurt me professionally, but I don’t know any of them directly. What has worked for me has been to distance myself from everyone from my “before discard” life except for trusted family members. New friends either know the broad brush of what happened or know nothing at all. Long term relationship ended is all anyone really needs to know.

It takes time and practice, but eventually I learned to avoid anything that had anything to do with him, because it ALWAYS hurt me. You will too.

They don’t believe their own lies. They just don’t believe or respect “no.” No is simply an obstacle to them, not a barrier.

They’ll stop when tormenting you ceases to be fun.


My ex P knew he was lying.

Of course he did. And if he defrauded you of sex by doing so, he committed carnal abuse by deceit, otherwise known as rape by fraud! #RapeByFraud

Feeling defiled by these villains is a normal reaction. That’s why I’ve undertaken to create criminal code to stop this behavior!

Unfortunately, while defrauding you for sex is a criminal issue, defrauding you for your highest emotion, which is love, is not considered a criminal act. But it could be a civil matter if Legislators paid more attention to the problem.



I’ve pondered the same question… what would my spath have done if he wasn’t so good looking and physically perfect to go alone with all that charm? Well I know now…he’d be a killer and that is scary to know! Without question or proof I know the answer to that question because he gives off the vibe…shudder!

Jenna, I empathize with you more than you can imagine. The home I bought with my ex was in a state that I’d always dreamed of living in. When it was sold earlier this year, I moved back to my home state (which is where he lives, around 50 miles away), to be close to my mom. I’ve kept this information very confidential, since I can hear him gloating because I had to tuck my tail between my legs and return home, and laugh because he stole that dream from me. The reality is, I came back because I felt it was best for me personally and professionally at this time. I may stay here, I may not, but I am taking my time to decide what is right for ME.

Your ex can say and think anything he wants (he could just as easily say you are living where you are to stay close to him”imagine!), but the reality is, if you move, it is because it is what is best for YOU.

I had “friends” who told me if I felt or did this or that, it was letting him win. BS. He thinks he won regardless of what I do or don’t do, and the truth is, I’m glad to let him think he won – that way he doesn’t think he has to return to finish the job.

My hope for you is that when you are in your new place, starting fresh, making new friends and having new adventures, you can get a real laugh out of him thinking you moved because you were embarrassed and crazy. I say let them think whatever they want, as long as they leave us alone!

YES! HanaleiMoon.
My ex LIVED for “WINNING”. I was able to use that limited thinking for my own benefit. By not revealing what was going on with me (YAY NC!), I let him think he won (and went on my merry way to do what I needed for ME).

Only a LOSER (my ex) thinks that PRETENDING and DISCONNECTION FROM REALITY is ever a “WIN”.

Really, ya’ll. THINK about it. Is the ability to give love and receive love and to authentically connect to other loving people a WIN? I say it’s the ONLY “WIN” that matters. Don’t let an abuser DEFINE the words you live by.

(My ex was strange in that he changed the accepted definition of words like love, and yes, and commit and care and cherish.)

Eventually jenna23, you will shake your head and laugh at the stupidity of your ex. Sounds impossible now, but I promise, HE does not operate in the world of reality and that really is…. CRAZY! (they like to accuse us of what they really are.)

NWHSOM, a couple of months after the final discard, when I had found a job, dusted myself off, started therapy, and was basically taking care of business, I made a conscious decision to never report that anything was looking up or that I was doing better to anyone that might, purposely or accidentally, let him know what they knew. I WANTED him to think that he destroyed me, and that I wasn’t getting over it, even as I was healing every day. I came to see it as a kind of camouflage. Like Joyce said, they stop when it’s not fun anymore. My theory was that if he thought there was nothing else to take from me, he’d lose interest. I’ve kept this strategy ever step of the way. So far, so good.


Wise words again! Let him think he’s won so he doesn’t need to come back and finish the job….gold! Thanks x

When you catch yourself thinking about what he will feel, go for a jog. Get off the couch, get your endophins pumping ’til you don’t give a damn what he thinks or feels! Who is he, just a jack-ass that did terrible things to you…. who is not worthy of the dirt on your shoes.

You still have the chemical connection that keeps him floating through the easily accessed regions of your brain. Raising your endorphins will help you control that. You want to make decisions for your life, that have absolutely nothing to do with him. If you want to move, do so. If you want to stay, do so. It’s your life. Do what’s best for you.

Getting exercise will help you feel more in control of your decisions and your welfare. Do your kids like to bowl? Do you have a gym nearby? Now’s a great time to create an exercise regimen.

All the best!

In my experience, whatever you do or don’t do, the spath will turn it around to use against the victim. Since there is nothing we can do that will lead to the ex spaths not using it to abuse us more, we are free to do whatever we choose is best for us.

Since several members of your extended family are moving with you, this may be difficult to do, but as much as you are able try not to let any info get back to him. Maybe you all can just tell the few people who need to know that you’re moving away, and especially where you’re going, and ask them not to tell anyone else.

It would probably also be helpful if you could stay off social media, your own and others’ Facebook, etc. The more invisible you are to the ex spath the better for you.

Staying off social media is a very good thing. Even if your FB is private, other pages you comment on may not be, and your name will come up on google searches with the comment. I don’t even leave reviews on Amazon anymore. Google search me and nothing will come up after 2011. I intend to keep it that way as much as possible.

If you’re at a get together somewhere, you could get tagged in a group photo on someone else’s FB page, so it helps not to have your own account. Some stuff on line can’t be avoided easily, but to the extent that you have discretion it’s good to be aware.

Try googling your own name and see what comes up; also see what’s on your friends’ FB pages that include you.

No he isn’t. But you were hurt, and you suffered a loss. You have value and your grief is real. Your wonderful self will go on to have a great life.

This is an awesome article! I am practicing these exact steps on reprogramming my brain. And,it is so true that when you feel you need support this website is the best! I am forever grateful. Thanks for explaining the process!

Yes, one day at a time.

1 6 7 8

Send this to a friend