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

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.


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

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Yes, one day at a time.

I’m so happy I found this site. I just got out of a “thing” with a guy I realized is a textbook sociopath. I kept asking myself what it is I feel for him because I know in my gut it isn’t love. This answered my question. It’s addiction.

Here’s how I think he got me addicted:

1. I feel like this is the most important: meeting me when I was at a low, weak point in my life.
2. Being initially cold/standoffish towards me, making me think he thought I wasn’t good enough for his attention or something
3. Then, showing intensive attention to me. Asking me about my life, my dreams, even questions about a sensitive subject: my disability. Making me open up to him very very early on.
4. Opening up to me about his horrible, traumatic childhood. Bringing out my inner “mama bear”.
5. “Taking” my body. He was very strong and persistent when he got me in bed. It all happened very fast; he literally didn’t give me a chance to resist or even think.
6. Showing a lot of passion/desire during sex. Lots of kissing, picking me up, making me stare into his eyes, oral (tmi I’m sorry), being vocal with his pleasure.
7. Lots of cuddling after sex. Making me feel like it really meant something to him.
8. Eventually saying/doing things that lowered my self esteem when he previously really made it rise. Slowly making me dependent on him to bring it back up again. Because he was able to bring it up so high and then down so low, I subconsciously started feeling like he had control of it.
9. Switching between idealizing me (making me feel like I was the most perfect amazing girl in the world) to devaluing me (making me feel like I was the garbage he took out that morning).
10. Fighting HARD for me when I would leave. Crying, obsessive amounts of texts/calls/emails, creating new accounts, buying me pricey gifts, etc.
11.Using his traumatic past to his advantage- when he did wrong, he used all that happened to him as an excuse. Making me see him as a victim instead of an adult responsible for his words/decisions.

I’m in the process of breaking this addiction now. Boy is it difficult. 🙁

Nikkirhis, Yes, it’s difficult, but you are doing the best thing you can for yourself. You will feel better, as Donna said.

Consider that his past may or may not have been traumatic for him. These types are pathological liars, so if you don’t have corroborating information from a reliable source, it’s most accurate to consider anything your ex told you may not be true. It took me forever to recognize the extent of my ex psychopath’s lies – 5 years later, I am still recognizing more things that he told me were not true.

It is so hard. It is so terrible what has been done to us. I can relate to many of the things you wrote above. I was newly divorced. He “took” me also in bed. He was very vocal as well. I wonder what that is all about. Regardless the reason it leaves a feeling of emptiness and victimization now. So terrible. We will both survive. We just need to stay away.

Actually I was very briefly involved with a spath and after he became abusive, i have found him repulsive. he keeps trying to connect which makes him even more repulsive.

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