Dr. Carole Lieberman Talks Amy Winehouse's Death, Bad Girls , and Hollywood Addiction

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Amy Winehouse’s premature death on July 23, 2011 was certainly tragic, but according to Dr. Carole Lieberman, it wasn’t shocking.  She saw it coming, foreshadowing Amy's final days in her latest book Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets.

Dr. Lieberman is a psychiatrist, relationship expert and best-selling author.  She’s appeared on Oprah, Dr. Phil, and the Today show, and in her new book Bad Girls, she examines how women attract and ultimately manipulate men thanks to a wide array of alluring traits.

Dr. Lieberman places Amy into “The Addict” category, where a woman who suffers through early childhood trauma or family dysfunction turns to drugs, alcohol, and enabling men in an effort to dull their own pain.

I had the chance to talk to Dr. Lieberman last week, and the conversation touched on Amy Winehouse, Hollywood celebrities, the concept of “bad girls” and why American society remains so fixated on them.

In your book, you refer to the “Bad Girl Addict” as someone who has a “deep, dark hole" inside themselves that they choose to fill with men, drugs, and alcohol.  But there’s of course people in the world who choose to escape their problems through less devastating means.  

Why do you think Amy ended up going down such a destructive path that ultimately lead to her death?

It all has to do with the person’s childhood. It all has to do with how severe the deprivation was.  How much of an emptiness developed during childhood. It all has to do with the relationship with her parents.

And in terms of “bad girls,” primarily it has to do with the relationship between a little girl and her father.  

Both of [Amy’s] parents did very little to get her into rehab. Yes, sheʼs an adult, you canʼt exactly - thereʼs a limit to what you can do to a certain extent. But they were enablers. And the “addict bad girl” looks for a man whoʼs going to be an enabler.

So her father and mother were obviously into their own world. Her father, when she died, was in New York preparing to sing in a jazz club. So he took advantage of her fame to launch his own career.

Her mother, days before, said that [Amy] looked ʻout of it,ʻ but instead she contented herself with the fact that the last words that Amy said to her were ʻI love you, mum.ʻ  So, both of her parents were looking out for themselves, and not really doing enough to help Amy.

What happens with “bad girls” is when they have a dysfunctional relationship with their father, that makes them feel unlovable, they then grow up [and] when they start to date, they are attracted to “bad boys.” And so, for example, with Amy, she was attracted to her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, who was an enabler.  [He] not only allowed her to continue [doing drugs], but participated and encouraged her addictions.

Do you think Amy’s success in the music industry was in part due to the fact that she was entrenched in the headlines due to her personal problems?  Or do you think she succeeded in spite of that?

The publicity she received for being edgy and in pain was helpful, it did keep her in the headlines. But, I think it stopped being helpful when she was booed at her concerts and had to cancel her concerts. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.

It wasn’t so much about the pain that she was in, but that now she was not able to hold her act together. So I think up until then it did create this larger than life figure that people could identify with the pain that she was going through. And it made her edgy, it made her more of a cult figure, like a Janis Joplin kind of figure. I think that it did make her more interesting.
 But, the last few months, she just started looking like someone who was losing it. Whose career was over, or who was in trouble at the very least.

We now live in a society where “bad girls” are a part of our daily entertainment.  We watch the Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, and even the aptly titled Oxygen show Bad Girls Club.

Why do you think we’re so obsessed with watching women lose their composure on television?

Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, I think it mirrors the rise of “bad girls” in our society.  What’s interesting about these “bad girls” on television is so much has to do with competition for men, or all about their need to attract men.

In my book, I talk about each of the 12 types of bad girls [and how] psychologically they’re different. The way that they trap these men is by making the men feel like the biggest star on the planet. So, there is some kind of pleasure that men get seeing these bad girls get so emotional. All the drama that they go through.

Mainly, I think it has to do with the curiosity about the bad girl, because there are more of them. And the reason there are more of them is because of families being more dysfunctional in general and relationships between little girls and their fathers being more dysfunctional than ever. And so, for men too, the dating jungle has become more ferocious.

What are your thoughts on Dr. Drew Pinksy, who seems to be the go-to medical resource on TV for celebrities, addiction, and girls in crisis?

He has helped some celebrities. He’s not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, he’s a medical doctor. As a medical doctor, he’s had experience at least in addictions.

[Laughing] I’m trying to be careful how I word this.

Let me put it this way. House professionals have to be very careful when they are doing media that they don’t lose their focus on real patients who need them.

In your estimation, what in the world is wrong with Charlie Sheen?

Well, I think that Charlie’s chronic abuse of alcohol and drugs seem to have triggered a manic episode, an underlying manic-depressive illness. Everything from picking a fight with Two and a Half Men, to doing his live Internet show, to doing the “Winning” tour.

I think it was very tragic because it was a man who was on a manic rampage, and nobody stopped him.  Nobody stopped him from being in the public eye. Nobody got him help.

In your book, you place a wide range of female celebrities into 12 categories of “Bad Girls” (“The Addict,” “The Gold Digger,” etc).  But, do you think that we’re too quick to judge celebrities, placing unshakeable labels onto them based solely on small nuggets of information we read in the media?

Yeah, I think we do that as far as celebrities in general. As a psychiatrist, I’m sort of used to diagnosing--well, these aren’t diagnoses per se, these are profiles--but it helps to put people in categories to explain their behavior.

But, yeah, when the media highlights something about someone enough times, or if someone does something in a major way, like Angelina Jolie of course stealing Brad Pitt away [from Jennifer Aniston], that is gonna follow her.

But, yes, we do tend to put people in categories because we want to try to understand them. We put them under the microscope and we want to try and understand why people do what they do.

You can find out more about Dr. Carole Lieberman on her official website.

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Michael Langston Moore is a freelance writer who aims to be both entertaining and insightful. His written work focuses on television, film, and music, and his analytical approach has landed him two columns on Examiner.com. Michael has interviewed the likes of Donald Trump, Russell Simmons, Paris Hilton…

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