By Anna David

Not long ago my friend Steve, a 33-year-old architect, began to date an incredibly attractive lawyer. Lisa was witty, cultivated, and adventurous between the sheets. But after just a month, her behavior started raising red flags. “Once she had a few glasses of wine, she’d start mocking me in front of my colleagues,” Steve recalls. She’d also become increasingly flirtatious with his guy friends — “to the point where their girlfriends were uncomfortable,” Steve says. When he caught her checking his e-mail — and responding to his female acquaintances as though she were him — Steve was forced to admit that his dream woman had turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Of course, like many men who find themselves hooked on an unhinged woman, Steve had a difficult time breaking things off. “I didn’t want to abandon her,” he says. “Plus, the sex was amazing. I’d literally have scratches covering my back because she would dig her nails into me when she came. But I don’t think that fully explains why I couldn’t get out. Honestly, I still don’t know.”

The allure of the crazy girl is mysterious and inexorable. Some guys thrive on the thrill of their totally unpredictable behavior. Some are addicted to the no-holds-barred sex. (Yes, the cliché is true: Bad-insane in life typically translates to good-insane in the sack.) And as Steve notes, some men want to “save” these women as if they were wounded birds.

What most men don’t realize at the outset, however, is that all crazy chicks aren’t created equal. A woman who’ll give you a hand job under the table at a board meeting is one thing. A woman who’ll break into your home and crawl into bed clutching a Taser, a roll of duct tape, and a .38 is another. Through interviews with self-proclaimed “crazy girls” and some of their male victims, I’ve identified the four major types of madness and the perils and pitfalls of each. If you must ride the crazy train, at least find out what you’re getting into first.

Temporary Insanity Sometimes a crazy chick isn’t really crazy — she’s driven to irrational behavior due to certain circumstances. Maybe it’s immaturity, maybe it’s just a “wild phase,” or maybe it’s, well, you. Eleanor, a 31-year-old i-banker, says, “I dated this guy a few years ago who always told me he loved me but treated me like shit — took strippers home, stuff like that.” Instead of telling Prince Charming to take a hike, however, Eleanor just…lost it entirely. “I started hacking into his email, waiting for him at his office so we could have a ‘talk,’ Googling the names of anyone he associated with. It was like an out-of-body experience. I had never behaved like that before — and I haven’t since.”

I could certainly cast myself among the “temporarily insane” when I was in college. Being faithful wasn’t a high priority, and alarmingly regular temper tantrums seemed like effective ways of expressing anger — including one in which I tore up $20 bills for no apparent reason. If you’d asked me then why I acted that way, I probably would’ve torn up your money; in retrospect, all I can say is I didn’t know any better. (Maturity — and therapy — helped me leave the craziness behind.)

Lindsay, a 30-year-old publicist, was similarly maladjusted during a period in her 20s when she dated a music attorney named James. “I’d sleep with his clients and then tell him how much I loved sucking their dicks,” she recalls. Still, James somehow remained devoted to Lindsay, constantly telling her he would take care of her if only she’d let him — which any temporarily crazy girl will tell you is the worst thing you could do. “I only treated boyfriends badly when I knew they’d take it,” says Adrienne, a 30-year-old set designer. “Honestly, the more I’d flip out on my ex Nick, the more he’d kiss my ass and the less I’d respect him.”