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Understanding the Sadistic Personality Disorder

Buzzle Staff
People with a sadistic personality disorder gain pleasure from seeing others in pain. They may be manipulative and humiliating towards the other people.
The word sadism or sadistic  is derived from the French aristocrat, Marquis de Sade. He was a French philosopher and writer, who wrote a lot of erotica. He included a lot of violence in his writing and believed in unrestrained sexual freedom. He tortured many men and women, was subsequently arrested, and eventually declared insane.
Just seeing a person, even an animal in pain, makes us feel bad. That's because of the sensitivity all humans have. But there is a personality disorder that affects one's behavior in such a way that he starts deriving happiness on seeing others suffer. He may display violent and abusive behavior. This disorder is called sadistic personality disorder.
It was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R), but was removed in the later editions. The main reason for excluding it was its potential misuse. It also overlapped a little with existing disorders. Plus, this disorder is not very common and is mostly seen in males.
But sexual sadism disorder is included in the current version, DSM-5, of the American Psychiatric Association. It is characterized by sexual arousal by inflicting pain on others. Sadistic people appear brutal, are unpredictable, and often seen to go to any length to achieve what they want.


● The disorder is uncommon, and hence specific causes cannot be determined. Unresolved childhood issues, or severe abuse as a child could be a major factor, but there can be biological causes as well.
● Deep-seated feelings of insecurity can be another reason. If a person who is very close to a child is constantly abusing or torturing him, it may have a huge impact on his psych. The child may either become a sadist or a masochist (gets pleasure on receiving pain).
● However, it is also seen that children with a good upbringing and those who come from good families may also develop this disorder.


● The most prominent feature is their cruel and ruthless behavior. They derive pleasure by inflicting pain on those who they think are weaker or inferior.

● Seeing someone writhing in pain seems to amuse them. They will go to any extent to cause agony to people or even animals.
● They blatantly lie, deceive people, and commit crimes to make others suffer. They behave this way even with their loved ones.

● Violence, weapons, murders, and torture methods seem to fascinate them.

● They love to dominate people and impose restrictions on others. They tend to humiliate others.
● They have a strong urge to control people. They will purposely shout at their subordinates, or family members to intimidate them.

● They derive joy out of the psychological or physical pain of other people.

● Sexual sadists indulge in ruthless sexual acts and torture their partner for pleasure. They may even cheat or have multiple partners.

What do sadists believe?

They always want to be in power. They may become violent and aggressive if things do not go their way.

Be it at home or work, they like to establish strict rules, and ensure that everyone follows them.
The need to dominate others comes from their intolerance and hatred towards those they consider weak.

They believe they can validate their own importance by bringing others down or making others feel small.


● Treatment is very extensive and may take years. Group therapy, family therapy, and counseling may be effective. Involvement of friends and family is very important.

● Most sadists don't really feel the need to get professional help, and this in turn makes it hard to help them.
It is important to understand that psychopaths and sadists do show some similar traits, but there is a major difference between the two. Most psychopaths don't realize that their actions or words are hurting someone, whereas sadists are aware of the pain they are inflicting.
Those with a sadistic personality disorder should be given professional help. Staying away from them out of fright, or staying in their good books to be safe from their anger, is not the real solution. Their disorder needs to be treated.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of an expert on the subject.