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Sadistic personality disorder: symptoms and characteristics

Sadistic personality disorder: symptoms and characteristics

April 5, 2024

Personality is a construct that refers to the pattern of thoughts, beliefs, ways of seeing the world and behaviors largely acquired throughout the life cycle that are maintained through situations and time.

Some of these patterns are dysfunctional and do not allow a correct adaptation to the environment by the subject, making him suffer severe hardship or causing harm to third parties. This last one of the assumptions is the one that occurs with disorders such as antisocial or the one we are going to talk about in this article: sadistic personality disorder , a phenomenon that produces a lot of interest, to the point that there are countless films that talk about this type of people.

  • Related article: "Symptoms and signs of personality disorders"

Sadistic personality disorder

Sadistic personality disorder is considered to be a pathological pattern of cruel, vexatious and aggressive behavior that manifests itself consistently throughout life in a consistent manner through situations. As with sexual sadism, the subject feels enjoyment and satisfaction of the observation of suffering and humiliation of others. For this he can use from physical violence to humiliations, lies and rumors to cause damage, without a specific objective beyond the pleasure of doing so.

Violence and abuse are often used with the aim of dominating others for mere pleasure, without the cruelty used being a means to achieve other objectives. It is also common for them to impose their will through fear and coercion. They are usually controlling people and they tend to limit the freedom of those around them, especially their closest ones, as well as manifest fascination with death and violence in general.

It must be borne in mind that this disorder is not limited to a person or a specific situation nor refers to the mere use of others' pain as an object of sexual satisfaction (that is, people who manifest sexual sadism do not have to have a sadistic personality), but we are talking about a general pattern of behavior .

  • Related article: "Differences between Love, Sadism, Masochism and Sadomasochism"

Link with criminality

It can be easy to attribute crime to mental and personality disorders, but as a general rule the majority of subjects who commit crimes (including blood) are people without any type of psychopathological alteration. It is necessary to bear in mind that although we are talking about people who enjoy the humiliation and pain of others, this does not imply that they are going to commit any type of crime .

However, there is a greater prevalence of this disorder and of psychopathy in certain types of crimes: this is what happens with most of the serial killers. In other cases, the prevalence is much lower, but sometimes in some studies carried out with the inmate population it can be found that some of the subjects who commit sexual abuses / abuse or mistreatment have typical features of this disorder.

Despite this we must insist that suffering from this disorder does not necessarily lead to criminality, being in fact most of the criminal individuals without a mental pathology or personality, contrary to what is often believed.


Although the possible causes of this disorder are still unknown, such as personality disorder, the origin of the sadistic personality disorder is found in the interaction of the biological temperament with the experience and the environment.

In this sense, it is proposed that in many cases may arise in part from biochemical and brain elements (Brain areas such as the limbic and cerebral reward systems may be involved) and learning, such as in situations of intrafamily violence or continued sexual or physical abuse throughout the life of the subject that he has learned by modeling and associated to power and / or pleasure.

  • You may be interested: "Parts of the human brain (and functions)"

Lack of information and current situation

However, there are doubts about its existence as a personality disorder: although it is evident that there are people with sadistic attitudes as with some psychopaths, there is not enough evidence to fully characterize this type of disorder and even determine if we are really facing a disorder of personality distinct and separable from others already existing.

The diagnostic classifications focus especially on behavior without deepening the emotional and cognitive aspects. More research is required in this regard in order to get more data.Although collected by the DSM-III and by Millon as a personality disorder, at present the sadistic personality disorder consists of a diagnostic category proposed for research and collected in the appendices of the largest diagnostic manual for the classification of American mental disorders. , the DSM.

Linking with psychopathy and antisocial disorder

Although at first glance you can see that psychopathy antisocial disorder and sadistic personality disorder are intimately related (In fact, in many cases concur in the same subject), it is classifications that are not synonymous.

In all three cases a dominant attitude is shared and in which they often commit deception and violation of rights to obtain their objectives, often with absence or difficulty for empathy and remorse.

However, obtaining pleasure and gratification with suffering and domination, which are the core of this disorder, are not absolutely defining neither of the psychopath (not all psychopaths are sadistic) nor of the subject with antisocial disorder. In the same way, a subject can be a sadist without thereby circumventing or violating social norms or laws, something strange in antisocial personality disorder.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association (2002). DSM-IV-TR. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Spanish edition. Barcelona: Masson. (Original in English of 2000).
  • American Psychiatric Association (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 3rd revised edition (DSM-III-R). Washington, D.C ..
  • Horse, V. (2001). An introduction to personality disorders in the 21st century. Behavioral psychology, 9 (3); 455-469.

Sadistic Personality Disorder -- What Truly Makes Someone Evil! (April 2024).

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