Sexual Sadism Disorder

What’s Sexual Sadism Disorder?

Sexual Sadism Disorder (SSD) falls under the giant umbrella of paraphilias. According to Psychology Today, paraphilia is defined as a mental condition in which diagnosed individuals get satisfaction from atypical or extreme sexual behaviors.

In the case of sexual sadism disorder, the “sadist” becomes sexually aroused by seeing victims in pain, shame, or suffering. The pain experienced by victims can either be physical or psychological in nature, or a mix of both.

Overview of Sexual Sadism Disorder

Before being labeled sexual sadism disorder, this condition was categorized as “Sexual Masochism and Sadism”. Today, the American Psychiatric Association refers to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which splits the original label into two distinct mental health disorders: Sexual Masochism Disorder and Sexual Sadism Disorder.

Other Alike But Dissimilar Terms

Sexual sadism disorder is often confused with other mental disorders. A few include:

Sadomasochism – this is another term that readers may come across, and this is because the World Health Organization has its own set of rules for the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). According to this global manual, sadomasochism is subdivided into two distinct categories, namely sadism and masochism, depending on who gives or receives sexual pleasure from pain.

Paraphilic coercive disorder – this is another associated term to sexual sadism disorder. However, the two are different in that someone who engages in paraphilic coercive behavior does so with the aim of getting the nonconsenting victim to comply. These acts are not done necessarily to cause harm or pain.

Sadistic personality disorder – this type of disorder closely resembles sexual sadism disorder, but the two are vastly different. Sadistic personality disorder has no relation to getting sexual gratification from seeing others in pain. Instead, the term refers to the total disregard for others’ well-being.

Hyperdominance vs. Sexual Sadism Disorder

Sexual sadism disorder is not fully understood by researchers and, as a result, it is still being heavily debated whether the condition is related to people who have a penchant for hyperdominance. In other words, if you get extreme sexual arousal or pleasure from being a giver of B&D, could you cross the line into sexual sadism disorder, too?

The keyword psychologists use to answer this question is “consent” and whether your acts would actually cause real vs. simulated injury. These factors, according to mental health experts, are the main differences between hyperdominance and sexual sadism disorder.

With popular movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” normalizing sexual acts that were once deemed to be taboo, sexual sadism disorder may be confused with other colloquial terms.

Colloquial terms include:

  • Bondage and Discipline (B&D)
  • Domination and Submission (D&S)
  • Sadism and Masochism (S&M)

Psychologists, however, warn that these terminologies are not the same as sexual sadism disorder. In SSD, the perpetrator inflicts extreme pain and violence on a non-consenting party. On the other hand, in cases of B&D, D&S, or S&M, for example, these mild versions of paraphilic coercive disorder involve willing participants where the person undergoing the pain and suffering describes getting a mutual sexual satisfaction from these activities.

Another key feature of sexual sadism disorder is that the infliction of pain often escalates to the point where the victim is injured, mutilated, or killed.

It is thought that sexual sadism disorder is disproportionally more prevalent in males when compared to the rates of diagnoses in females. On the other hand, BDSM statistics depict a 2:1 ratio in men to women.

A Word to the Wise

According to Consumer Health Digest, a good rule of thumb to regulate one’s B&D obsession is to always ask the following questions when engaging in violent sexual acts.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it sane?
  3. Is it consensual?

Symptoms of Sexual Sadism Disorder

Psychologists have studied sexual sadism disorder in depth and often find that patients exhibit one or more of the following symptoms below.

Symptoms include:

  • Sadists deliberately and repetitively impose pain and suffering on an unwilling participant to gain sexual pleasure.
  • Sadists usually favor pretend pain and suffering with a submissive and consenting lover.
  • Sadists go to extremes to inflict pain that could cause permanent injury or death to another person, whether they consent or not.

In order to make a formal diagnosis, psychologists usually look for one or more of the symptoms occurring three or more times within a six-month timeframe. Before commencing treatment, mental health experts will also weigh up if these symptoms are negatively impacting the patient’s everyday life.

Mild or moderate cases of sexual sadism disorder that are not criminal, meaning, pain for pleasure is done with a consenting party, may cause hindrances in one’s career and social life. For this reason, if your fantasies are consuming your life, it may be time to consult with a psychologist for treatment.

Examples of Sexually Sadistic Acts

To provide readers with a few examples of sexual sadistic acts, consider a person who uses retraining tools, such as ropes or handcuffs to withhold a nonconsenting party during sexual acts.

The sadist may also bite, whip, or beat the victim to gain orgasmic pleasure. Other examples of sexual sadistic acts include burning, cutting, or excreting on a victim.

To summarize, the most common behaviors relating to sexual sadism disorder are often:

  • Painful
  • Belittling
  • Controlling
  • Violent

Mental health experts often diagnose people with sexual sadism disorder when a sex crime has been committed and the perpetrator is arrested by law enforcement.

The crimes have been studied extensively in the mental health field, and statistics show that sadists often gain pleasure from:

  • Sexual bondage
  • Anal rape
  • Blunt force trauma
  • Penetration by foreign object

With these factors in mind, readers may wonder:

Are all cases of rape sexual sadism disorder?

According to psychologists, the answer is a resounding no. Per the DSM-5 manual, only 10% of sexual offenders in the United States have sexual sadism disorder. This is because not all acts of rape are motivated by causing pain and suffering to the victim.

The Correlation between SSD and Other Mental Health Disorders

Moreover, psychologists in studies of sexual sadists have discovered that this condition is often associated with other mental health disorders, including borderline personality and psychopathy. Sadists also tend to be hypersexual, impulsive, and insensitive to pain and suffering.

The Causes of Sexual Sadism Disorder

No one knows for sure the causes of sexual sadism disorder. According to Psychology Today, people with this condition are usually identified as having another type of mental illness. However, psychologists generally disagree that underlying mental ailments are the precursor for SSD.

Researchers theorize the causes of sexual sadism disorder to be one or more of the following:

A Way to Take Back Control (of anti-social feelings, anger, rage)

Sexual sadists may resort to these acts in order to take control of an otherwise feeble existence. The sexual sadist often feels powerless over their real life and therefore formulates an ulterior persona to gain control.

A Way to Experiment with Sexual Fantasies

Many of us have sexual fetishes. For the sexual sadists, this involves inflicting pain on someone else during sexual acts. Sexual sadism disorder could be the materialization of these pent up fantasies.

A Way to Escape

If life seems unbearable and the patient does not want to confront the harsh realities of life, he or she may turn to sexual sadism as a way to escape.

A Way to Replicate the Past

Mental health experts have identified that some individuals with sexual sadism disorder have been physically or sexually abused during childhood. However, this happens in only a percentage of cases. As a result, childhood sexual abuse has not been defined as a clear precursor for sexual sadism disorder, though it may be a factor.

Psychologists also cite a combination of nature and nurture factors, as well as neuropsychological factors playing a role in the development of sexual sadism disorder.

Treatments for Sexual Sadism Disorder

As mentioned earlier, sexual sadism disorder cases are often brought to light when a crime has been reported and the perpetrator is apprehended by police. It is a rare occasion that someone with sexual sadism disorder comes forward to health professionals for treatment on their own.

If and when a psychologist is brought in to evaluate and treat someone with sexual sadism disorder, the treatments typically include a combination of treatments.

Combinations of treatments include:

  • Anti-Androgenic Drugs – which aids in reducing the patient’s sex drive
  • Antidepressants – to correct chemical imbalances in the brain as well as mitigate impulsivity
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – to aid in altering negative thought patterns in relation to atypical sexual arousal. In cognitive therapy for sexual sadism disorder, the goal is to help patients choose a healthy response to these forbidden fantasies.
  • Cognitive Restructuring – similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, the goal of cognitive restructuring is to help people with sexual sadism disorder succeed in controlling their distorted sexual fantasies.

How to Prevent Sexual Sadism Disorder

To help prevent any type of ailment, including sexual sadism disorder, one must look to the root causes first. When this is examined, only then can tyrannical measures be taken to control or prevent the progression of the disorder entirely.

Since no mental health authority has pinpointed the exact cause of sexual sadism disorder, the preventative techniques are null and void.

It has been proposed by some, however, that as sexual abuse and exposure to sexual violence may be determining factors (environmental) for the disorder, parents can take stringent measures to protect their children from viewing or becoming victims of these acts.

Key Notes

A general overview of sexual sadism disorder can be summed up in the following ways:

  • Sadism sexual disorder is a type of paraphilia.
  • While sexual sadism is prevalent all across the world, sexual sadism disorder is rare.
  • Consensual sadomasochism is referred to as BDSM and is not the same as sexual sadism disorder.
  • The word “sadist” is derived from a famous author and French aristocrat, Marquis de Sade, who is most notable for his libertine sexuality and sexual fantasies involving violence.
  • Sexual sadism disorder isn’t limited to the recurrent thought patterns of inflicting violence on adults. The fantasies and acts could also impact children and animals.
  • Sexual sadism disorder usually progresses over time. People who have been diagnosed with this mental condition often report transitioning from simulated fantasies to real-life acts of violence in the hopes of satisfying their sexual fantasies.
  • Sexual sadism disorder often takes shape during childhood and eventually becomes a reality in adulthood, according to psychologists.
  • According to the US National Library of Medicine, Sexual Masochism Disorder is far more common in psychiatric treatment centers, while Sexual Sadism Disorder is most commonly seen in forensic settings.
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Last Reviewed:
September 26, 2017
Last Updated:
September 26, 2017
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