Sadistic Personality Disorder: Definition, Symptoms and Causes

The sadist disorder of personality can be defined as a disorder in which an affected individual inflicts other sadistic behavior, cruel, manipulative, aggressive, and demeaning. Violence and abuse are the hallmarks of a sadist’s social relationships; such people lack empathy and concern for others and derive pleasure from hurting or humiliating others.

Similarities have been observed between this disorder and the more aggressive variants of antisocial personality disorder(required item) However, an antisocial individual does not usually harm other people just for fun; there could be a connection between sadistic personality disorder and sexual sadism, where an individual derives sexual satisfaction and arousal from sadistic acts like hitting and humiliating someone.

Sadistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a pattern of wanton cruelty, aggression, and degrading behaviors that indicate deep contempt for other people. Some sadists are “utilitarian”: they take advantage of their explosive violence to establish a position of undisputed dominance within a relationship. Unlike psychopaths, they rarely use physical force in committing crimes. Instead, their aggressiveness is embedded in an interpersonal context and is expressed in social settings, such as family or the workplace.

Symptoms of sadistic personality disorder

A person is said to suffer from this disorder when he shows specific behavior patterns:

  • A sadistic individual does not hesitate to humiliate people in the presence of others intentionally. The shame and misfortune you inflict on other people make you feel larger than life and critical.
  • He considers all people to be under his control, regardless of whether the other individual is a student, a child, an inmate, or a patient, and he treats them unpleasantly and harshly. All you hope to gain is undisputed dominance within a relationship; anyone who tries to break free is treated coldly and insensitively.
  • A sadistic individual takes pleasure in causing other people pain or harming them by lying for no apparent reason or for no reason to achieve any other goal. This action of harming others in this way makes him feel content and invincible.
  • Unlike an average person, a sadistic individual scares and terrifies others by doing their job.
  • Often places restrictions on the freedom of other people within a close relationship.
  • A sadistic person behaves as if his word is final and the supreme law. Therefore, it must be obeyed, even if it may seem outrageous and pointless to others.
  • A sadistic individual is captivated by all forms of violence, martial arts, weapons, injuries, torture, or death. They channel the inner murderous instinct in socially acceptable ways, such as “studying” and admiring historical figures like cruel monarchs or dictators like Hitler.
  • The main objective is to exercise complete and uninterrupted control over an individual or situation.

Causes of sadistic personality disorder

There is no apparent cause, some theories suggest it is a function of how it is raised, but it is also likely that there are biological factors. This disorder is rare, and there is little information about its occurrence by gender or family pattern.

Most theories commonly point to the fact that it depends primarily on the upbringing of an individual. Although biological and environmental aspects are also known to contribute to the development of this behavioral disorder, there is less evidence available on inherited patterns or genetic causes.

Unfavorable experiences during childhood or in the early stages of sexual development are one of the main factors contributing to the development of a sadistic personality in an individual; it has also been observed that sadism or sadistic personality can also develop in an individual through conditioning.

Sadistic Personality Disorder

Comorbidity with other personality disorders

Sadistic personality disorder has been found to occur in unison with other conditions frequently. Studies have also found that it is the personality disorder with the highest level of comorbidity with different types of psychopathological disorders. On the contrary, sadism has also been found in patients who do not show any other forms of psychopathic disorders.

Studies have found that other types of diseases, such as alcoholism, have a high rate of comorbidity as this type of disorder.

While sadistic personality disorder is no longer included in the DSM, partly for this reason, other types of conditions that involve sadism, such as sexual sadism, are still found in the DSM as paraphilias.

Treatment of sadistic personality disorder.

Treating a patient can take a long time; personality traits such as beliefs, coping mechanisms, and behavior patterns need to be changed, take several years to form, and change only very slowly. Changes usually occur in a predictable sequence, and various treatment modalities are required to facilitate them.

Symptoms such as depression or anxiety can be quickly relieved by reducing stress in the immediate environment. Behaviors, such as aggression, recklessness, lack of assertiveness, social isolation (Required Items), temper outbursts, or violent spells, can be gradually changed over a few months.

Behavior modification therapy and group therapy, sometimes within a daycare model or in designed residential settings, can be effective. Participation in family therapy or various self-help groups can also help an individual change socially undesirable behavior pattern.

Psychotherapy and counseling.

Although treatment may differ from one personality disorder to another, certain general principles apply to all. Family members can act in ways that can lessen or reinforce a patient’s complex thoughts or behavior with the help of psychotherapy. Therefore, your thoughtful participation often becomes necessary to help the patient to a smooth recovery.


Medications and drugs can have limited benefits; they can also be used for abuse or suicide attempts. The drugs may be moderately effective when the symptoms of depression and anxiety occur along with the sadistic mentality self – examination is required along with prescription drugs to facilitate overall healing.

Prognosis of sadistic personality disorder.

The result is generally favorable with proper treatment. However, it may take several years for the effects of the treatment to become apparent. Psychological disorders take time to heal, and from time to time, it is necessary to reevaluate the condition of patients to record the rate of progress. Treatment procedures may not be precisely the same for each patient as each individual’s needs may be different.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.