Unraveling Sexual Sadism Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Rishabh Mehta
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sexual sadism disorder

Sexual Sadism Disorder is a psychiatric disorder in which a person seeks sexual pleasure by causing someone else pain without their approval. 

According to the research published in 2013, 5-10 percent of rapists also reported having sexual sadism. 

This does not mean that rape is a mental condition and not a crime. 

However, it signifies how dangerous a mental disorder like Sexual Sadism Disorder can get sometimes. 

Being such a serious threat, the disorder must be understood well for diagnosing and navigating the risk.

This article serves the purpose through a detailed analysis of Sexual Sadism Disorder, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

It will help spot the early symptoms of this disorder in a person and seek help on time to avoid atrocities. 

What is Sexual Sadism

Sexual Sadism can be defined as sexual arousal from causing physical pain or emotional harm to a person. 

It is a part of Paraphilia, which is the umbrella term for atypical and persistent sexual interests or fantasies. 

A person who has such sexual interests, like a serial killer who gets an orgasm from murdering the victims, is called a sexual sadist. 

Sexual Sadism, like any other Paraphilia, becomes a disorder when these desires or interests start causing distress in daily life. 

If the sexual desires are not acted upon or are performed with a consenting partner without causing harm, it is not considered Sexual Sadism Disorder. 

The incidence of Sexual Sadism Disorder is 2-5 percent among sexual offenders. However, the prevalence varies from 5-80 percent according to different studies.

Fact:
Sexual Sadism is associated with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD). About 42 percent of cases with SPD also had Sexual Sadism, which is the most dangerous combination that may result in criminal behavior. 

Sexual Sadism Disorder symptoms

Handcuffs and black whipSource: Aleksandr_Korchagin
Using handcuffs and black whip

It is hard to figure out if a person has Sexual Sadism Disorder as it can be misinterpreted for other disorders or crimes. 

Some noticeable symptoms of Sexual Sadism Disorder include:

  • Sexual arousal, fantasies, or urges to cause pain and inflict humiliation or emotional distress
  • Acting on these desires or fantasies
  • Distress or impairment of a person’s ability to function properly in daily life
  • Fulfilling the desires with a non-consenting person

Signs of sadistic activities also include:

  • Recurrent fantasies of inflicting psychological or physical suffering 
  • Complete control or domination over the other person
  • Using restraints, blindfolds, spanking, beating, pinching, whipping, stabbing, burning, torture, or killing

Sexual Sadism Disorder causes

sexual abuse between coupleSource: Signature_images
Sexual abuse between couple

There is not a particular known cause of Sexual Sadism Disorder. 

However, some factors can increase the risk of Sexual Sadism and related disorders. 

They include

  • Psychopathy: It is a mental condition that can cause poor self-control or lack of empathy. According to a study published in 2023, Psychopathy factor 1(core personality traits of Psychpathy which include no emotions or empathy) is related to sexual sadism in crime scene behavior.
  • Sexual abuse: It can take a toll on the mental health of a victim, resulting in sexual disorders. Paraphilia cases have reported a person’s history of sexual abuse and its endurance
  • High Testosterone levels: It is well known that this sex hormone boosts libido. A study also depicted that high Testosterone levels can be a possible reason for sadism and related responses
  • Pornography: Consuming adult content, especially with violence, can impact a person psychologically. A theory proved that sexual violence can be a result of pornography 

Sexual Sadism Disorder diagnosis

Sexual Sadism Disorder DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria for diagnosis of the condition include:

Atypical Sexual Fantasies

This is the first criterion for determining if a person has Sexual Sadism Disorder. It includes

  • Atypical sexual urges that are there for at least 6 months
  • Recurrent or persistent sexual arousal from observing naked people, exposing genitals to strangers, watching others having sex, rubbing or touching a non-consenting person
  • Enjoying the pain or suffering of another person
Recommended Article
As Sexual Sadists enjoy inflicting pain, some people enjoy bearing it by choice. 
If you wonder who, read Understanding Sexual Masochism Disorder Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options to find out.

Action

It involves acting upon the atypical sexual urges or desires with a non-consenting person. 

In case of unfulfillment, it can also cause distress and impairment, affecting important spheres of life. 

Sexual Sadism Disorder treatment

A person with Sexual Sadism Disorder may not seek treatment by oneself. 

So, someone else may have to intervene and help. 

Some of the ways to treat Sexual Sadism Disorder include:

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (talking therapy)Source: Prostock-Studio_from_Getty_Images
Cognitive behavioral therapy

As Sexual Sadism Disorder is a mental health issue and is linked to Psychopathy, treating it with Psychotherapy can help.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the techniques under Psychotherapy. 

The therapy teaches a person to address sexual trauma or triggers and work on them. 

Another option is group therapy or support groups, as it makes the situation less uncomfortable and reduces the embarrassment factor. 

Relaxation therapy is also a part of Psychotherapy which reduces stress, anxiety, or unpleasant responses. 

So, it can be helpful for managing Sexual Sadism Disorder.

Medications

Antidepressant medications, typically Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), can be helpful in the treatment of Sexual Sadism Disorder as they reduce impulsive behavior.

Warning:
SSRIs can interact with other medications and herbs, causing serious side effects like increased risk of bleeding. To avoid risks, one must consult a doctor before using these medications and inform about any other medicines being used.

Antiandrogen drugs, such as Medroxyprogesterone Acetate and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, lower testosterone levels and decrease sexual urges. 

So they can also be helpful upon consulting a doctor for personalized recommendations and dosage to assure safety and better results. 

Conclusion

Sexual Sadism Disorder is a psychiatric condition that is characterized by seeking sexual pleasure in causing pain to others. 

Its symptoms include having abnormal sexual desires and acting upon them without the consent of the partner. 

Its causes can be a history of sexual abuse and psychological or hormonal reasons. 

Even though it is a serious disorder, a person with this disorder can improve and live a better life through psychotherapy and medications. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has Sexual Sadism Disorder?

A person who finds pleasure in inflicting pain or giving psychological suffering to someone, without their consent, during sex is suffering from Sexual Sadism Disorder. It can even be feeling erotic or having an orgasm from inflicting physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. 

Is Sexual Sadism a mental illness?

Yes, Sexual Sadism is a mental health issue. It is the feeling of pleasure experienced by giving physical pain or causing emotional and mental harm to another person during sex without their content. This disorder can interfere with the daily life of the person, causing distress. 

How common is Sexual Sadism Disorder?

The incidence of Sexual Sadism Disorder among sexual offenders is 2-5 percent, which is very low. However, the prevalence varies from 5-80 percent according to separate studies due to different criteria, acts, and definitions associated with the disorder.

How is Sexual Sadism Disorder diagnosed?

 There is no test to determine Sexual Sadism Disorder. However, a few criteria can help determine if a person has the disorder. These include a time of six months or more of feeling sexual pleasure in inflicting pain on a non-consenting partner.

What do sadists do in bed?

Sadists inflict physical pain on their partner in bed for sexual pleasure. It can include beating, spanking, pinching, and using handcuffs or ropes to restrain the other person. Along with physical pain, they can also cause emotional or mental harm through verbal abuse

Citations:
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