Sadistic Personality Disorder

A sadistic personality disorder is a psychological condition that inflicts aggressiveness, cruelty, sadistic and humiliating behavior in a person towards others. People suffering from this disorder derive pleasure from hurting and humiliating others.

Sadistic people lack sensitivity, empathy, and concern for other people where violence and abusive behavior indicates their social relationship. There are quite identical symptoms of sadistic personality disorder and some other aggressive anti-social personality disorder although an antisocial person does not hurt anyone for fun. When we talk about social or personality disorder sexual sadism is one of them that show a connection with SPD. In this case, a person does sadistic acts like beating or humiliating someone to get sexual satisfaction.

What is Sadism?

It is the mental and physical condition in a person derives huge satisfaction and pleasure in performing sadistic acts and watching others in discomfort or pain. One having sadistic personality displays the frequent recurrence of aggression and cruel behavior. Sadism also includes emotional torture as well as intentionally persuading other people through genuine fear and violence.

The act of sadism does not require the involvement of violence or physical aggression because mostly sadistic personalities perform the aggressive social behavior and get pleased by humiliating others publicly besides showing the power and control over others.


By some researched and observed traits Theodore Millon identified four different types of sadistic personality disorder:

Enforcing Sadist

Enforcing sadists normally found in important authorities like in military, police department, universities, etc. They feel that the charge of controlling, overseeing and punishing people for breaking laws and rules should be in their hands. This category of sadists thinks that they are working for the common interest, more critical, deeper and revolutionary purpose. Seeking out rule breakers within society or under the domain of their authority is the only motive they nourish. Charging the worst punishment to an individual, in any case, is their primary motto because the more they punish or dominate others, the more satisfied and powerful they feel. Due to the important position of important authorities, their actions remain unfair, and they are free to dominate, rule, destroy and victimize others.

Some of the enforced sadists try to be fair, but their personalities consistently reflect their vicious and sadistic behavior. The people with this disorder are egoistic, believe in the self-image of being always right and their acts of getting pleasure and domination reach a level of addiction that makes them uncontrollable and loses the awareness of reality. However, they behave normally in day-to-day situations, and their actions are not considered in a negative zone as that comes within their range of legal authority.

Explosive Sadist

These types are very unpredictable in the context of violence as they are disappointed, depressed and frustrated with their normal life. When they feel humiliated or hopeless, they burst out with anger, lose the control and seek retribution for the mistreatment. The violent behaviors of explosive sadists get expressed through uncontrollable rage, tantrums, anger toward family members, and some fearful attacks. Generally, these people don’t reflect any unusual features like grumpiness, anger or frustration but suddenly they feel threatened in a situation and change their behavior dramatically to leave people in shock.

Tyrannical Sadist

They are the cruelest and dreadful among all categories because brutalize and menace the others forcefully against victims will. However, they are quite similar to the explosive sadist, but they use extreme violence to stimulate fear and intimidation, unlike explosive sadists. The tyrannical sadists are very precise in their action as they use methods and strategic plans to attack their chosen victim. These sadists are full of various inner insecurities and have low self-esteem which is why they try to conceal other people.

Spineless Sadist

These sadists are characterized by extremely insecure and cowardice behavior. They are afraid of many things such as their enemies, any imaginary situation, etc. These people pretend that they are not afraid of anything by operating aggressive hostility which allows managing their internal emotions and showcasing the opposite traits of how they are feeling. Spineless sadists having a trick named mannerism (counterphobic) allows them to regulate their fears and divert as well as propagate a negative/false aura of self-assurance. These people are the opposite of three other type of sadists. Monk sadists and the narcissistic sadists are two other major forms of sadistic personalities.

Causes of SPD

There are no defined and clear causes of SPD in people. Some researches and theories depict that sadistic personality majorly happens due to the environment and the way a person is raised or brought up along with few biological factors.

Any traumatic or unfavorable experiences in childhood or during the early phases of sexual development put a person at the risk of having SPD. Genetic factors or hereditary patterns are not discovered, yet that may be responsible for this disorder. The consistent interaction of some stimulus with sexual satisfaction or ecstasy attached with misery and grief of other people lead to sadism (sadomasochism).

SPD: Comorbidity with other personality disorders

Studies suggest that this condition shows the highest extent of comorbidity with other types of psychological disorder. Sadism is the behavior that is normally spotted in people who do not display any psychopathic disorder. Sometimes antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder gets diagnosed with SPD. Some disorders frequently found to coexist with SPD are:

  •  Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Panic disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Passive aggressive behavior
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Self-defeating personality disorder

Alcoholism shows the high rate of comorbidity after involving with SPD. However, this disorder doesn’t come under DSM due to its higher comorbidity.


  • Unresolved childhood issue
  • Severe child abuse
  • Constant torture or abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Smoking
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Violent experiences in the past
  • Hormonal or chemical imbalances


  • Humiliates people in public to feel supreme and dominant
  • Perform the action that harms others and gives pleasure to them
  • A tendency of harming others without any motive or apparent reason
  • Assumes everyone under their control and treats all of them in very harsh and unkind manner. Simply, they want unchallenged dominance in a society, community or relationship.
  • Threatens and terrorizes other people to get his/her job done.
  • Sadistic behavior varies according to relationships like they put restrictions on the close ones by portraying conservative and controlling nature. They think their outrageous and senseless decisions and orders needs implementation as ultimate law. For example, they bound spouse and teenage daughters not to step out of the premises or attend the function that shows their ferocious sadistic personality.
  • Fascination with violence, martial arts, weapons, torture, and injuries. Normally, such type of people admires violent figures, cruel monarchs or dictators like Hitler because their inner killer instincts direct them.
  • Doesn’t hesitate from using violence and cruelty to establish his/her dominance anywhere


The revised 3rd edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders mentioned this condition in its appendix as DSM-III-R. The current edition of DSM (DSM-IV) diagnostic category excluded this condition. However, it is still a subject of research and study.

Like other psychological condition, SPD is diagnosed by the psychotherapist that involves questioning the patient. The interrogation focuses on the patient’s physical, mental, emotional and behavioral state and reasons for the same. CT scans analyze the anatomical abnormalities of the brain along with some blood tests that evaluate the hormonal or chemical imbalances.

Differential diagnosis for SPD

It involves differentiating some psychological disorders from SPD through different clinical means for accurate diagnosis that includes:

  • Paranoid disorder
  • Schizotypal disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Personality changes caused by a general medical condition
  • Symptoms generated by chronic substance abuse

SPD diagnostic Criteria

The DSM-III-R proposed certain criteria to diagnose the Sadistic personalities. The signs of aggressive, cruel and demeaning behavior begin by early adulthood and recognized by the frequent occurrence of about four conditions of the following:

  1. The person used physical violence to establish his/her dominance within a relationship for some non-interpersonal goal or hitting someone just for robbing.
  2. Humiliated people in the front of others
  3. Unusually harsh behavior in the name of discipline (ex-student, patient or prisoner)
  4. Lie to other people to harm or giving pain to them
  5. Takes pleasure and satisfaction from the sufferings of others even animals
  6. Uses fear and terror tactics to make other people do things what he/she wants them to do
  7. Restricting freedom of other people in a close relationship
  8. Sadists enthrall towards violence, weapons, injuries, torture, martial arts, etc.


Treatment of SPD is a long process because it takes time to change the behavior, beliefs and overall sadistic personality of a person.

  • Psychotherapy: This therapy applies to all kind of personality disorder and involves family therapy and group therapy. The therapist exposes the person to family and groups for interaction and tries to modulate the emotional as well as behavioral factors in that person.
  • Counseling: The counselors or therapists directly interact with a patient, listen to their problems and give suggestion to solve them.
  • Pharmacotherapy: There are some medications available that reduce depression and anxiety. Self-examination and drug work effectively together.


The prognosis is normally positive with proper care and treatment, but it might take a few years to exude the effects of treatment. Psychological conditions take time in the treatment in which evaluation of the disorder and recurrence moves with the chart rate of progress. The treatment methods might vary from one person to another.

When to refer a doctor?

When an individual finds aggressive and unusual personality changes, he/she should immediately consult the doctor. SPD is an aggregation of depression, anxiety, aggression, social isolation and weird behaviors so these symptoms can guide a person about the oncoming disorder.



Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.