What is sadism? Sadism is the opposite of masochism and it means to experience pleasure and gratification (not always sexual) from inflicting pain on others. Although there have been references to sadism as a sexual practice in literature for centuries, it was not until the 19th century that sadism was described as an actual medical condition; these days, sadism is listed as a paraphilia in the DSM-IV. A person diagnosed with sexual sadism is usually referred to as a sadist.
Where does the term “sadism” come from?
The term sadism is derived from the name of the infamous Marquis de Sade, a French aristocrat whose philosophical writings based on themes of violent sexuality for the purpose of pleasure caused outrage during his lifetime.
What is sadism as a sexual practice?
In erotic literature, sadism is normally linked with masochism and referred to as sadomasochism. As the name suggests, the practice of sadomasochism involves one person inflicting pain on another in the pursuit of sexual pleasure. Common sadomasochistic practices include flogging, spanking, and whipping. In many cases, the behaviour is not harmful to the victim, although it might be humiliating, but in extreme cases, sexual sadism can be dangerous and lead to serious injury or even death, although this is more likely if sexual sadism is associated with antisocial personality disorder and psychosis.
What is sadism in psychology?
Freud introduced sadism as an integral part of psychoanalysis and he believed that inflicting (and receiving) pain was one of “the most common and important of all perversions”. According to Freud, sadistic (and masochistic) aspects to a personality were a direct result of guilt and caused by an incorrect or incomplete sexual development in a child.
What are the criteria of a sadistic personality disorder?
Unlike the recognised disorder of sexual sadism, sadistic personality disorder is no longer a recognised condition and patients showing symptoms are normally referred to as having a personality disorder not specified by any other condition. However, the disorder is still recognised from a research perspective and symptoms include a pattern of cruel and violent behaviour from early adulthood onwards, and not just for the purposes of sexual enjoyment and arousal.
What is the link between sadism and psychopathy?
Sadistic tendencies are one of the three behaviours that were once recognised as possible indicators of psychopathy in childhood. Known as the Macdonald triad, the three psychopathy precursors are firestarting, bedwetting, and cruelty to animals. More recent research has indicated that these behavioural traits are not necessarily indicators that a child will later develop into a fully-fledged psychopath, but the DSM-IV still cites animal cruelty and sadistic tendencies as a possible precursor to antisocial behavioural disorder and conduct disorder and sadism is still seen in a high proportion of psychopaths compared to the general population.
Sadism and malignant narcissism
One of the characteristics of a malignant narcissist is a propensity towards cruel and sadistic behaviour. The disorder is at the extreme end of the narcissist spectrum and the term was first used in 1964. At present the specific diagnostic category of malignant narcissism is not listed in the DSM-IV and anyone displaying the symptoms of malignant narcissism would be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.