Sadistic personality disorder

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Sadistic personality disorder was a personality disorder diagnosis involving sadism which appeared only in an appendix of the revised third edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R).[1] The later versions of the DSM (DSM-IV, DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5) do not include it, so it is no longer considered a valid diagnostic category.

Definition of sadism[edit]

Sadism involves gaining pleasure from seeing others undergo discomfort or pain. The opponent-process theory explains the way in which individuals not only display, but also take enjoyment in committing sadistic acts.[2][clarification needed] Individuals possessing sadistic personalities display recurrent aggression and cruel behavior.[3][4] Sadism can also include the use of emotional cruelty, purposefully manipulating others through the use of fear, and a preoccupation with violence.[5]

Theodore Millon claimed there were four subtypes of sadists, which he termed Explosive sadism, Tyrannical sadism, Enforcing sadism, and Spineless sadism.[6][7]

Comorbidity with other personality disorders[edit]

Sadistic Personality Disorder is often found to occur in unison with other personality disorders. In fact, studies have found that sadistic personality disorder is the personality disorder with the highest level of comorbidity to other types of psychopathologic disorders.[5][dubious ] However, sadism has also been found in patients who do not display other forms of psychopathic disorders.[8] One personality disorder that is often found to occur alongside sadistic personality disorder is conduct disorder, not an adult disorder but one of childhood and adolescence.[5] Studies have found other types of illnesses, such as alcoholism, to have a high rate of comorbidity with sadistic personality disorder.[9]

Because of its high level of comorbidity with other disorders, researchers have had some level of difficulty distinguishing sadistic personality disorder from other forms of personality disorder.[5]

Removal from the DSM[edit]

Numerous theorists and clinicians introduced Sadistic Personality Disorder to the DSM in 1987 and it was placed in the DSM-III-R as a way to facilitate further systematic clinical study and research. It was proposed to be included because of adults who possessed sadistic personality traits but were not being labeled, even though their victims were being labeled with a self-defeating personality disorder.[10][page needed] Theorists like Theodore Millon wanted to generate further study on SPD, and so proposed it to the DSM-IV Personality Disorder Work Group, who rejected it.[6]

Subclinical sadism in personality psychology[edit]

There is renewed interest in studying sadism as a non-disordered personality trait.[4][11] Everyday sadism joins with subclinical psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism to form the so-called "dark tetrad" of personality.[4][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hucker, Stephen J. Sadistic Personality Disorder
  2. ^ Reidy D.E., Zeichner A., Seibert L.A. (2011). "Unprovoked aggression: Effects of psychopathic traits and sadism". Journal of Personality 79 (1): 75–100. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00691.x. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c Buckels, E. E.; Jones, D. N.; Paulhus, D. L. (2013). "Behavioral confirmation of everyday sadism". Psychological Science 24 (11): 2201–9. doi:10.1177/0956797613490749. PMID 24022650. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Sadistic Personality Disorder and Comorbid Mental Illness in Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatients". 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  6. ^ a b Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond
  7. ^ Personality Disorders in Modern Life
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^
  10. ^ Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology
  11. ^ O’Meara, A; Davies, J; Hammond, S. (2011). "The psychometric properties and utility of the Short Sadistic Impulse Scale (SSIS)". Psychological Assessment 23 (2): 523–531. doi:10.1037/a0022400. 
  12. ^ Chabrol H., Van Leeuwen, N., Rodgers, R., & Sejourne, N. (2009). Contributions of psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic personality traits to juvenile delinquency. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(7), 734-739.

External links[edit]