What Is Sadistic Personality Disorder?

A person with sadistic personality disorder may appear to be a bully, and react violently when challenged.
People with sadistic personality disorder often use violence and intimidation to get what they want.
Someone with sadistic personality disorder may take pleasure in cruelty toward animals.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2014
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Sadistic personality disorder is a type of personality disorder that refers to actions, attitudes, and behaviors exhibited by a person that are ultimately intended to cause suffering in others for the amusement of the sadist. There are a number of key features to someone with this type of personality disorder, including the violent establishment of dominance in relationships, enjoyment at the sight of people and animals that are suffering, the elimination of autonomy of those in a relationship with the person, and a fascination with violence and weapons. This disorder was removed from the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) after the third edition.

There are a number of potential indicators of sadistic personality disorder, and many of them must be present for a person to potentially be diagnosed with the disorder. In general, this disorder is marked by an ongoing pattern of aggressive or cruel behavior by a person toward others around him or her. There are many different potential indicators of this type of behavioral pattern, though at least four of these indicators must repeatedly be present for a legitimate diagnosis of sadism.


According to the DSM-III, or third edition, this disorder is marked by the use of physical violence or cruelty to establish dominance in a relationship, such as in a marriage or with a child. The person will also often humiliate or demean people in public or around others, and the person derives pleasure from such public humiliation. This type of person will typically use unnecessarily harsh punishments to control those he or she has authority over, such as those in a relationship with him or children in his or her care. Someone with sadistic personality disorder will also demonstrate amusement or pleasure in the suffering of others, both people and animals.

Sadistic personality disorder is typically marked by a person who lies, repeatedly or occasionally, for the purpose of causing suffering in others. Someone with this disorder will also usually use violence or intimidation to terrify others into doing what he or she wants. Anyone in a relationship with this type of person will often be restricted in autonomous behavior, such as a spouse who is not allowed to leave the house or a child who cannot play with other children. This type of personality disorder also often manifests through an undue fascination with weapons, violence, and graphic depictions of torture or suffering.

It is also important to note that someone with sadistic personality disorder does not only display such behavior with a single person, but in multiple relationships, and does not use this type of sadism purely for sexual gratification. This disorder was removed from the DSM following the third edition in part to ensure it could not be used as a legal defense for anyone who inflicts suffering on others. Following the removal of this disorder, the diagnosis can still be utilized, but it would fall under the heading of a “personality disorder not otherwise specified” (PDNOS).


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Post 5

@anon161948: The only person you can change is yourself.

Post 4

Please know that because they all have a narcissistic component to their personality, most are incapable of change because they don't have the ability to see they ever do anything wrong and that you are nothing but an object for their own gratification. They only pretend to love to keep you "hooked" into them but, don't allow yourself to be deceived into thinking that have the capacity to change.

Look up Melanie Tonia Evans and her work with helping people get free of narcissistic/sadistic people and to heal from the deep trauma that comes from having a person like this in your life. You can forgive them and care about them, but from a safe distance. Good luck and best wishes for a safe, healing recovery process.

Post 2

This is a reply to anon161948. The abuser you're involved with is the same exact cookie cutter version of every other abusive man out there. These men are sadists.

I learned this after speaking to many, many other abused women. When we shared our stories with each other about the hell we had gone through, it seemed we were speaking about the same person. Strangely, all abusers are the same. Meaning, that if you don't run for your life when you can, you won't ever escape, and the abuse will get worse.

Most women who don't escape end up being tortured, disfigured, and killed by abusers, even after many years of marriage. And know this: abusers/sadists are incapable of loving. They're masters of manipulation who can mimic loving behavior, and once they're done with one victim, they quickly go looking for the next. Abusers/sadists don't love their victims, they love the pleasure they get from causing suffering and humiliation.

Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for anonymous and confidential help 24/7: 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY).

Post 1

My BF has a sadistic personality disorder which I found out a month after moving in with him. He started to get verbally abusive first, saying hurtful and insulting words at the slightest argument. Then he slowly restricted my freedom by forcing me to quit my job, destroying my mobile phones and ensuring that I do not go out of the house without his knowledge. He started beating me up not long after.

He is very dominant and controlling. He even hurts and humiliates me in front of other people. I tried so many times to break up with him but he will start to threaten to hurt me more. I still love him though and hope that he will eventually change his ways.

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