What is Sadistic Personality Disorder?

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).