Can Sadistic Personality Be Cured?

Sadism is a psychological disorder that involves deriving pleasure when imposing pain on others.

Sadism is defined most directly by the desire and intention to hurt others (verbally or physically) for self-pleasure.

Before treatment, it is crucial to find out the source of the sadistic personality. People with sadism generally have a desire for power and control. The main reasons for this desire include:

  • Poverty
  • Injustice
  • Domestic or child abuse
  • Personal failures

Positive channeling of power can help the patient to get rid of the sadistic desires.

Most cases of sadistic behavior require counseling and therapy to modify a person’s behavior. To completely cure sadistic personality, patients must undergo long-term treatment. The patient’s compliance with the treatment is of utmost importance as non-cooperation to the therapy and counseling can hinder its success.

Another way to cure sadism is to show them that their victims aren’t really suffering from their actions.

What is sadism?

Sadism is a psychological disorder that involves deriving pleasure when imposing pain on others. Sadism was associated with a positive effect (pleasure) during the aggression. The pleasure was dependent on the victim’s suffering due to the sadist’s aggressive act. After the violent behavior, the sadist might have a negative feeling (guilt feeling). Mostly, sadistic behavior backfires, causing much distress after the belligerence.

Everyone has emotionally hurt someone in one way or the other. These are mostly:

  • Out of ignorance
  • In the heat of an argument
  • When felt threatened

However, sadism differs from the above behavior. Some of the main components of sadism include:

  • Intention to harm
  • Deriving pleasure when inflicting pain on others
  • A lack of regret
  • Failure to take responsibility

Some of the typical characteristics that a person with a sadistic personality has are:

  • They enjoy seeing people hurt.
  • They enjoy inflicting pain on others.
  • They cherish the idea of others being in pain.
  • They think it is all right to cause others pain.
  • They fantasize about hurting others.
  • They like to humiliate others to keep them in line.
  • They may ask their partners to submit to various forms of sexual acts, such as bondage, gagging, slapping, hair pulling, choking.
  • Their bullying may take several forms.

What are the different forms of sadism?

Theodore Million has identified four subtypes of sadism. They are presented on the table.

Table of four subtypes of sadism
SubtypeDescriptionPersonality traits
Spineless sadismExhibits avoidant personality
  • Deeply insecure
  • Coward
  • Afraid of danger
  • Pretends to be courageous
  • Non-violent
  • Not mean-spirited
Tyrannical sadismExhibits paranoid or negativistic personalities
  • Antisocial
  • Cruel
  • Most frightening
  • Inhumane nature
  • Violent
  • Unrestrained power
  • Dramatizing their ill-nature
Enforcing sadismExhibits compulsive personalities
  • Balances social and individual needs
  • Dispassionately judge intentions
  • Unable to put limits to their vicious behaviors
  • Possesses the right to be merciless
  • The main task is to control and punish
Explosive sadismExhibits borderline personalities
  • Explodes and resorts to physical violence after reaching the limit
  • Uses aggression to release piled-up feelings of frustration or humiliation
  • Hypersensitive to betrayal
  • Deeply frustrated to hopelessness prevailing in life


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Chester DS, DeWall CN, Enjaian B. Sadism and Aggressive Behavior: Inflicting Pain to Feel Pleasure. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2019 Aug;45(8):1252-1268.

Millon T, Millon CM, Meagher SE, et al. Personality Disorders in Modern Life. 1999. Wiley Publishers.