The clinical term sadism describes the experience of pleasure and sexual excitement from intentionally inflicting psychological or physical pain on another person. Sadistic behaviors include causing physical harm (e.g., beating, spanking, choking, and restraining) and verbally abusing, humiliating, and psychologically terrorizing another person.

Studies show that sadistic individuals are emotionally detached from the suffering of others, thus feeling low remorse and having low empathy. Furthermore, sadism is a predictor of anti-social behavior and aggressive tendencies. The development of sadistic behavior has been associated with early adverse experiences (e.g., physical or sexual abuse), sharing dysfunctional relationships with primary caregivers during childhood, and exposure to violence.

An individual might be diagnosed with sadism disorder if the engagement in sadistic behaviors is frequent, causes distress, interferes with one’s functioning, and involves causing harm to another person or engaging in sexual behaviors without the other person’s consent.

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