How To Spot A Sadistic Personality: Traits, Types, And More

Last Update on August 9, 2022 : Published on August 9, 2022
How to spot a sadistic personality

Derived in 18th-century France, the term “Sadist” can be described as someone who takes enjoyment and pleasure from inflicting pain and shame on others. Throughout time, the definition of sadism and sadist has changed or more like, broadened. Where previously, sadism was only associated with sexuality, now it applies to more than that.

Today, a sadist can be defined as anyone who feels satisfied when causing others pain, humiliation, or shame. For example, criminals, serial killers, or other offenders can be described as sadists but that’s not always the case.

Not all sadists are criminals or are likely to engage in dangerous acts that may result in societal judgment, being shunned, or lawfully punished. Just like psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists, sadists can be spotted in everyday life.

In a nutshell, a sadist lacks empathy, has an internal motivation to hurt or humiliate others, and can be associated with bullying. These individuals emotionally, mentally, and physically hurt others and take pleasure in weakening others’ self-esteem and self-confidence.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what a sadistic personality is, how to spot a sadistic person, the types of sadistic personality, and how you can deal with one.

What Is A Sadistic Personality?


Sadistic personality disorder can be defined as a pervasive pattern of egocentric behavior. A sadistic person often uses violence and aggression to control others. Some people with this personality disorder may not abuse others but may instead show an obsession with violence. According to experts, a sadistic personality is more common in men than women.

Sadism can be defined as the desire or intention to harm others emotionally, verbally, or physically to gain a sense of enjoyment, pleasure, or satisfaction. Sadism is classified as a psychological disorder, and people with sadistic personalities usually want to control others.

While we may emotionally hurt others, those actions are mostly driven out of ignorance, in the heat of the moment, or when you feel cornered. However, sadism can include actions to intentionally hurt others, enjoying hurting others for self-pleasure, a lack of regret, or the failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions.

How To Spot A Sadistic Person?

The traits of a sadistic person can be different from the traits of a psychopath. Here are some common traits that can help you spot a sadistic person:

  • They Are Cruel

A sadistic person uses aggression, force, and threats to dominate and control others. They lack compassion and do not feel remorse for their actions. They are cruel because they find it hurting others as a way to humor themselves. A sadistic person can be found constantly scheming and being manipulative in relationships. The control over others gives them a sort of adrenaline rush.

  • They Are Vicious

A sadistic person can’t always hide their manipulative and vicious actions. Some people may give the benefit of doubt to a sadistic person but a sadistic person will eventually give way and show others their manipulative side. Others may try to teach empathy to a sadistic person but will quickly realize that their actions are futile.

  • They Lack Empathy

A sadistic person lacks empathy and uses passive-aggressive tactics to chip away at a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. They are not regretful of their actions nor are they empathetic. They take pleasure in watching others in pain and discomfort.

  • They Are A Bully

A sadistic person can be often found bullying others or engaging in cyber-bullying. They like creating chaos and would often troll others on the internet to amuse themselves. Sadists can also engage in physical aggression or physical bullying as long as it harms others – emotionally and mentally.

A sadistic personality disorder is thought to co-occur with other personality disorders, more with psychopathic disorders, however, sadism is a trait that is also found in people without any psychopathic disorders.

Sadistic personality disorder or sadistic behavior can often be found in disorders such as:

Diagnostic Criteria For Sadistic Personality Disorder

While the new versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM) do not classify sadistic personality disorder as a personality disorder, the older versions have diagnostic criteria that can be used today to diagnose this personality disorder. The criteria can include the following:

  • Has used physical violence to establish dominance in a relationship
  • Humiliates or demeans others in the presence of a company
  • Has disciplined someone under their control, harshly
  • Is amused by the psychological or physical suffering of others (including animals)
  • Has lied to harm or inflict pain on others
  • Gets others to do what they want by threatening them
  • Is obsessed with violence, injury, or torture

The Types Of Sadism


Psychological theorist Theodore Millon claims that there are four subtypes of sadism. The four subtypes of sadism can be as follows:

  1. Spineless sadism: This type of sadism can include avoidant personality features and can be described as insecure and cowardly. These people are afraid of danger, pretend to be brave, and engage in public swaggering, but are not always violent.
  2. Tyrannical sadism: This type of sadism can include a negativistic personality or paranoia and can be described as antisocial and cruel. These types of people are violent, relish dominating others, unmerciful, and accusatory.
  3. Enforcing sadism: This type of sadism can include compulsive personality features. These types of people are dispassionate, seek out rule breakers, are unable to tame their viciousness, and are merciless in their dominance.
  4. Explosive sadism: This type of sadism can include borderline personality features and can be described as unpredictably higher levels of volatile outbursts and uncontrollable fury. These types of people use aggression to release pent-up frustrations and are hypersensitive to acts of betrayal.

How To Deal With A Sadistic Personality?

If you know a sadistic personality, then here are some things you can do to deal with them:

1.Pay Attention To Your Emotions:

Sadists, like other members of the Dark Triad, can be skilled in raising self-doubt, shame, and anger, along with the guilt of feeling these emotions. If you know a person is a sadist, then you should pay attention to your emotions or feelings they are evoking in you. If the person in your life is making you feel these emotions, then you’re dealing with a sadist or any of the Dark Triad members.

2.Accept That You Can’t Change Them

Sadists or any of the Dark Triad personalities can’t change. They may amuse you but will never allow themselves to change their ways. Trying to change them will only expose your weakness to someone who is manipulative and exploitative and who will enjoy your suffering. It’s time you accept that you can’t change a sadist’s way.

3.Set Healthy Limits

It’s time you understand your boundaries and limits or what kind of boundaries you need to set to feel emotionally and mentally safe with a sadist. If this person is someone you deal with daily (for example; a spouse, parent, etc.) then you need to set boundaries. This may include limiting your interactions with them, being careful of what you share with them, or cutting off contact with them indefinitely.

4.Seek Professional Help

When everything fails to make you feel safe, you can seek professional help to learn how to deal with a sadistic person. A professional can help you come up with a plan to protect yourself from the self-doubt and low self-esteem a sadist may cost.

Sadists, just like narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths are everywhere but fortunately, with the right signs you can spot a sadistic person. Keep a lookout for anyone who is frequently manipulative, spiteful, and schemes against others just to amuse themselves.

If you believe that someone close to you is a sadistic person, then you can reach out to a professional therapist for immediate help and timely intervention. With the right therapy, intervention, and medical help, a sadistic personality can be managed.

Book Your Therapy Appointment Here

I hope this blog helped you understand who is a sadistic personality and how to spot a sadistic person. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Take Care.

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On