How to Spot a Sadist

sadist

A sadist describes a person who derives enjoyment and satisfaction from inflicting pain, retribution, and shame on others. The term “sadism” derives from an 18th-century Frenchman, Marquis de Sade, who was famous for penning aggressive, malicious, and ruthless literature about sexuality. Sade was said to endorse aggression in sexuality and thus, sadism historically referred to a situation where a person gained sexual pleasure from causing the other pain. 

Throughout time, the definition of sadism evolved and became broader in its definition, and no longer solely applies to issues of sexuality. Today’s understanding of a sadist means that an individual is knowingly and thoughtlessly causing another person to experience pain and unhappiness.

Many erroneously equate sadists with criminals, rapists, and serial killers, but this is often not the case. Sadists are actually not likely to perform criminal or dangerous acts where there is a possibility of punishment or societal disapproval. They appear to function like regular people and and walk amongst us in everyday life. 

Sadists show an overall lack of empathy, an internal motivation to harm others, and can be quickly identified in incidents of bullying and coercion. They hurt others emotionally, mentally, or physically and enjoy chipping away at a person’s self-esteem and confidence. Thankfully, it is fairly easy to spot and avoid getting involved with a sadist.

Traits of a Sadist

Cruel. Sadists will utilize cruelty, aggression, force, or threats to obtain power and dominance, while lacking remorse and compassion. They will also be cruel simply because they find it humorous and a productive way to pass time. Sadists are constantly scheming, calculating, and manipulative in relationships with people they are close with. Power and dominance are part of the adrenaline rush that they experience when they are mean to others.

Vicious. Sadists cannot hide their vicious and manipulative tendencies and prey upon those who are willing to give them a chance. Some people may initially give sadists the benefit of the doubt and try to teach and instill empathy but will quickly realize that their efforts are futile. 

Zero empathy. Sadists consistently make cruel and passive-aggressive jokes, utilizing sarcasm to weaken a person’s confidence and self-esteem. Not only are they not remorseful or empathetic, but they enjoy watching others cry and in pain. Often you will just get a gut feeling that another person is getting pleasure out of your discomfort. 

Trolls. Sadists can often be found trying to cause chaos by trolling the Internet and engaging in cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying utilizes technology, social media, and electronic forms of communication to intimidate and bully. 

Although sadists are everywhere amongst us, they thankfully can be spotted and avoided fairly easily. Keep a general lookout for those who are malicious and spiteful, who lack empathy, and who manipulate and scheme for pure personal enjoyment.

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Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.
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