Sadists can draw their behaviour from people they stick to

Wednesday November 03 2021
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By Business Daily Africa

Question: What actually goes in the minds of sadists, is it a hereditary problem?


A sadist is a person who derives pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others. The diagnostic manual of mental disorders (used as the reference text for mental health experts) has very clear definitions of Sexual Sadism Disorder.

A person with this condition derives intense sexual arousal from the physical or psychological suffering of others. This is sometimes manifested as fantasies and at other times as behaviour. The other requirement for the diagnosis to be made is that this fantasies/behaviour must be with a person who does not give consent for the sexual act to take place.

For the diagnosis to be made, the sadist must also suffer some clinical harm from the behaviour, for example, loss of a job, or arrest for the deed.

As a young student of psychiatry in the UK, I worked at the famous Broadmoor Prison, and there came across a psychopath whose face and crime remain deeply entrenched in my memory.


The allegation was that he had killed a woman, a claim he did not deny. Instead, to my fear for my dear life, he said that hearing the neck of the woman he had killed go ‘snap’ had given him the orgasmic experience of his life! In some countries, up to eight per cent of the people in prison have this condition.

As you can see, individuals with this type of personality can be without, what in normal language one might call humanity of any sort. Indeed, this type of person displays recurrent aggression and cruel behaviour. Sadism can also include the use of emotional cruelty, manipulation of others through fear-mongering, and a preoccupation with violence.

Some years ago, we saw a lady who was in love with one such person. In the end, she died, according to him, after she fell down a flight of stairs. Hers was a tragic story.

They had met when she was 20 at university. He was a flashy businessman, who worked in what he called import/export business (read smuggler). He swept her off her feet with the love and affection that he showed her in the early stages of their relationship. After flowers chocolates and expensive dinners came diamonds and trips abroad always to fun destinations.

Their sexual life was made in heaven and was always the climax of their bonding. Soon she left university to better concentrate on looking after the needs of her man, a fact that led to major disagreements with her parents who knew that this man had been married twice before and had spent time behind bars for grievous bodily harm on a woman. They say love is blind and the girl was blinded beyond rescue by her parents’ love.

Soon, the tide changed. Flowers and trips were replaced by beatings while he was drunk. He apologised in the morning and to ‘prove’ his love for her he would insist on making love to her. The psychological and emotional torture soon set in.

Nothing she did or said was good to and for him. She was fat, slow ugly and dressed like a woman from the 50s! When she found him in their bed with a house help from next door, he blamed her for not being as good in bed and in any case the girl cooked better than her.

When she threatened to leave him, he ‘accidentally’ broke her arm, and told her nobody will take a fat woman with a broken arm. He warned her not to tell the police, as she must know what might happen. At yet another time, she suffered an injury to her skull. Asked why she did not leave such a cruel man, all she said is that he had apologised and promised to change.

Her family blamed him for her eventual death. There is limited knowledge on the extent to which the condition is inherited, though in some cases children who grow up with psychopathic families also tend to grow up with such tendencies.