Certain experts have been deliberating for a while now whether the dark triad should be converted into the dark tetrad with the addition of sadism, and to further enhance their research, they have carefully formulated a sadism test constituting 9 questions that can detect this trait.
The dark triad, quite an engaging subject in the field of psychology, consists of three “dark” traits: narcissism (indicating arrogance, pride, and egotism), psychopathy (characterized by a lack of remorse or empathy) and Machiavellianism (deceptive and exploitative behavior). Interestingly, psychopathy is considered the worst of the three traits or personality disorders that someone could demonstrate.
Personally, however, I believe a person who manipulates and deceives other human beings to achieve personal success, a Machiavellian in short, sets the bar extremely low, even psychopaths can’t do worse than that. Opinions will obviously vary, depending on what you believe and your life experience. There is really no point in deciding which attribute is the most harmful because even though their definitions are completely different in theory, studies have shown that three people, each exhibiting a different trait of the dark triad, will have more than a few similar aspects to their personality. Therefore, practically, these traits may not be as far apart as they initially seem to be.
What with these horrifying traits all grouped together by psychologists, it seems only fitting that sadism should be a part of the little gang too. I mean inflicting pain on others just for the fun of it? Seems pretty dark triad/tetrad worthy, so why hasn’t sadism gotten the honor it deserves? Well, while the original three members have been researched quite often with different measures of assessment assigned to them, sadism was said to be difficult to evaluate or estimate. It is actually quite a deep and complex personality trait. Let’s look more into the complications it entails. But before we do, check out our article on the 11 Cities with the Highest Demand for Psychologists, if you are a psychologist looking for a job.
Is Sadism a Disorder?
A commonly asked question about sadism is whether it is a psychological disorder. Sadly, that is not a simple yes or no question. While some sources claim that it is a disorder, Psychnet for example, some just consider it a characteristic that a person possesses. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) leans towards the latter. In its latest version of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, sadism has not been classified as a personality disorder. That makes sense too, since we have all, at least once in our lives, encountered people who appear to be relishing others’ pain. Are they all suffering from personality disorders? Well, not unless they are sexual sadists, which brings us to sexual sadism disorder.
Sexual Sadism Disorder
This condition is recognized by APA as a personality disorder and is defined by the organization as:
“recurrent and intense sexual arousal from the physical or psychological suffering of another person, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors”
Although consent usually does not matter to a person suffering from sexual sadism disorder, it can be disturbing to learn that some patients actually prefer a non-consenting sexual partner.