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Do BDSM practitioners suffer from a mental health problem?

Do BDSM practitioners suffer from a mental health problem?

07 August | 0 Comments | By Rachael

Whether for reproduction, pleasure or beyond, sex is one of those basic elements that is an integral part of every person’s life. While different cultures and communities hold a host of traditions, rituals and protocols related to sexual fantasies, which are widely considered as a taboo, there can be some really bizarre and unusual sexual practices that have the potential to impact an individual’s physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health. One of such weird and kinky practice is known as bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM).

Though a range of movies and books has gone an extra mile to depict the practices of BDSM, it became the topic of discussion only with the popularity of the widely celebrated bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. The vivid portrayal of the darker aspect of sexual fantasies of the main characters highlights some of the less-discussed and stigmatized topics. It also triggered debate whether indulgence in such sexual activities can be considered healthy and ethical. Some experts have also associated the practice of BDSM with mental illness.

Although BDSM is an unfamiliar term for many, it was found that a large number of people engage in some form of sadomasochism or BDSM-related sexual behavior.  In fact, the number is likely to range between 2 percent and 62 percent as per some of the reports. Such an unconventional behavior pattern raises a question mark over the mental status of people indulging in BDSM.

Differences between various schools of thoughts on BDSM

Characterized by suppression, physical restriction, practicing role-playing games, power exchange and even administration of pain, BDSM, which is the acronym for bondage-discipline, dominance-submission and sadism-masochism, is a sexual practice that incorporates a number of unorthodox and uncommon sexual behaviors.

While the old school of thought led by the renowned psychologist Freud termed it as a sign of mental illness, the current school of thought has highlighted that the practitioners of BDSM display more openness, conscientiousness, lower levels of depression, etc. The current article explores this debate in a comprehensive manner.

One of the critical attributes of mental health issues associated with sexual practices can be deviation from the conventional form of sex known as vanilla sex that can lead to sexual deviance or paraphilia. There are varied sexual behaviors and practices that are typically observed as a paraphilia. These include sadomasochism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, zoophilia, necrophilia, pedophilia, etc. A number of societies consider the practitioners of BDSM as an aberrant or a pervert.

Though BDSM has been viewed as a bizarre sexual practice that involves serious psychological disorders, the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has categorized sadism and masochism as the source of mental disorders. Introduced in the late 19th century by Krafft-Ebing, sexual sadism in both the versions of DSM-III-R and DSM-IV has been considered as a paraphilia.

Since such deviant sexual practices cause significant affliction and involve a non-consenting person, they inflict significant psychological or physical suffering on the other person as well. The BDSM practitioners usually indulge in exercising control and power. They also subject their partners to humiliation and pain.

Though there has been no concrete evidence pertaining to relationship between BDSM and mental illness, the above negative tendencies displayed by the BDSM practitioners can be a warning sign of an underlying mental health problem.

Based on the big five-factor model of personality —  neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness – the BDSM practitioners were found to be comparatively more open to experience, have low neuroticism and enjoy high subjective well-being.

Compared to the people indulging in vanilla sex, they are likely to suffer from lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline pathology, paranoia, etc. However, on a deeper analysis, it was found that they have personality flaws like obsession with orderliness and discipline.

Don’t wait, get help today

Despite being listed in the DSM-5 as a paraphilia, there has not enough evidence associating BDSM with mental disorders. However, one cannot deny the increased risk of developing a mental problem due to mentally daunting activities that include increased subjugation. Though sexual fantasies cannot be categorized as a sign of mental illness, one needs to keep a check on the extent of such activities to avoid repercussion on his or her mental health.

If you or your loved one is suffering from any kind of mental illness, contact the Arizona Mental Health Helpline to connect to the best mental health treatment centers in Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-606-7791 or chat online to know more about the mental health disorder treatment centers in Arizona.