There is no evidence that SM/fetish people have a higher degree of psychopathology than the rest of the population.

Wismeijer & van Assen (2013):
More heathy BDSMers

A Dutch study of 902 BDSM practitioners, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests that the BDSMers had more favorable psychological characteristics than a control group of 434 respondants.

The BDSM practitioners were less neurotic, more extraverted and had higher subjective well-being than the control group.

The study, that was publised May 16, 2013, also suggests that the BDSM group was more conscientious and less rejection sensitive. BDSMers were however less agreeable than the control group. The doms scored lower than both the subs and the control group with respect to agreeableness. BDSM scores on health were generally more favorably for those with a dominant than a submissive role, with least favorable scores for controls.

Andreas A.J. Wismeijer PhD, Marcel A.L.M. van Assen PhD: Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 10, Issue 8, pages 1943–1952, August 2013.

Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners

Brad Sagarin et al (2009):

The implication of two studies at the Northern Illinois University into hormonal changes associated with Sadomasochistic activities including spanking, bondage and flogging, suggest that it could bring consenting couples closer together. The increases in relationship closeness combined with the displays of caring and affection observed as part of the SM activities offer support for the modern view that SM, when performed consensually, has the potential to increase intimacy between participants. Sagarin, B. J. (picture), Cutler, B., Cutler, N., Lawler-Sagarin, K. A., & Matuszewich, L. (2009). Hormonal changes and couple bonding in consensual sadomasochistic activity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 186-200.

Cross and Matheson (2006):

Cross and Matheson (2006) found no support for the traditional theories that sadomasochism is an illness.

The researchers found no evidence for the psychopathology/medical-model contention that masochists suffer from any kind of mental disorder and that SM-sadists are antisocial (Krafft-Ebing 1886/1965).

There was no support for the traditional psychoanalytic view of self-harming and guilt-ridden masochists or id-driven and psychopatic SM-sadists (Freud 1900/1906/1953/1954).

Cross and Matheson neither found any evidence for Baumeister’s contention that masochists were more inclined to engage in escapist behaviors such as drug-taking, day-dreaming, or fantasizing than the comparison group (Baumeister 1988, 1989).

Cross and Matheson did however find that SM participants were overall more likely than non-SM respondents to report bisexual/homosexual orientations.

No evidence was found suggesting that sadomasochists espoused anti-feminist, patriarchal values or traditional gender roles to a greater extent that the non-SM-group.

And the sadomasochists were relatively more likely to be in ongoing relationships than the comparison group.

Patricia A. Cross PhD and Kim Matheson PhD in the book “Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures” (2006), published simultaneously as the Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 50, Nos. 2/3.)

Connolly et al (2006):

Results from a research project by Dr. Pamela Connolly (picture) et al, among a group with bondage and sadomasochistic interests (BDSM) showed that

“no evidence was found to support the notion that clinical disorders – including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsion – are more prevalent among the sample of individuals with BDSM interests than among members of the general population. Moreover, this sample did not show evidence of widespread PTSD, trauma-related phenomena, personality disturbances, psychological sadism or psychological masochism”, disorders in which the sufferer either derives pleasure out of genuine cruelty (not the play-acting kind) or compulsively seeks out harmful levels of pain. ”Similarly, no prominent themes were found in a series of profile analyses.”

”There were, however, som exceptions to this general pattern, most notably the higher-than-average levels of nonspecific dissociative symptoms and narcissism in this sample. That said, this body of findings suggests that, contrary to longstanding assumptions in the psychoanalytic literature, there is very little support for the view that psychopathology underlies behavior.”

Connolly, P.H.; Haley, H.; Gendelman, J.; Miller, J. (2006). Psychological functioning of bondage/domination/sado-masochism practitioners. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 18(1), 79-120.

Richters et al 2005:

A survey using computer-assisted telephone interviews with 20,000 Australian men and women, showed that BDSM may actually make men happier. Men into BDSM scored significantly better on a scale of psychological wellbeing than other men.

BDSM’ers were no more likely to have suffered sexual difficulties, sexual abuse or coercion or anxiety than other Australians.

– This seems to imply that these men are actually happier as a result of their behaviour, though we’re not sure why, said Dr. Juliet Richters (picture), of the University of New South Wales. “It might just be that they’re more in harmony with themselves because they’re into something unusual and are comfortable with that. There’s a lot to be said for accepting who you are.”

Researchers said the study helps break down the reigning stereotype that people into bondage and discipline were damaged as children and were therefore “dysfunctional”.

Richters, J., & Rissel, C. (2005). Doing it down under: The sexual lives of Australians. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.,2933,266344,00.html

Martins & Ceccarelli (2003):

A study, presented at the 16th World Congress of Sexology in Cuba 10-14 March, 2003, suggests that non-conventional sexual practices cannot be used as a diagnosed criteria of any kind, which means that the only aspect that distinguishes these individuals from others is their sexual practices.

Picture: Maria Cristina Martins, Clinical Psychologist and Specialist in Human Sexuality. Campinas, SP, Brazil and Paulo Roberto Ceccarelli, Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, PhD in Psycopathology and Psychoanalysis by Paris VII, Paris, France.

Earlier studies:

According to Moser (1999), limited earlier studies show no differences in psychopathology between the S/M group and the control group. Gosselin & Wilson (1980), Miale (1986), Moser (1979).
C. Moser C. (1999). The Psychology of Sadomasochism (S/M). S. Wright, ed., SM Classics, New York, Masquerade Books 1999, p. 47-61.

Gosselin, C, & Wilson, G. (1980). Sexual variations. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Miale, J. P. (1986). An initial study of nonclinical practitioners of sexual sadomasochism. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, the Professional School of Psychological Studies, San Diego.
Moser, C. (1979). An exploratory-descriptive study of a self-defined S/M (sadomasochistic) sample. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, San Francisco.

SM as a sexual orientation

Physicians and psychiatrists about SM as a valid expression of adult consensual sexuality and an important part of people’s sexual orientation.