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BDSM: An Unusual Sexual Fixation or Good for Your Mental Health?

shutterstock_219962833We all know that the practice of BDSM carries with it a certain amount of social stigma, even with the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and other such BDSM themed erotica. Health professionals and indeed large portions of the public have long deemed kinksters to be pathological and perverted.

The most common misconception of people who participate in BDSM is that they’re psychologically anxious and/or maladjusted; that they are acting out a past history of sexual abuse and/or they are attempting to compensate for sexual difficulties.

Personally, as a kinkster who has not been sexually abused and suffers from no ‘sexual difficulties’ I say to that…what a load of horse shit.

In 2013 BDSM was listed in the DSM-5, the definitive psychiatrist’s manual, as a paraphilia, or unusual sexual fixation — a label that caused controversy between the BDSM community and psychiatrists, who themselves are mixed on whether sexual kinks belong in a catalogue of mental disorders. As written, the DSM-5 did not label BDSM a disorder unless it causes harm to the practitioner or to others.

Some psychiatrists saw the inclusion of BDSM and/or fetishes in the manual as stigmatizing, particularly because studies have failed to show evidence that enjoying sex with a side of pain is linked to any psychological problems at all. A further study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that, in fact, BDSM practitioners may be better off psychologically than the general public.
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BDSM practitioners “either did not differ from the general population and if they differed, they always differed in the more favorable direction,” said study researcher Andreas Wismeijer, a psychologist at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands who conducted the research while at Tilburg University.

Wismeijer and his colleagues put out a request on a Dutch BDSM forum for people to take a variety of psychological questionnaires online. They also sought participants who didn’t do BDSM via a women’s magazine website, a personal secret website and a university website.

The study compared the BDSM practitioners and the control group on the Big Five personality traits – neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness – as well as on rejection sensitivity, relationship attachment styles, and subjective well-being (happiness) in the past two weeks.

People in the BDSM group were also broken down into ‘Doms’, ‘subs’, and ‘Switches’, to allow further comparisons. There were noticeable gender differences in how people assorted into these roles, which are illustrated below.

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Over three-quarters of the females were subs, switches were a distant second in, while female Doms were the minority. Roles were a little more evenly spread among the males, although Doms were most popular (who made up nearly half), followed by subs (just over a third) and then switches.

These roles showed some links to psychological health, such that Dominants tended to score highest in all quarters, submissives lowest and switches in the middle. However, submissives never scored lower than vanilla participants on mental health, and frequently scored higher, Wismeijer said.

“Within the BDSM community, [submissives] were always perceived as the most vulnerable, but still, there was not one finding in which the submissives scored less favorable than the controls,” he said.

The results revealed that on a basic level, BDSM practitioners don’t appear to be any more troubled than the general population. They were more extroverted, more open to new experiences and more conscientious than vanilla participants; they were also less neurotic, a personality trait marked by anxiety. Kinksters also scored lower than the general public on rejection sensitivity, a measure of how paranoid people are about others disliking them.

People in the BDSM scene reported higher levels of well-being in the past two weeks than people outside it AND they reported more secure feelings of attachment in their relationships. No further questions your honour…
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