BDSM & Mental Health - The Lust Lab

BDSM & Mental Health

BDSM & Mental Health

BDSM is surrounded by many misconceptions. Not unusual, considering it’s not openly talked about. BDSM is perceived as hostile and frightening by many people or labelled as abnormal, unhealthy, unsafe and harmful.

Popular culture somehow always manages to put BDSM in a negative light. In dramas such as Law & Order and Crime Scene Investigations BDSM practitioners are portrayed as rough, shameful outlaws. In The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy Christian Grey appears as a controlling and possessive character, whose passion for kink is directly related to the abuse he suffered as a child.

Results of recent studies about the effects of BDSM on body and mind are revealing many of its benefits.

Implications that people engage in BDSM as a result of vulnerable mental health or being subjected to abuse have been found to be wrong by various studies, which show that BDSM practitioners have an above-average psychological health.
A 2013 study at Tilburg University put the assumption that BDSM practitioners are suffering from mental health disorders to the test. The results showed that compared to non-practitioners, people engaging in BDSM had higher subjective well-being and were:

  • less neurotic
  • more extraverted
  • more open to new experiences and
  • less sensitive to rejection

Psychologist and study researcher Andreas Wismeijer said that BDSM practitioners “either did not differ from the general population, and if they differed, they always differed in the more favourable direction.”

The outcomes also suggest to “think of BDSM as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes.”

A preliminary study concluded that “BDSM activities facilitate role-specific altered states of consciousness and that individuals pursue BDSM for non pathological reasons including the pleasant altered states of consciousness these activities are theorized to produce.”

A study from 2009 reported reductions in psychological stress and increases in relationship closeness in couples, after engaging in sadomasochistic activities.
The physical risk many BDSM activities involve result in an increase of intimacy when they are practiced.

Patricia Johnson, award-winning co-author of Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy, and Long-term Love says: “If someone is going to bind your wrists or tie you to a Saint Andrew’s cross and flog you, there has to be a high level of trust at work. This is also why you should seek instruction before trying anything but the mildest forms of kinky play.”


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