Alternative or Mentally Ill?By Mistress Kashiko
A common misconception portrayed in the media about BDSM is that those who engage in this type of lifestyle are mentally imbalanced or unhinged. Kinksters can be regarded as mentally deficient, emotionally stunted or just downright "sick". |
There have been news stories in which BDSM came into media attention due to life threatening injuries sustained by kinksters. These stories have sex experts commenting on the dangers of kink and there is a strong undertone that BDSM is a "rarely curable pathology that afflicts those who cannot experience love and intimacy" (Sweeton, 2009).
While certain aspects of the lifestyle carry an increased risk of danger, this does not mean that those who choose it are necessarily suffering from mental illness. Classifications of mental health and illness can vary depending on your location in the world. The diagnostic manual that is used in your area is also impacted by social acceptance.
Psychology, as much as some of it is a science, is an art. The common conception of what is acceptable and considered appropriate mental health has changed and will continue to change as society changes. In previous years, for example, those who identified as gay were considered mentally ill; this has, thankfully, changed (Nichols).
In North America, mental illness is defined by the Diagnostic Statistic Manual, currently the DSM-IV-R. With each new edition of the DSM, statistic definitions are added, deleted, and modified and these criteria are the base line for diagnosis of mental disease.
When considering the mental health of someone who enjoys engaging in an alternative lifestyle some important things to remember is that the DSM does take into account that fantasies, behaviors, and sexual urges must be the source of significant anguish or distress in occupational, social, or other crucial areas of functioning to be considered a disorder (Veaux, 2011). The other important thing to remember is that when a diagnosis of mental illness is made, a person is measured on 5 different axes to determine if that person truly falls into the range of mental illness. The different axes examine diverse angles to an individual's life and each axis includes a range of specific criteria (AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc, 2004). These criteria encompasses the full spectrum of someone's life and account for more than if someone has some alternative tastes.
The DSM axes currently include:
(American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
While interest and engagement in BDSM is not a mental illness, any community can have individuals who suffer from mental illness. It is important that those who are experiencing these difficulties seek professional help for those afflictions. Research has already shown a concern that the stigma of BDSM may hinder access to mental health services (Hoff & Sprott, 2009). It is important to be supportive to your loved ones and to be willing to disclose BDSM activities to mental health professionals when it has bearing on your wellbeing and mental health.
Written November 16, 2011
ReferencesAllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc. (2004, 05 15). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Retrieved 11 01, 2011, from ALLPsych Online: http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostical Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition. Washington: American Psychiatric Association.
Hoff, G., & Sprott, R. (2009). Therapy Experiences of Clients with BDSM Sexualities:Listening to a Stigmatized Sexuality. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 12 .
Nichols, M. (n.d.). Psychology And BDSM: Pathology Or Individual Difference?.Retrieved 10 24, 2011, from Institute for Personal Growth: http://www.ipgcounseling.com/psychology_and_bdsm.html
Sweeton, J. (2009, 04 14). What's dangerous about BDSM?. Retrieved 10 25, 2011, from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-ordinary/200904/whats-dangerous-about-bdsm
Veaux, F. (2011, 10 31). What? Why? How? A brief introduction to BDSM. Retrieved 11 05, 2011, from BDSM?: http://www.xeromag.com/fvbdsm.html
Image ReferencesSomeone else's art deserves recognition! The images presented in this article were borrowed from the following places:
Image 1: http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ll0s0fGhRX1qgy0fio1_400.png | Retrieved November 16, 2011