Facts & Info

Mental Health Benefits of BDSM

Man Kissing Blindfolded Woman

In a recent Savage Love post, the most famous sex advice columnist in the world responded to a young kinkster worried about Mother’s disavowal of her lifestyle.

Though she had kept her private life private, Mother read her journal of self-discovery to sexual fulfillment in BDSM play. Dan blasted Mother for invading her adult child’s trust and privacy. He also made a surprising claim: contrary to popular opinion, Freud, and the current diagnostic manual of psychiatry, people who practice sadomasochism have better mental health than vanillas.

Is it true? Is it possible that we are ahead of people with a more basic boudoir repertoire than ours?

It’s an unfortunate fact that those of us who actively use our wild and kinky imaginations in bed are often faced with the idea that there’s something wrong with us. Reactions from family, society, and sociology range from “something’s not quite right” to sick, perverted, and twisted. My cavalier response has always been, “so, that’s a bad thing?”

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The best defense is to keep our business to ourselves. Like anyone else, what we do in bed is between us and our partners. I’m not going to define myself by what someone else thinks, especially when the most interesting, and therefore sexiest, people share my curiosities! Still, it would be nice to know science is on my side.

Is it? I had to find out!

Bondage Benefits
Savage cites “Bondage Benefits: BDSM Practitioners Healthier Than ‘Vanilla’ People.” Contrary to their inclusion among psychiatric diagnoses, kinky people are more extroverted, more open to new experiences, less neurotic, less sensitive of rejection, and less paranoid than vanillas.

Though Dutch researcher Andreas Wismeijer pointed to possible pitfalls in any study, such as people responding in ways that skew the outcome of their answers, he suggested some reasons we might be healthier. One was better awareness of our sexual needs, which means less frustration in sex.

The Joy of Consent
More recently, researchers at University of Alabama and University of Central Florida made similar findings about the benefits of BDSM. Dr. Robert J. Cramer found that folks who explore kink sexually had less depression and anxiety than vanilla people, and have very low incidence of being a danger to themselves or others.

Even though half of the study participants had been victims of abuse during their lifetimes, very few perpetuated violence against others. Even though BDSM involves power and pain, it is centered around consent. Conclusion? Role playing and re-enactment games in a consensual setting are healthy outlets that negate the guilt and shame that come from repression. Focusing on exchange between consenting partners means folks can work through a variety of issues about power and control, providing cathartic, positive experiences that help heal the wounds of negative events.

Trust and Intimacy
Sex is exciting because, in addition to sharing pleasure and having fun with our partners, we are also vulnerable and take risks physically and emotionally. The increased intensity of BDSM intensifies the trust and intimacy between partners. When experiences are positive and consensual, the higher the intensity and risk, the more trust is required.

Chemistry
Any sexual exchange involves chemistry, of course, releasing a wide variety of hormones and other chemicals that increase well-being. Intense sexual practices involve even more intense chemical release, including vasopressin and oxytocin, which promote human bonding. Dopamine and serotonin levels are also increased by sex, and even more intense in BDSM sex. This pair is vital to stress reduction and good mental health.

How do you think BDSM and kink affect your mental health?

Tell us what you think!

Tell us what you think!

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