Sadorexia: An Increasingly Common Eating Disorder

Have you heard of sadorexia? Here we'll tell you all about this increasingly common eating disorder among adolescents that's dangerous to their health.
Sadorexia: An Increasingly Common Eating Disorder
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Sadorexia is an increasingly common eating disorder that combines two conditions: anorexia and a set of violent sexual practices. There are still not many research trials on this subject, so the knowledge we have today about the pathology is limited.

However, it’s important to note that eating disorders and problems of a psychological nature are closely related. In fact, experts often consider eating disorders to be a psychological problem in and of themselves. It’s common for patients to show certain different or harmful behavior that require monitoring and, in some cases, treatment.

Sadorexia: An increasingly common eating disorder

As we mentioned, sadorexia combines a strong restriction of food intake with a taste for sadomasochism. In other words, violent sexual practices that involve pain. According to research published in the journal Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets, anorexia is an obsession with extreme thinness that drives the individual to drastically reduce food intake.

In turn, people with sadorexia often have a taste for certain behaviors that involve pain or physical abuse. They derive sexual pleasure from self-induced vomiting or flagellation, which leads to self-harm.

According to recent studies, this type of practice could have to do with sex hormone levels or some specific neurological patterns.

A woman with a distorted body image.
A distorted body image adds to the sadomasochism in this disorder.

To learn more: Tanorexia: When Being Tan Becomes an Obsession

The causes and detection of sadorexia

The causes of sadorexia are very diverse and not all of them are well identified. There is extreme concern about physical appearance which, along with social pressure, pushes the individual to strive for an unhealthy thinness.

There are even scientific tests that assure that eating disorders respond to a base of genetic alterations. In that light, environmental conditions could simply be the match that lights the fuse of the problem.

What’s clear is that the social context and the education a person receives condition the risk of developing this type of problem. Traumatic events experienced throughout life also provide a possible substrate for the emergence of an eating disorder of any kind.

As far as detection is concerned, there are screening and psychological tests that facilitate diagnosis. Nevertheless, only a qualified professional can perform these tests.

With these tools it’s possible to recognize the risk behaviors typical of sadorexia. It’s worth noting that the sooner detection takes place, the higher the success rate of subsequent intervention.

You may also be interested in: Diabulimia: Diabetes and Bulimia

The treatment of sadorexia

When talking about the treatment of sadorexia, it’s important to make special mention of the need for a multidisciplinary team. This team must consist of a nutritionist, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. Only by working together is it possible to reverse this condition.

In the most severe cases, when the patient shows malnutrition, hospitalization may be necessary, as we see in a publication in the Chilean Medical Journal. When malnutrition occurs, doctors will need to infuse intravenous serum enriched with nutrients to prevent serious metabolic problems.

In the case of outpatient treatment, nutritional education is essential. At first, it may be best to propose a dietary model based on minimums, which covers basic needs. From this point on, it’s important to demystify concepts and gradually include varied products in the individual’s diet.

In addition, it’s important to accompany this intervention with psychological support based on behavioral change. It’s crucial to establish pharmacology guidelines to improve mental stability and prevent excessive risk practices or suicide attempts.

Psychological treatment of eating disorders.
The treatment approach of this increasingly common eating disorder must be multidisciplinary, since it affects several areas.

Sadorexia: A recently discovered pathology

As we mentioned, sadorexia is a relatively recent disorder as regards its classification. However, it’s an increasingly common eating disorder when it comes to psychological and nutritional consultation. The treatment approach is very similar to that of any other eating disorder.

A multidisciplinary team must come together to approach the pathology from different points of view, thus producing synergy. The most serious cases may require hospitalization as it’s important to avoid long-term damage as much as possible.

Behavioral therapy and psychological therapy will greatly help to minimize risk practices that may be harmful to health. If you suspect that someone in your environment may be suffering from this problem, consult a professional as soon as possible.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gravina G., Milano W., Nebbiai G., Piccione C., et al., Medical complications in anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets, 2018. 18 (5): 477-488.
  • Neef ND., Coppens V., Huys W., Morrens M., Bondage discipline, dominance submission and sadomasochism (BDSM) from an integrative biopsychosocial perspective: a systematic review. Sex Med, 2019. 7 (2): 129-144.
  • Himmerich H., Bentley J., Kan C., Treasure J., Genetic risk factors for eating disorders: an update and insights into pathopysiology. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol, 2019.
  • Vásquez N., Urrejola P., Vogel M., An update on inpatient treatment of anorexia nervosa: practical recommendations. Rev Med Chil, 2017. 145 (5): 650-656.
  • Jáuregui-Lobera, Ignacio, and Patricia Bolaños-Ríos. “Revisión del tratamiento dietético-nutricional de la anorexia nerviosa.” Revista médica de Chile 140.1 (2012): 98-107.
  • Appolinario, Jose C., and Josue Bacaltchuk. “Tratamento farmacológico dos transtornos alimentares.” Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry 24 (2002): 54-59.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.