Your personality is a mixture of your inherited genes, your growing up experience, and other components of your temperament along with learned behaviors. While everyone has personality quirks, you can find it hard to function if your personality develops instabilities. This difference is called a personality disorder. Although masochistic personality disorder isn’t formally acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), some doctors still recognize and diagnose it as a personality disorder.

Here are some characteristics of a masochistic personality disorder you may find interesting.

Masochistic personality disorder defined

masochistic personality disorder
This personality disorder includes strong self-defeating characteristics with people-pleasing at your own expense and refusing to accept positive encouragement. You may struggle with self-defeat and being extremely hard on yourself. You’ll hold on to resentment rather than doing something about people who insult or hurt you. This is a common struggle for people with a masochistic personality disorder.

This personality disorder is sometimes confused with sexual sadomasochism, in which one person dominates another who submits to them. Hollywood movies like to make their characters depicted like this, but that is an exaggeration and not ordinary. The more typical masochistic personality doesn’t include this type of behavior. More often, the masochistic person wants to inflict humiliation and pain on themselves more than on others.

How did this personality disorder develop?

Sadly, this disorder often develops during childhood due to over-controlling parents. Of course, parents need to control their kids’ behavior, but this type of parent requires compliance and obedience at all times, without exception. They need to handle every situation their child is in, often resulting in not allowing their child to express their own opinions. The child may be expected to act like a little adult, fulfilling the responsibilities of the parent.

The parents’ love is a conditional kind of love. If the child behaves acceptable and performs all their responsibilities as expected, their parents will accept them. The child may get punished severely if they don’t obey. The child’s self-worth is tied to their performance. The child may gain a feeling of accomplishment by doing their household chores since they acquire the parent’s acceptance. A child who is raised often struggles with hurt and anger at their parents. They harbor bitterness at their parents but never act upon it. Simultaneously, the child will experience guilt and shame for feeling this way about their parents.

The adult masochist

Masochistic adults with this type of childhood are compliant individuals and often less creative. Their feelings of defeat are common. These adults may feel the need to be a martyr at work or home with self-sacrificial giving or servicing. This is to appease their feelings of martyrdom.

The weird thing about pain and masochistic personality disorder

You might like watching a movie that makes you feel scared, or riding a roller coaster because it makes you afraid, or you may enjoy eating spicy foods that hurt your tongue. This is standard human behavior, and scientists call it benign masochism. It’s labeled harmless because we know there’s no real danger involved in doing these things, which is a condition of benign masochists to experience pleasure. It’s typical behavior unless you are driven to this behavior too much.

Antisocial personalities like a masochistic personality disorder go beyond this benign behavior and can be destructive in nature. Studies show that masochistic and antisocial behaviors are connected. Often masochistic behavior predicts risk-taking and delinquent behavior in teenagers. These teens require a sensation-seeking experience. They will seem like fearless people and lean towards dangerous activities. They may find it rewarding to experience pain in their pursuits and rebuff acknowledgment or reward for what they’ve done.

Other characteristics of a masochistic personality disorder

There are other common characteristics associated with this disorder. This is just a shortlist, but you can still get an idea of what drives these individuals.

1 – Relationships

Masochists choose relationships that lead to disappointment and failure. You may have a friend who seems always to determine associations with people who hurt them or mistreat them. If you have this disorder, it’s expected that you will drift towards a bad relationship where you get mistreated even if there are other people you could choose. It’s frustrating for friends to watch, but it’s almost like the person can’t help themselves.

2 – Success

If you have a masochistic personality disorder, you will feel guilty about your achievements or success. If people acknowledge something you’ve done, you’ll respond with shame or depression. You need to feel bad about yourself. Frequently, suppose a masochistic person does succeed shortly afterward. In that case, they’ll have an experience that causes them pain, like having an accident or failing in an area that was very simple for them before.

3 – Refuses help

Another characteristic of this disorder is that you refuse any help from those around you. Inwardly, you are afraid of help because you feel you don’t deserve it but need to feel pain. It can be complicated for you to let go of your pain. It’s been your identity for so long. This is why therapy or counseling is so tricky.

4 – Self-induced rejection

The masochist may purposely do things to incite the anger or rejection of other people. They may mock their kids or spouse in public to provoke outrage. The masochist may feel ashamed of getting rejected by others even though their behavior caused it. They may be surprised by people’s reactions, yet like the pain of other rejection.

5 – Rejects acceptance

Masochists quickly grow tired of people who are nice to them. They will lose interest and reject these people out of frustration that they aren’t mean. They feel that they don’t deserve to be treated well.

6 – Can’t finish a task

Masochists find it hard to finish tasks even if they have the ability. Even though they won’t finish their stuff, they’ll help others get things done. This is because helping makes them feel accepted.

7 – Self-sacrificing people

A masochist chooses self-sacrifice at work, school, or home. They do things in excess to help others. Their actions may be seen as generous or unselfish, but it’s really out of a need to be accepted by others. If they receive any time of acknowledgment for them, the masochist will reject it and may end up causing themselves pain by failing at something else or getting hurt.

How do you know if you have masochistic traits?

There are some common traits of this type of personality that you may see in yourself or others. Here is a list of these traits that indicate your struggle with masochistic behaviors, according to PsychCentral.

  • Overworking: You tend to push yourself to the brink of exhaustion. You don’t set limits for yourself, but keep going until you’re ready to drop. It looks commendable but is self-destructing by nature.
  • You struggle with feeling loved: You try hard to be accepted. You’re the one who tries to remember everyone’s birthday or gives little gifts all the time. You do extra things to be sure to show your love, but you never feel loved by others.
  • You’re very critical of yourself: You push yourself to extremes to prove you are worthwhile. You feel the need to be an excellent parent, student, and co-worker. Inside your head, you’re very critical of yourself.
  • You find it difficult to say no: Perhaps you work hard to please people. You take on things not because you want to do them. But because you want to be well-liked and accepted.
  • Maybe you complain but fear trying to change things: You see something you don’t like, but you still refuse to do anything about them.
  • You endure pain: You feel like you should endure pain in relationships even though you may struggle with humiliation and shame.
  • Sometimes you feel trapped: You may feel trapped in a life of self-defeat. You may feel hopeless about your future.

How can you get help for a masochistic personality disorder diagnosis?

If you think you may be struggling with masochistic behaviors, here are some suggestions to find relief.


You may find it hard to accept help, but a good counselor will help you understand your life patterns that are causing you pain. You can learn what triggers your behavior.

Refuse your inner critic

Learning what causes you to listen to your inner critic is vital to break free from masochistic behaviors. Understanding what it sounds like and how to refuse to give in this criticism is helpful.

Take responsibility where needed

You can learn how to be in charge of your emotions and feelings without blaming others. You may feel angry about what happened to you during your childhood. There are positive ways to express your anger in a non-self destructive way.


You may need to grieve for your past. It can be helpful to work through your childhood hurts. It can be challenging to face these hurts, but if you’re working with a counselor, they can help you grieve with hope for your future.

Final thoughts on masochistic personality disorder

Having a distorted self-image is characteristic of a masochistic personality disorder. If you or someone you love have these tendencies, get help right away. It’s possible to break free from this self-defeating behavior to enjoy a life that’s not based on your performance.