30 Signs You Are An Emotional Masochist & What To Do (2024)

In this guide, you’ll discover the signs that you’re an emotional masochist.

You can use these signs to identify emotional masochism in yourself or those around you.

In my role as a life coach, I am often helping people better understand their own behavior and the behavior of those around them. 

That’s why I’m keen to share this guide with you. 

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So, let’s dive in.   

What Is Masochistic Behavior?

Masochism is about causing self-inflicted pain and enjoying it, either consciously or subconsciously. 

Forms Of Masochistic Behavior

Perhaps the most well-known form of masochism is sexual masochism, where one gets off on receiving pain during sex.

However, there are other forms including: 

  • Physical masochism
  • Emotional masochism
  • Economic masochism
  • Religion-based maschism 

In this guide, we’ll be focusing on the pain of emotional masochism only, although the desire to hurt oneself remains the same throughout these categories.

What Are Symptoms Of A Masochist?

With physical masochism or sexual masochism, the only symptom is physical pain to the sufferer, which they enjoy anyway. So, they’re technically not hurting anyone.

Emotional masochists make life decisions which not only harm them but those closest to them as well. You’ll see plenty of examples in the guide below.   

Is There A Mental Masochist?

Mental masochists and emotional masochists are essentially one and the same. In fact, anyone who makes decisions to intentionally make their life harder could be labelled as an emotional masochist. 

Emotional Masochist Signs

Below, you’ll find 30 of the clearest signs that you’re an emotional masochist.

1. You Hang Out With Unhappy People

Emotional masochists can’t help but hang out with other miserable  people, or people who cause them emotional pain. They might suggest it’s a forced choice, but this is rarely the case.

2. You Chase Lovers That Are Bad For You

Do you find yourself jumping between dysfunctional or even abusive relationships? One challenging relationship is a mistake, two dysfunctional relationships could be a coincidence. Any more than that is probably a subconscious choice. These difficult relationship patterns are likely to be a result of emotional masochism.

3. You Stay In Relationships That Are Bad For You

Want a clear sign that you’re an emotional masochist in a romantic sense? A big one is staying in relationships with toxic people who hurt you, even though you know this person is bad for you. 

4. You Seek Approval From Those Who Won’t Give It 

Are you the type of person who doesn’t feel inspired to engage with people who are kind? Do you feel nothing when these people compliment you? Do you instead choose to chase approval from toxic people who are mean or ignore you? This is how you end up with a cruel partner and it’s a common mistake of emotional masochists.

5. You Let People Walk All Over You

If you’re the type of person who lets toxic people walk all over you, it could be because you’re a people-pleaser who struggles to set boundaries, due to shyness or low self-esteem. However, it might also be that you’re an emotional masochist who subconsciously enjoys being treated like dirt.

6. Negative Self-Talk Fills Your Mind

Negative self-talk can be a symptom of poor self-esteem, but it’s also a habit that stems from emotional masochism.

7. You’re Blame Yourself When Things Go Wrong

A common form of self-criticism; emotional masochists are quick to blame themselves for a mishap, even if it is objectively not their fault. 

8. You Complain A Lot

Emotional masochists identify with all forms of emotional negativity. That’s why they love to complain, even though it brings down their own mood and the moods of those around them.

9. You See The Speck Of Dirt On A Glorious Landscape

Are you the type of person to point out the one imperfection of a masterpiece, whether these are beautiful objects or pleasurable experiences? Emotional masochists seem to derive pleasure from being able to spot the downside of anything.

Related: 10 Best Emotional Intelligence Coaches & Checklist

10. You Point Out When Others Do Wrong   

This is another thing that emotional masochists seem to derive subconscious pleasure from. It could be their best friends or family members and they’ll still feel the need to point out their flaws, even if this does nothing but cause emotional pain.

11. You Blame Luck When Good Things Happen To Others

This is part of an emotional masochist’s habit of creating pain in everything they see. If they witness someone achieve greatness in their lives, they automatically blame luck, rather than acknowledge the effort. Most likely, they will then begin to feel sad and complain about the bad luck they get in their lives.

12. You Thrive On Drama 

Emotionally healthy people realize that drama and gossip is bad for their mental health. Emotional masochists thrive on it.

13. You Hold Grudges

Emotionally healthy people realize it’s better for their mental health to forgive and forget. Emotional masochists prefer to hold grudges because the pain and negativity feels good to them. 

14. You Start Petty Arguments 

Do you disagree with your friends just for the sake of disagreeing? It’s another common habit of  an emotionally masochistic person.

Related Content: Emotional Reactivity – Ways To Be More Mature

15. You Start Fights In Your Relationship

Do you start arguments in your relationships, because you get turned on by the passion your partner shows. Does this sexual arousal lead to angry make-up sex? If so, you could be a sexual masochist or an emotional masochist. Either way, this isn’t good for either of your mental health in the long run.

16. You End Healthy Relationships

Do you find yourself ending happy relationships for no good reason? This form of self-sabotage is a surefire sign of emotional masochism. 

Related Content: Signs Of A Love Avoidant

17. You Go Back To The Same Toxic Lover Again And Again 

This is the next step of emotional pain that emotional masochists put themselves through. They gain romantic pleasure in pain and will keep going back to the same person for their next hit.

18. You Look For Reasons To Feel Bad When You’re Happy 

Ever notice that you’re feeling happy, only for your brain to start looking for sad things to be upset about? This unconscious choice is a clear sign of emotional masochism. It’s almost as if emotional masochists feel strange when everything is going well in their life.

Emotional Masochist
Photo By 8photo on freepik

19. You Watch Depressing Media 

Do you find yourself drawn to sad songs, depressing documentaries or tragic movies? A bit of this never hurt anyone, but if you’re always drawn to these same things, that could be a sign you’re an emotional masochist.

20. You Let Bad Experiences Define You 

If you dwell on bad experiences and let them define who you are as a person, you might be an emotional masochist.

21. You Don’t Believe You Can Follow Your Dreams 

To a certain extent, this might be a result of low self-confidence. However, it’s true that emotional masochists will create excuses not to go for what they want in life, because they prefer the comfort of emotional pain.

22. You Ignore The Solutions That Could Obviously Help You 

Perhaps when you complain about your problems, someone offers a solution. An emotional masochist will find a reason to ignore this useful advice, because they prefer to find pleasure in pain. 

23. You Tell Yourself You Can’t Change 

A classic excuse made by emotional masochists. The truth is: they don’t want to change. Their emotional attachment to pain and negativity is too strong. They like to feel inferior to others.  An emotional masochist has no time for self-improvement.

24. You Reject Support From Friends 

It’s no good offering help to an emotional masochist. They don’t want help, nor do they want a happier life. They just want to bathe in their pain and negativity.

Related Content: Emotional Attunement – A Comprehensive Guide

25. You Quit Habits That Help You Because It’s ‘Too Hard’

A lot of people with mental health issues despite having good intentions. It is hard to overcome a mental disorder. However, those with a self-defeating personality disorder such as emotional masochism tend to be the fastest to give up.

26. You Think You Deserve To Be Unhappy 

This is an excuse that emotional masochists will tell themselves to justify remaining the way they are.

27. You Sabotage Your Own Happiness

This short sentence is a defining symptom of emotional masochism. 

Why Am I An Emotional Masochist? 

28. You Were Raised By Negative Parents

Children are extremely susceptible to taking on the behaviors of their parents. As such, emotionally masochistic parents could raise their children the same way. 

29. You Were Raised To Believe You Don’t Deserve Happiness

If a parent raises a child to believe they don’t deserve happiness, they’re susceptible to believe it. This is emotional abuse. It could also occur as a result of bullying at school or from siblings

Emotional Masochist Test

30. This Emotional Masochist Test Will Help

If you’re still unsure whether you’re an emotional masochist, this online test should help.  

How Do I Stop Being An Emotional Masochist?

Self-diagnosing as someone with masochistic personality disorder is a good start. Making a pledge to stop is a good next step. Next, you must take full responsibility for your life situation and accept that it’s possible to change.  

Honestly though, it’s incredibly hard to make this journey on your own. Many masochistic tendencies are childhood wounds ingrained into our subconscious from years of negative messaging and self-punishment. It makes this pattern hard to overcome. 

The most effective way to eliminate unwanted subconscious behaviors is to seek professional help from a certified therapist. These professionals will provide a safe space to help you identify your self-sabotaging behaviors and why you do it. Most importantly, they’ll provide support to help you adopt better behavior patterns. 

Any Questions About Emotional Masochism?

Thanks for reading my list of emotionally masochistic personality traits. I hope it helped you understand this self-defeating personality disorder better.

If you have a question about this or similar mental disorders, feel free to leave a comment below. 

If you have a story about deriving pain from pleasure, I would love to hear it!

I’ll do my best to respond in good time.

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.