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Masochism - Types, Traits, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Masochism is a psychosexual disorder where a person gains pleasure by eliciting pain. For more information, continue reading.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella

Published At November 11, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 11, 2022

What Is Masochism?

Masochism is a psychosexual disorder where a person gains satisfaction and pleasure through the infliction of pain. The disorder is named after Chevalier Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian who first described the satisfaction and pleasure he derived by being beaten up or humiliated.

The degree of pain varies amongst masochists (a person who derives pleasure from pain), from humiliation to violence. Still, these people often have control over the situation and do not exceed the levels that can physically harm themselves or their partners. The term masochism is often associated with sadism, as these individuals mainly obtain sexual pleasure by causing pain or violence to their partners; these individuals often alter their roles as they feel aroused by inflicting pain and experiencing pain in different instances.

What Are Types of Masochism?

Sigmund Freud classified masochism as follows:

Erotogenic: This is the most basic type of Masochism and is associated with pleasure in experiencing pain. Erotogenic Masochism is considered the foundation of the other two types of Masochism. Erotogenic Masochism or sexual Masochism derives sexual pleasure or excitement by either abusing themselves by:

  • Binding themselves.

  • Piercing.

  • Applying mild electrical shocks.

  • Burning themselves (using candle wax or other burns).

They even involve partners to obtain sadistic pleasure, which includes activities like:

  • Bound.

  • Blindfolded.

  • Spanked.

  • Humiliated by being urinated on.

  • Forced to cross-dress.

  • Part of simulated rape.

Feminine: Feminine Masochism is a complex phenomenon where masochist desires are fulfilled by treating partners or themselves like a child brings pleasure to the person. This type of Masochism involves acts like punishing and other childlike behaviors.

Moral: Moral Masochism is based more on self-suffering than pleasing others; these people gain satisfaction by pushing their limits and strength and bearing pain.

How Does a Masochistic Personality Develop?

Masochistic or self-defeating personality is commonly observed in children with a strict childhood or over-controlling parents. Research has found that the parents of masochists usually do not give their children any freedom of expression or decision-making; these parents expect complete obedience and discipline.

The children are loved only when they present expected behaviors. These children grow up very stubborn and have aggressive behaviors as they hold grudges and wish revenge but cannot do so due to a lack of power. This mental war affects the personality of an individual. Masochists often complain, are least creative, and have stagnant or stunted social and professional growth.

What Are Masochistic Personality Traits?

Following are the behavioral patterns which, when observed in oneself or others, a person can be determined as masochistic:

  • Overworked: These individuals work to a limit and beyond by pushing themselves to meet the targets. These behaviors are self-abusive in a way.

  • Humiliation: Masochists feel humiliated from the inside but never express how they feel about themselves.

  • Unloved: These individuals always feel like nobody loves them and always put in extra effort to be accepted by everyone around them.

  • Have Solid Built: Physical stature proves the defense to abuse or a history of childhood abuse.

  • Difficulty in Denying: It is impossible for a masochist to say no to anyone or anything; instead, these individuals put in extra effort to prove their worth.

  • Weaning: Complaining nature is observed commonly amongst these people; they complain a lot but never find solutions to their problems.

  • Abusive Relationships: These individuals continue to be in abusive or toxic relationships where they are abused or humiliated. They consider it as a way of maintaining pride.

  • Guilt: These individuals feel trapped and find it difficult to enjoy without guilt being accompanied.

How Is Masochism Diagnosed?

The diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has defined certain guidelines and criteria for diagnosing Masochism. These guidelines include

  • Physical behaviors were the patient-reported repeated and intense arousal on being humiliated, beaten, bound, or abused.

  • Their fantasies, intense urges, or behaviors become an embarrassment and cause significant distress or impair functioning at work and in social situations.

  • The condition has been present for more than six months.

How to Get Over Masochism?

Masochism is a mental disorder, but to some extent, satisfaction with slight pain is a part of human nature and is considered normal. But when this urge is beyond control and affects personal life, it is important to seek help from the partner by discussing desires, thoughts, and fantasies, as most partners understand and help overcome the problem. In cases where the disorder is not cured by discussion or self-control, help can be taken from organizations with certified sex therapists who can guide in reducing masochistic behaviors and help in safety planning and treating underlying mental health disorders, if any are present.

How Are Masochistic Disorders Treated?

Masochistic disorders are self-diagnosed and do not require treatment if the physical symptoms, urge, and fantasies are controllable. But psychotherapy is the most common treatment method in cases of distress or impairment. Such patients are counseled and trained to control their sexual desires and fantasies.

Medications: Various medications are used to control compulsive behaviors. These medications include

  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants treat various mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. These medications do not help overcome masochistic behaviors directly but help control thoughts and lower sex drive.

  • Androgens: These medications reduce the levels of sex hormones like testosterone, which help control the sex drive and are considered an effective therapy.

Sex Therapy: Sex therapy is a treatment method where a person is analyzed and guided to overcome social distress. The therapist discusses the social and psychological history; the therapist will explore the onset and cause of the symptom and use it to eliminate the cause and control the sexual desires. The therapist may also assess and focus on the following:

  • Safety planning and harm reduction to employ when engaging in BDSM activities

  • Skills for navigating urges as they arise and mindfulness exercises or self-soothing techniques for reducing distress

  • Co-occurring psychological conditions, such as mood disorders.


Masochistic behaviors are mental disorders where a person derives pleasure from experiencing or eliciting pain. These disorders have onset during early adulthood and may progress with age if left unnoticed. Individuals should address the disorders themselves or their partners to prevent severe, life-threatening violent activities.

Frequently Asked Questions


Provide an Illustration of Masochism.

An example of masochism could involve a person deriving pleasure or satisfaction from experiencing physical or emotional pain or discomfort. This might manifest in various ways, such as enjoying intense sensation play during BDSM activities or taking pleasure in challenging situations that most people find unpleasant. Masochism can encompass various preferences and behaviors related to seeking gratification through discomfort or suffering.


How Does a Sadist Differ From a Masochist?

A sadist and a masochist are two distinct roles within BDSM and related contexts. A sadist finds pleasure in inflicting physical or psychological pain on another person consensually, while a masochist derives pleasure from receiving that pain or experiencing discomfort. These roles are often explored in a controlled and consensual manner in BDSM practices.


What Does Masochism Entail in a Sexual Context?

Being a masochist is not inherently negative. It's a part of human sexuality, and individuals with masochistic tendencies can engage in consensual activities that bring them pleasure and satisfaction. What's crucial is that any such activities are practiced safely, with clear consent, and within boundaries that both parties are comfortable with, respecting each other's well-being and limits.


Who Is a Well-Known Figure Associated with Masochism?

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the Austrian writer, is a famous figure associated with masochism. He is best known for his novel "Venus in Furs," which explored themes of dominance and submission. Sacher-Masoch's name inspired the term "masochism" itself, though scholars have debated his personal life and preferences.


Is Being a Masochist Considered Negative?

Whether being a masochist is considered "bad" depends on individual perspectives and how it affects one's well-being and relationships. Some people engage in consensual BDSM practices that involve elements of masochism and find them fulfilling and enjoyable. However, suppose masochistic tendencies lead to physical or emotional harm, interfere with daily life, or cause distress. In that case, seeking professional help or exploring healthier ways to cope with these desires may be worth it. It's essential to prioritize safety, consent, and open communication in any exploration of masochistic inclinations.


What Are the Signs That Indicate Someone May Be a Masochist?

Determining if you're a masochist involves introspection and self-awareness. Masochism typically means deriving sexual or emotional pleasure from experiencing pain or humiliation. Reflect on your feelings, desires, and responses to various situations to see if these tendencies align with masochistic characteristics. It can also be helpful to discuss your feelings and experiences with a therapist or a trusted confidant who can provide guidance and support in understanding your desires and managing them in a healthy and consensual manner.


Can Women Also Experience Masochistic Tendencies?

Yes, both men and women can be masochists. Masochism is not limited by gender; it's a personal inclination or preference for deriving pleasure from pain or humiliation. Like any other aspect of human sexuality, it varies from individual to individual and can be found in people of all genders and sexual orientations.


Is There a Female Equivalent to Masochism?

There isn't a specific "female version" of masochism. Masochism is a term that applies to both men and women and refers to the enjoyment of pain or humiliation in a sexual or emotional context. Individuals of any gender can experience masochistic tendencies or interests. It's important to remember that human sexuality is diverse, and preferences can vary widely among individuals.


Is It Possible to Treat or Alleviate Masochistic Tendencies?

Masochism is generally considered a part of an individual's sexual orientation or preferences, and it's not something that can be "cured" in the traditional sense. Instead, it's important to focus on understanding and managing one's masochistic tendencies in a healthy and consensual manner. Suppose masochism is causing distress or harm in a person's life. In that case, they may benefit from seeking therapy or counseling to explore their desires, develop coping strategies, and establish boundaries in their relationships to ensure safe and consensual experiences. 


At What Stage in Life Can Masochistic Tendencies Develop?

Masochistic tendencies can develop at various stages of life, often emerging during adolescence or early adulthood as individuals explore their sexuality and emotional preferences. However, there's no fixed age for their onset, as they can also surface later in life due to personal experiences, self-discovery, or changing relationship dynamics. It's crucial to approach such inclinations with self-awareness and, if necessary, seek professional guidance to ensure they are understood and managed in a healthy and consensual manner.


Is It Possible to Treat or Alleviate Masochistic Tendencies?

Masochism is generally considered a part of an individual's sexual orientation or preferences, and it's not something that can be "cured" in the traditional sense. Instead, it's important to focus on understanding and managing one's masochistic tendencies in a healthy and consensual manner. Suppose masochism is causing distress or harm in a person's life. In that case, they may benefit from seeking therapy or counseling to explore their desires, develop coping strategies, and establish boundaries in their relationships to ensure safe and consensual experiences. 
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Dr. Siva Anoop Yella
Dr. Siva Anoop Yella



sexual disorders
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