10 big signs you may be an emotional masochist

All of us have found pleasure in pain at some point in our lives. Sometimes we realize it, sometimes we don’t. It’s strange, but it happens. But have you ever thought that you could be an emotional masochist?

Who are emotional masochists anyway?

They are people who seek out toxic and complicated relationships again and again. Most importantly, they suffer and they enjoy it.

Emotional masochism is more common than you probably imagine. For example, a year ago, I ended up falling in love with someone who made me feel so miserable, but there was nothing I could do. I felt pleasure.

That’s when I realized emotional masochists are everywhere around us and we can even find them inside us.

Do you realize that you’re incredibly hard on yourself sometimes? Do you enjoy doing sad things even when you’re feeling happy? Are you surrounded by toxic people but do nothing about it?

These are just a few of the many signs we’re about to review that prove you may be an emotional masochist.

10 signs of emotional masochism

1) You tolerate toxic people

Our friends often tell us stories of their partners who treat them badly, neglect their needs, don’t have time for them, or control them. What is our immediate reaction to such a relationship?

“It’s toxic.”

Chances are high you will advise your friends to leave their partner as soon as possible, but unfortunately, things aren’t that easy if they’re emotional masochists.

Emotional masochists can’t set boundaries with toxic people in their life. And surprisingly, sometimes they even enjoy it. Even when this pain feels very good, you should understand that having toxic people in your life can lead to addiction. That’s when it gets even harder to get rid of them.

Do you notice your relationship gets worse and worse but you still try to get closer with your partner? Then it’s a sign that you may be an emotional masochist. And it’s a sign that you need to move on.

2) You constantly criticize yourself

“I’m not good enough”; “I will be alone forever”; “I’m a bad person”; “I’m a terrible friend”…

Admit it. How many times have you told something like that to yourself in the past week? If these kinds of judging phrases look familiar, then you need to stop.


Because self-criticism is a sign of emotional masochism.

If you think that negative self-talk helps you to deal with your emotions, you need to know that you’re wrong. Actually, studies prove that constantly criticizing yourself makes you feel devastated and leads to depression and anxiety.

Emotional masochists believe that if something goes wrong, it’s their fault. They are certain that nobody needs them in their lives and they can’t do anything about it but judge themselves or worse, hate themselves.

If you feel weird pleasure in the process of judging yourself, you might be an emotional masochist. In any way, try to understand that you don’t deserve any of these self-critical remarks!

3) You tend to end happy relationships

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What’s better than chatting with your friends about your hobbies or sharing food with your loved ones? Happy relationships are something everybody aims for, right?

No, actually that’s not right and this is unfortunate. Some people have an unusual tendency to end healthy relationships with their friends or partners so that they can end up with someone who treats them badly.

That’s who we call emotional masochists. Even if someone tries to be funny and treats them with respect, emotional masochists feel they are not their type. Instead, they remain with toxic people who hurt their feelings.

However strange it may seem, emotional masochists often end happy relationships for the sake of unhealthy ones.

4) You deliberately listen to depressing music and do sad things

Do you like listening to sad songs while you feel depressed? A lot of people do. Sometimes we feel the need to let it hurt to release the feelings. Did you know that a little sadness can actually bring great enjoyment?

But with emotional masochists, it’s a bit different. They don’t take part in sad activities because they want to feel better. Instead, they deliberately listen to sad music, take long walks at night alone or watch dramatic movies because they want to feel the pain. They want to feel bad.

Don’t worry, because there’s nothing wrong with listening to sad songs. Just keep in mind that if you’re not an emotional masochist, you should feel better afterward.

5) You find it hard to trust people

Trust issues are very common in general.

People betray us multiple times. They hurt us and disappoint us, which makes it difficult to trust. But emotionally stable people recognize that we shouldn’t generalize this feeling to everyone around us.

But what if no one has ever deceived you but you still find it hard to trust? Do you have a strange sensation that people are out there to get you? Or have you noticed that strangers have untrustworthy looks on their faces? If your answer is yes, then you may be an emotional masochist.

Emotional masochists have difficulty trusting people and it’s painful.

It’s painful, but they’re used to this pain. And sometimes, they need to feel this pain.

6) You stay in relationships that make you feel bad and aren’t going to get better

Now you already know that tolerating toxic people is a sign of being an emotional masochist. But sometimes people find excuses for bearing with toxic people.

“It will get better”, “He’s having a hard time”, “I have known her for too long and I love her the way she is”…

These are just some of the excuses. But did you know that emotional masochists also tend to stay in relationships even if they’re certain it’s not going to get any better?

Being around toxic people when you don’t realize their bad influence can be fine. But why do you maintain a relationship that is doomed from the beginning?

The answer is simple if you’re an emotional masochist.

7) You do things you don’t want to do

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How many times have you scrolled through social media even when it makes you unhappy? You feel inferior to others but you continue to follow Instagram influencers.

You know looking at the photos of your ex will make you feel sad, but you still can’t help stalking their Facebook page. You realize that watching the same movie all over again makes you more and more miserable, but you still go on.

Does this mean you enjoy feeling pain?

Probably, yes. Doing things you don’t want to do is another sign of being an emotional masochist. While many people try to motivate themselves to do things they don’t want to do, with emotional masochists, it’s completely otherwise.

If you like the bad sensation when you force yourself to stay up at night again or have dinner with people you don’t like, you may be an emotional masochist.

8) You start fights for no particular reason

How often do you fight with your family members when you don’t have anything to complain about? Sometimes people just can’t control their impulses. But other times, they deliberately start fights for no particular reason and enjoy it.

That’s the case with emotional masochists.

The problem is that once the fight starts, it never stops. Why? Because emotional masochists enjoy the painful outcomes of these arguments. Actually, they start fighting in order to feel pain in the first place. That’s why it’s hard to resolve the conflict with them.

They try hard to keep the argument on and on.

They can fight everywhere, about everything.

If you’re an emotional masochist, you should know that the hidden reason behind this impulse activity is that fighting is a coping mechanism for the emotional investments you put into this relationship. You try to bring your emotions back by arguing with people even if they didn’t do anything wrong.

9) You look for reasons to feel bad when you’re happy

Have you ever been called a “drama queen”?

We call these people “drama queens,” people who vitally need sadness to survive. They typically act dramatically in all types of situations, even when nothing sad is happening.

Bursting into tears when something minor is happening is quite familiar with emotional masochists as well. Although the situation may seem stable, they never get tired of looking for new problems.

Do they enjoy having problems?

Not really. The reason is that emotional masochists need action in their lives. They want to feel something. And most of the time, they prefer to feel pain rather than to feel nothing at all.

So, the fact that people are calling you a drama queen could be a sign of being an emotional masochist.

10) You reject people who try to support you

And the final sign of being an emotional masochist is pushing away people who try to support you or make you feel happy.

Why would you reject somebody who tries to take care of you? Why don’t you like it when they try to get closer to you? Don’t you like to feel loved?

No, just like everyone,  emotional masochists like to feel loved. However, they never let people close to them, so nobody manages to express their love towards emotional masochists.

The reason why emotional masochists reject supportive people is that these people try to help them ease the pain. But the problem is that they don’t want to ease the pain. They want to feel it.

However, you need supportive people around you to feel more comfortable in your own skin. And accepting yourself is vital for psychological well-being, even when you’re an emotional masochist.

Are these signs familiar to you?

Believe it or not, if these signs apply to you, chances are high that you’re an emotional masochist. However, nothing’s wrong with being an emotional masochist.

Just try to keep in mind that feeling emotional pain is okay as long as it’s not too intensive. In order to feel better, you should accept yourself as you are and get comfortable with yourself.

But remember. Working on yourself to make positive changes is never late. Treating yourself with respect is the best thing you can do for self-growth.

Picture of Nato Lagidze

Nato Lagidze

Nato is a writer and a researcher with an academic background in psychology. She investigates self-compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological well-being, and the ways people make decisions. Writing about recent trends in the movie industry is her other hobby, alongside music, art, culture, and social influences. She dreams to create an uplifting documentary one day, inspired by her experiences with strangers.

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