What is Masochism?

What is masochism? Masochism is the opposite of sadism and a masochist derives pleasure from experiencing pain and humiliation. It is a term most often used in a sexual context, but it can easily apply to other areas of life. In psychology, masochism is a personality type who takes enjoyment from having humiliation and pain inflicted on them, often by a sadist.

What is masochistic personality disorder?

Masochistic personality disorder is not formally recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), but the criteria for diagnosis are still used by many clinicians and it is also known as self-defeating personality disorder. The disorder was first identified by Theodore Millon, an American psychologist famous for his work on personality disorders. He identified four specific sub-types of masochistic personality disorder:

  • Possessive masochist
  • Virtuous masochist
  • Self-undoing masochist
  • Oppressed masochist

The pattern of behaviour seen in people exhibiting masochistic personality traits includes deliberately avoiding or undermining pleasant or pleasurable experiences. This is typified by choosing to be in dysfunctional relationships when better options are available, or failing to accomplish personal objectives even when the ability to do is there.

What is sexual masochism?

Sexual masochism is classed as a paraphilia in the DSM-IV, along with exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, frotteurism and others. A sexual masochist finds it impossible to become aroused without experiencing or fantasising about humiliation and pain. The patient typically has recurrent sexual fantasies that feature being beaten, bound, and humiliated, and in severe cases can become obsessed to the point that their real life is affected by their sexual urges.

Sexual masochists actively enjoy being beaten, pierced, cut, verbally and physically abused, defecated and urinated on, and indeed anything that causes them pain or humiliation. Masochists often go to great lengths to achieve their fantasies. Some inflict pain on themselves, but others seek out like minded individuals and take part in group sessions.

What is masochistic hypoxyphyilia?

Hypoxyphyilia is a particularly dangerous form of sexual masochism where the person becomes sexually aroused from oxygen deprivation. The condition has hit the headlines many times as the risk of death from such a practice is high, even when the act is accomplished with the aid of another. There have even been cases of famous people falling victim to hypoxyphyilia—Michael Hutchence died as a result of a ligature around his neck during a solo session.

Masochistic sexual urges often begin in childhood and continue into adulthood. They normally centre around the same fantasy, and for some, the sexual urges escalate over time, which can lead to serious injury or even death.

What is masochism and sadomasochism?

Sadomasochism is the presence of sadistic and masochistic aspects to one personality and during the early part of the twentieth century some psychologists believed that there was an overlap between sadism and masochism. In a sexual sense, sadomasochism is linked to the BDSM scene. Here masochism is as much about submission to the will of another as it is about pain and humiliation, and sadism is more about sex play than true sadism (which is linked to psychopathy).

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