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The Masochist Structure (The Self-Defeating Personality)

The Masochist Structure (The Self-Defeating Personality)

Today, you’re going to learn all about the masochist structure or the self-defeating personality.

The Masochist Structure

Masochism has always been associated with feminine submissiveness.

But from a psychological perspective, the masochist is someone who presents self-defeating behaviors through which the masochist inflicts pain and humiliation on themselves.

Is it a personality disorder?

The masochistic personality structure, also called the ‘self-defeating personality’, was a proposed personality disorder.

It was discussed in an appendix of the revised third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R) in 1987, but was never formally admitted into the manual.

However, Sexual masochism that “causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” is still in DSM-IV.

Related: Inner Teenager Healing: 14 Proven Exercises to Heal Your Inner Teenager

Why Characterize The Masochist Structure Separately?

Critics claim that masochism shouldn’t be labeled as a disorder, as it is often found in disproportionate numbers in victims of abuse.

Many believe it should be simply considered as a symptom of abuse.

However, symptoms of masochism can be present in those who are not victim of abuse, can last for a very long time, and can greatly impact one’s life.

This makes it important in some cases to characterize the disorder appropriately and make sure help is accessible.

Related: How To Break Free From Emotional Abuse? (& Stop Attracting Abusive Partners)

Self-Compassion Worksheets (1)

10 Signs of The Masochist Structure

According to the definition proposed in DSM-III-R, the masochist structure or Self-defeating personality disorder is:

A) A pervasive pattern of self-defeating behavior, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts. The person may often avoid or undermine pleasurable experiences, be drawn to situations or relationships in which they will suffer, and prevent others from helping them, as indicated by at least five of the following:

  1. Chooses people and situations that lead to disappointment, failure, or mistreatment even when better options are clearly available.
  2. Rejects or makes ineffective the attempts of others to help them.
  3. Following positive personal events (e.g., new achievement), responds with depression, guilt, or a behavior that produces pain (e.g., an accident).
  4. Incites angry or rejecting responses from others and then feels hurt, defeated, or humiliated (e.g., makes fun of spouse in public, provoking an angry retort, then feels devastated).
  5. Rejects opportunities for pleasure, or is reluctant to acknowledge enjoying themselves (despite having adequate social skills and the capacity for pleasure).
  6. Fails to accomplish tasks crucial to their personal objectives despite having demonstrated ability to do so (e.g., helps fellow students write papers, but is unable to write their own).
  7. Is uninterested in or rejects people who consistently treat them well.
  8. Engages in excessive self-sacrifice that is unsolicited by the intended recipients of the sacrifice.
  9. The person may often avoid or undermine pleasurable experiences […]
  10. [and] rejects opportunities for pleasure, or is reluctant to acknowledge enjoying themselves.

B) The behaviors in A do not occur exclusively in response to, or in anticipation of, being physically, sexually, or psychologically abused.

C) The behaviors in A do not occur only when the person is depressed.

Seeking Professional Help

If you relate to the symptoms or behavior patterns listed above, consider talking with a therapist to help you stop self-sabotage and live more satisfying and functional life.

A mental health professional will help you become aware of your self-defeating behaviors, its root causes, and its impact and guide through practical steps to break free from self-sabotage.

Psychologist Locator and the National Register are two websites for locating psychologists in USA.

Online therapy is also an option. It can be much affordable than in-person therapy, but can be equally effective. (source)


By Hadiah

Hadiah is a counselor who is passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards mental well-being. Hadiah not only writes insightful articles on various mental health topics but also creates engaging and practical mental health worksheets.

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