The Self Defeating Masochistic Personality

Life is tough enough without making things even more difficult. Some people, however, deliberately put obstacles in their own way, seem to court suffering, and need to fail. Such individuals are called masochistic personalities, though they were termed "self-defeating" personalities in the DSM-III-R. Cursed with an uncanny sense for defeating themselves, they routinely set sail for stormy weather and call down setback, loss, frustration, and grief on themselves. When they do experience good fortune, they react with confusion or displeasure and secretly frown at the joy that others might feel for them. Real accomplishments they attribute to luck, specifically to avoid a sense of pride. Paradoxically, they may willingly contribute to the achievements of others, while subtly undermining progress toward their own goals. In love, they often discard genuinely caring persons as tiresome or boring, turn otherwise ordinary mates into persecutors, and seem subtly attracted to those who are insensitive or even sadistic (see Case 15.1).

The self-defeating or masochist is thus fundamentally different from the other personality disorders, who want to succeed, however subjectively success is defined, but

Theresa entered the therapist's office with downcast eyes, slumped shoulders, and a blotchy face, as if she had been crying recently.1 She had come at her husband's suggestion. While arranging the appointment, he mentioned that she might be depressed, but followed up with a curious statement: "She torments herself . . . she's been this way for as long as I've known her . . . she seems to live for it. I hope you can help her, but even if you do, she'll probably find a way to turn it around." "Don't let her enjoy herself too much," he added sarcastically, "or you might make her suicidal."

Theresa looks younger than her 21 years. Her expression and posture are that of a young child about to be punished for doing something wrong. Although she could be quite attractive, this is overshadowed by her self-effacing mannerisms and takes some time to notice. She begins by apologizing in advance, "I shouldn't be taking up your time when you could be helping other people." She notes further, "Nothing can be done for me, I was meant to suffer."

Theresa is the older of two girls raised by their mother. Her father abandoned the family before they were old enough to remember him. Her mother was loving, but so busy working two jobs that the girls saw her only a few minutes each day. Nevertheless, the family was stable until, as an adolescent, Theresa developed recurrent infections that required repeated hospitalizations. Because her mother was the sole source of income, the family was usually broke trying to pay the bills. Now, her mother has no money saved for retirement, and neither child has a college fund. Theresa accepts full responsibility and feels unbearably guilty. "My mom basically worked her life away trying to keep me healthy," she says through the tears.

Though she has worked very hard, things somehow never work out for Theresa. She goes to school, works a full-time job, and takes care of the house, but sees herself as incompetent regardless of the effort put forth. "Everything I touch falls apart." she says. Her performance at work is excellent, but she "forgets" to ask for a lighter load during midterms and has to call in sick, angering her coworkers. Then, her hard-fought grades sag because she allows herself to be scheduled for overtime during finals week. Sometimes, she takes classes that are too hard without the necessary prerequisites and has to give up and withdraw, forfeiting her effort completely. When her husband volunteers to find her a tutor and do the housework, she refuses, saying she doesn't want to burden him with responsibilities that are rightfully hers. Yet, despite her work, she always finds time to send birthday and holiday cards and even volunteers at church, but complains that no one follows up on her offers of friendship because she is always depressed.

If something does go right, Theresa refuses to celebrate, or else celebrates, but refuses to have a good time, and works extra hard for the next few weeks. "Christmas and birthdays are the worst, her husband states. "It's terrible watching her try to get out from under the burden of all the gifts, most of which she returns. One time I got pissed off, and all I could think of was telling her she won the lottery."

1 Numbers mark aspects of the case most consistent with DSM criteria, and do not necessarily indicate that the case "meets" diagnostic criteria in this respect.

Self-Defeating Personality Disorder DSM-III-R Criteria

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 he or she will suffer, and prevent others from helping him or her, 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 renders ineffective the attempts of others to help him or her

(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 himself or herself (despite having adequate social skills and the capacity for pleasure)

(6) fails to accomplish tasks crucial to his or her personal objectives despite demonstrated ability to do so, e.g., helps fellow students write papers, but is unable to write his or her own

(7) is uninterested in or rejects people who consistently treat him or her well, e.g., is unattracted to caring sexual partners

(8) engages in excessive self-sacrifice that is unsolicited by the intended recipients of the sacrifice

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.

Reproduced with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition Revised. Copyright 1987 American Psychiatric Association.

find themselves tripped up again and again by their traits. Masochists trip themselves up, often at the very edge of success, and are willing to work hard at it, if necessary. In a perverse elaboration on Descartes, the masochist's motto is, "I hurt, therefore I am" (Shainess, 1987).

The meaning and acceptance of masochism have waxed and waned over time. As a term, it is a recent invention, having been coined in 1896 by German neurologist Krafft-Ebing as a sexual perversion to describe males who were impotent unless subjected to abuse or humiliation. The concept of a class of persons who seem to enjoy suffering as an orientation to life, however, has been around for centuries. The meaning of the term has since broadened to fit the concept so that most contemporary clinicians, especially those who are psychodynamic, are as familiar with the masochistic personality as they are with any other diagnostic entity. In 1987, it was provisionally described in the appendix of the revised third edition of the DSM as the self-defeating personality.

True to its name, the disorder ran into difficulties almost immediately. Despite its origin, masochism has historically been thought of as an extension of the feminine and submissive. The classical psychodynamic notion is that masochistic personalities unconsciously encourage and enjoy the abuse they receive. The empirical fact is that most cases of domestic violence are perpetrated by males. When these two are brought together, the result is a political powder keg. At least partially for this reason, the disorder was dropped from the DSM-IV Nevertheless, it continues to enjoy widespread currency among clinicians as a construct that explains a great many facets of human behavior. Moreover, a number of studies suggest that the disorder is common (Kass, 1987; J. Reich, 1987), and its existence is predicted by the evolutionary model.

As an example of a masochistic personality, consider the case of Theresa. Her husband's comments set up the diagnosis, made even more dramatic by the fact that they are volunteered. Thus, we learn that Theresa torments herself, it's the pattern of her life, and "she seems to live for it" (see criterion 1). She even takes classes that are too difficult, without having the necessary prerequisites, forcing her to give up, withdraw, and waste her time and effort. Like most masochistic personalities, Theresa rejects the assistance that others offer (see criterion 2). When she gets herself in trouble in her classes, her husband offers to find a tutor for her, but she refuses under the thin excuse of not wanting to burden him, thus ensuring a bad outcome. When good things happen to her, she finds a way to undermine their effects (see criterion 3). For example, she refuses to celebrate the good or celebrates but refuses to enjoy it. She even returns most of her Christmas gifts to the store. Her husband even warns the therapist not to "let her enjoy herself too much, or you might make her suicidal." Although he is being sarcastic, the meaning of his words is clear. Theresa also punishes herself by failing to accomplish her personal goals (see criterion 6). "Everything I touch falls apart," she states. In fact, she uses work to impose on her school performance, and she uses school to impose on her work performance. Like most masochists, she is also excessively self-sacrificing (see criterion 8). She always finds time to send cards on important events and volunteers for church and then complains that no one seems to want her as a friend.

Given the portrait of Theresa, we are now in a position to approach additional issues that form the plan of this section. First, we compare normality and abnormality; then we move on to variations on the basic masochistic theme. These sections form the core of what is scientific in personality. By seeking to explain what we observe in character sketches like Theresa's, the goal is to move beyond literary anecdote. As always, we present history and description side by side, giving special attention to the several subtypes of each of the disorders discussed in the sections. Next, the section "Evolutionary Neurodevelopmental Perspective" shows how the existence of the personality disorder follows from the laws of evolution. Also included are a contrast between the masochistic and other theory-derived constructs and a discussion of how masochistic personalities tend to develop Axis I disorders.

From Normality to Abnormality

Although such persons would seem extremely rare, masochistic traits are as ubiquitous as guilt and, therefore, are easily found on a continuum with normality. In their normal expression, they can be considered adaptive, idealized, and, perhaps, almost saintly. The self-sacrificing style (Oldham & Morris, 1995) live to serve and to be helpful to others. When they are allowed to give selflessly of themselves, everything is right with the world. Forever putting others above themselves, they have a reputation for being kind, considerate, and charitable. Always forgiving, they believe that people should be accepted and appreciated for who and what they are, not judged harshly by some extrinsic or legalistic standard. Although they willingly shoulder the burdens of life for those they love, they feel uncomfortable when their good deeds are singled out for praise, honestly believing that no thanks or recognition is necessary.

Moving closer toward pathology, Millon et al. (1994) describe the yielding style, individuals who usually possess abilities far in excess of what they lay claim to but nevertheless prefer to remain deferential and unassuming. They avoid displaying their real talents and abilities and instead place themselves in an inferior light to avoid any hint of competition. Sometimes, they seem to encourage others to take advantage of them. Although such traits have historically been associated with women, in fact, they are just as likely to be found in males (Stone, 1993).

Another way of creating a more normal masochistic personality style is by normalizing the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-III-R. Whereas individuals with the disorder seem to seek out disappointment, failure, or mistreatment (see criterion 1), those with the style do not. Whereas the disordered individual rejects or undoes the assistance of others (see criterion 2), the style tends to focus on the welfare of others before self. Whereas the disordered responds with negative emotions after positive personal events (see criterion 3), the style prefers to remain humble and resists taking public credit for accomplishments. Whereas the disordered sometimes deliberately provokes anger or rejection from others (see criterion 4), the style is charitable and deferential, sometimes to the point of indulging misbehavior. Whereas the disordered refuses pleasurable activities (see criterion 5), the style enjoys activities that fall short of self-serving hedonism. Whereas the disordered fails to accumulate personal accomplishments despite adequate ability (see criterion 6), the style prefers to work behind the scenes in devotion to the achievements of others. Whereas the disordered rejects legitimate sources of nurturance (see criterion 7), the style is sometimes too indulgent in trying to bring out the positive in others. Whereas the disordered is excessively self-sacrificing (see criterion 9), the style is fulfilled by putting others before self, but not pathologically so. For each of the preceding applicable contrasts, Theresa falls more toward the pathological side.

Variations of the Masochistic Personality

Not every masochistic personality is like our guilty wife. In fact, although Theresa does not exhibit all the diagnostic criteria of the masochistic personality, she is, nevertheless, more of a pure type, meaning that she does not combine characteristics of any other disorders with her basic masochistic pattern. Masochists often exhibit features of other personality disorders, however. The resulting moods and actions that these individuals manifest give a different coloration to the basic masochistic pattern that makes them similar to, yet different from, pure cases like Theresa's. Variants of the masochistic personality are summarized in Figure 15.1. Actual cases may or may not fall into one of these combinations.

The Self-Undoing Masochist

Classical psychoanalysis views the masochist as actively and repetitively searching for circumstances that lead to suffering or even destruction. From the outside, such persons seem gratified by misfortune, failure, or humiliation, preferring instead to be disgraced, victimized, or even ruined. Driven by a "success neurosis," they experience favorable outcomes as producing anxiety and guilt, not pleasure and happiness.

Virtuous

(histrionicfeatures) Proudly unselfish, self-denying, and self-sacrificial; self-ascetic; weighty burdens are judged noble, righteous, and saintly; others must recognize loyalty and faithfulness; gratitude and appreciation expected for altruism and forbearance.

(negativisticfeatures) Bewitches and ensnares by becoming jealous, overprotective, and indispensable; entraps, takes control, conquers, enslaves, and dominates others by being sacrificial to a fault; control by obligatory dependence.

ATS AVD CPL DEP HST NAR SZD STL PAR BDL DPR NEG

Masochistic

Self-undoing

(avoidantfeatures) Is "wrecked by success"; experiences "victory through defeat"; gratified by personal misfortunes, failures, humiliations, and ordeals; eschews best interests; chooses to be victimized, ruined, disgraced.

Oppressed

(depressivefeatures) Experiences genuine misery, despair, hardship, anguish, torment, illness; grievances used to create guilt in others; resentments vented by exempting from responsibilities and burdening "oppressors."

FIGURE 15.1 Variants of the Masochistic Personality.

Rather than suffer success, self-undoing masochists search out failure or punishment, subtly reversing their good fortune. Seemingly striving hard for accomplishment, they either stop just short of its attainment or manufacture some means of proving themselves unable to follow through. Covertly, they are gratified by their own defeat (Schneider, 1923/1950). Fearing things will suddenly turn sour, they would rather be pitied as an unfortunate victim of circumstance than as someone who had striven hard but failed. Failure may bring on a sense of relief that they must no longer live up to some standard. As such, they combine aspects of the masochistic and avoidant personalities.

The Possessive Masochist

Like other masochists, possessive masochists give constantly of themselves. However, they are unable to let go of their attachments. Instead, they become so indispensable and self-sacrificing that others are unable to withdraw from them without feeling incredibly cruel. Others become entrapped and dominated by a dependency driven by the fulfillment of their every need. Through ostentatious sacrifices, possessive masochists intrude into the daily affairs of their children, spouses, friends, and peers, meddling in activities, romance, occupation, and anywhere else they can obtain a foothold. Ostensibly altruistic acts create grounds for inducing guilt in others, which may be used to prevent them from distancing or ending the relationship. Mates are overprotected and jealously guarded, bribed for love, and controlled through guilt. In effect, they become self-sacrificing vampires whose kindness bleeds their victims dry.

The Oppressed Masochist

As a combination of the depressed (see later in this chapter) and masochistic personalities, oppressed masochists mope around complaining of their terrible condition but end by saying, "But don't let my suffering make you worry about me; do what is best for you." In one voice, they disavow any need for assistance and explain that they do not want to burden others, yet present themselves as having suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. Anyone who comes to their aid eventually feels emotionally drained and guilty, made to feel as if moving on with his or her own life was an abandonment. Hypochondriacal manipulations may come to the fore when no other method of gaining love and dependence seems available. Becoming a sorrowful invalid is a rather pathetic solution, a genuine but self-created suffering that forces others to be caring and nurturing. Oppressed masochists do not necessarily enjoy their suffering; their discomforts are merely an instrumentality designed to secure pity and assistance.

The Virtuous Masochist

As a combination of the histrionic and masochistic personalities, virtuous masochists are proudly unselfish and self-sacrificial. Self-denial, asceticism, and stoic tolerance of adversity are seen as noble and righteous, a sign of purity and saintliness, the glorification of misery. Rather than accept the inferior status of other masochists, they assert their specialness by sacrificing themselves completely to others or for some meritorious cause, all the while manipulating circumstances so that their good deeds are open to public view.

If others withdraw their attention or distance their emotional bond, the masochist may complain that they are ungrateful and thoughtless and should remember that the masochist has been faithful and giving. Superficial altruism may occasionally give way

Focus on Victim Behavior

Psychopathology of Victims of Aggression Does Passivity Lead to Victimization?

Self-defeating personality disorder (called the masochistic personality in this text) was dropped from the DSM-IV as a diagnostic category. The decision came after considerable debate over the viability and clinical utility of the construct (Fiester, 1991). Many authors, in fact, have argued that the disorder was dropped for essentially political reasons.

In spite of the decision by the Axis II committee, the masochistic personality has a long clinical tradition useful in describing the behavior of certain patients. Although passivity under conditions of threat may be an adaptive response and, therefore, should not be pathologized, some individuals seem to manifest vulnerabilities that incite aggression from others. In the interpersonal perspective, for example, the principle of complementarity holds that submission elicits dominance from others. Rather than eliminate the masochist from DSM-IV it would have been wiser to have retained it in the appendix as a provisional disorder in need of further study.

How might such vulnerabilities arise? One possibility is child abuse (Chabrol et al., 1995). The literature on childhood victimization suggests that children chronically victimized by their peers suffer from deficits in self-esteem. Perhaps children with low self-esteem are unable to fight back for some reason or more readily become the focus of teasing or scapegoating. In fact, chronic victimization by peers during the school years is associated with a variety of adjustment problems (Egan & Perry, 1998). Studies have found that submissiveness and physical weakness, for example, may lead to increased victimization over time (Hodges, Malone, & Perry, 1997; Schwartz, Dodge, & Coie, 1993).

Egan and Perry (1998) tested two hypotheses: First, low self-regard promotes victimization by peers over time, and second, a child's level of self-regard modulates the impact of victimization. Results suggest that low self-regard, particularly when assessed as a child's self-perceived social competence within the peer group, contributes to victimization. Moreover, a sense of social failure and inadequacy among an individual's peers leads to increases in victimization over time. However, a sense of self-efficacy, measured as confidence in an individual's standing in the peer group, serves to protect at-risk children from being victimized.

From this perspective, masochistic behavior in adults could be seen as being on a continuum with low self-regard within the peer group. As perceived competence within the peer group decreases and self-regard declines, the individual at first becomes the object of minor levels of victimization. With further declines, however, victimization grows, until finally a sort of identification with the aggressor takes place. Instead of trying to escape punishment, victims see themselves as being so contemptible that such treatment is their due. Masochism, then, could be seen as a maladaptive adjustment to extreme social inadequacy.

to self-congratulatory pride, and past good deeds may be used to justify a sense of being entitled to emotional support from others. Even when they get their way, however, a low sense of self-worth continues to lurk just below the surface, a consciousness that the appreciation of others is manipulated rather than genuine. At times, they may also exhibit features of the dependent personality.

Evolutionary Neurodevelopmental Perspective

Psychodynamically, the masochistic seems to run counter to the pleasure principle. Freud went through multiple conceptualizations of the masochist in his lifetime, and later analysts have expanded his work in many directions. Object relations suggests many pathways of possible development for the masochist and that there is no one, single masochistic personality. Interpersonally, masochists assume that others will try to beat them down, so they come to relationships already beaten down waving a white flag and presenting no challenge. Cognitively, masochists find themselves caught between hope and fear and tend to completely reinterpret past events. They also tend to use self-pity as a way of comforting themselves when others don't appreciate their suffering. The evolutionary approach incorporates all of these perspectives; more specifically, masochistic personalities are conceived as being reversed on the pleasure-pain polarity, thus signifying that the individual experiences what is emotionally painful as a means of fulfilling his or her survival aims. Discomfort and abuse may be sought for many different reasons.

The danger of being totally abandoned in a punitive world generates greater anxiety than to be attached to another when such negative consequences are being experienced. Unable to understand the source of the noxious experience, the infant has learned to feel more secure when it is close to or clings onto an attachment object, albeit a frequently rejecting and hostile one. Such patterns are likely to be intensified when the punitive parent is inconsistent in its ministrations. At times, parents such as these are likely to be frustrating, depriving, or rejecting and, at other times, guiltily oversolici-tous and possessively nurturing. The grounds for developing these masochistic inclinations are only further strengthened by this form of vacillatory behavior.

Parental support and encouragement may not be forthcoming for achievements and autonomy. For example, children who receive nonambivalent parental affection and support only when they are ill, injured, or deficient are likely to conclude that they not only are defective and incompetent but also are loved and encouraged only when things are problematic or go wrong. Further, they learn that they can deflect otherwise hostile and critical parents by enacting deficiencies or illnesses on their own. Hence, if parents exhibit affection and attention only when the child is suffering or handicapped, that child will learn willingly to appear disadvantaged or ill as an instrumentally effective style of behavior, an attitudinal orientation that sets the seeds for what ultimately takes the shape of masochistic behaviors.

In its extreme form, such children may actually harm themselves—banging their body against hard objects, burning themselves, intentionally falling down stairs or off porches—enacting anything that intensifies their public pain and suffering. Such acts serve to ward off further physical punishment, but they also give these children what little power they can gain for themselves, even if only to take charge over their own hurtful experiences. In this perverse way, these children find some small sphere with which they can undo their parents' domination. Finding this niche of self-control may provide the basis of the future masochist's "pleasurable" self-abusive behaviors. In the following sections, we contrast the masochist with related personalities and explore pathways to symptom expression. Table 15.1 presents a review of the total masochist.

Contrast with Related Personalities

Masochists share numerous traits with other personality disorders. Both depressives and masochists live under a heavy burden of oppressive guilt, suffering from an overly

TABLE 15.1 The Masochistic Personality: Functional and Structural Domains

Functional Domains

Structural Domains

Abstinent

Undeserving

Expressive Behavior

Presents self as nonindulgent, frugal, and chaste; is reluctant to seek pleasurable experiences, refraining from exhibiting signs of enjoying life; acts in an unpresuming and self-effacing manner, preferring to place self in an inferior light or abject position.

Self-Image

Is self-abasing, focusing on the very worst personal features, asserting thereby that self is worthy of being shamed, humbled, and debased; feels that self has failed to live up to the expectations of others and, hence, deserves to suffer painful consequences.

Deferential

Discredited

Interpersonal Conduct

Distances from those who are consistently supportive, relating to others when self can be sacrificing, servile, and obsequious, allowing, if not encouraging, them to exploit, mistreat, or take advantage; renders ineffectual attempts of others to be helpful and solicits condemnation by accepting undeserved blame and courting unjust criticism.

Object-

Representations

Object-representations are composed of failed past relationships and disparaged personal achievements, of positive feelings and erotic drives transposed into their least attractive opposites, of internal conflicts intentionally aggravated, of mechanisms for reducing dysphoria being subverted by processes that intensify discomfort.

Diffident

Inverted

Cognitive Style

Hesitant to interpret observations positively for fear that, in doing so, they may not take problematic forms or achieve troublesome and self-denigrating outcomes; as a result, there is a habit of repeatedly expressing attitudes and anticipations contrary to favorable beliefs and feelings.

Morphologic Organization

Because of a significant reversal of the pain-pleasure polarity, morphologic structures have contrasting and dual qualities—one more or less conventional, the other its obverse—resulting in a repetitive undoing of affect and intention, of a transposing of channels of need gratification with those leading to frustration, and of engaging in actions that produce antithetical, if not self-sabotaging, consequences.

Exaggeration

Dysphoric

Regulatory Mechanism

Repetitively recalls past injustices and anticipates future disappointments as a means of raising distress to homeostatic levels; undermines personal objectives and sabotages good fortunes so as to enhance or maintain accustomed level of suffering and pain.

Mood/ Temperament

Experiences a complex mix of emotions, at times anxiously apprehensive; at others, forlorn and mournful, to feeling anguished and tormented; intentionally displays a plaintive and wistful appearance, frequently to induce guilt and discomfort in others.

Note: Shaded domains are the most salient for this personality prototype.

Note: Shaded domains are the most salient for this personality prototype.

self-critical conscience. Depressives, however, feel overwhelmed by their troubles, are resigned to their suffering, and are often satisfied to ruminate alone. In contrast, the masochist requires a partner, a persecutor, and will create one when necessary by exaggerating ordinary human conflicts, investing others with hidden motives, and then reacting with either indignation, a feature shared with the paranoid (McWilliams, 1994), or massive self-pity. Moreover, masochism often hides a sadistic purpose that the depressive lacks: The persecutor must be persecuted for being the persecutor. Acting out their conflicts gives masochists a greater sense of energy than is possessed by the lethargic depressive.

Comparisons and contrasts can also be made with the dependent, compulsive, and borderline personalities. Both the masochist and dependent are submissive, overtly noncompetitive, and bond parasitically to their partner. Dependents, however, return affection with affection and give of themselves to further strengthen their enmesh-ments. In contrast, masochists give their all to put their dedication on public view, capitalize on their own self-pity, cast the recipients of their kindnesses in the role of being insufficiently appreciative, or else achieve a super-enmeshment that cannot be denied. Both masochists and compulsives have strong underlying guilt feelings. The masochist, however, elicits punishment, whereas the compulsive greatly fears it. Finally, both masochists and borderlines sometimes share a tendency toward self-mutilation. Masochists, however, mutilate to undo their own guilt, whereas borderlines mutilate more to confirm their existence and forestall identity diffusion. Moreover, borderlines react frantically to the possibility of abandonment, whereas masochists sometimes use abandonment either to confirm their low self-worth and evoke self-pity or to display further evidence of their misfortune to others.

Pathways to Symptom Expression

Masochistic personalities are vulnerable to a number of Axis I disorders. As always, it is important to remember that there is a logic that connects the personality pattern with its associated Axis I syndromes. As with depressives, masochists frequently experience the chronic gloom of dysthymia. Following rejection, these feelings may escalate into a major depression and then seem to subside again into the slow torment characteristic of the personality.

In part, depression may be used instrumentally to elicit sympathy from others, particularly where it can be attributed to dashed hopes and tragic self-sacrifice. Even the virtuous masochist, whose reaction formation trades suffering for the mantle of righteousness, sometimes deflates under the worldview that life's punishments are intrinsically cruel and unusual. A diffuse anxiety may be mixed with these depressive feelings.

Like the dependent and depressive, the masochist is highly vulnerable to fears of loss and abandonment. Particularly where they have made themselves exclusively dependent on a mate or caretaker for basic survival, they are likely to fear that desperate self-sacrificial efforts are not sufficient to protect them against personal loss. States of panic may also emerge under these conditions, especially when the attachments needed to maintain their stability are in serious jeopardy.

Finally, physical symptoms and illnesses that lack adequate medical foundation may be used to evoke sympathy from others, solidify unstable attachments, reduce criticism and hostility from others, exact sadistic revenge by further burdening unhappy caretakers, or even placate their own guilty feelings as a symbolic self-flagellation.

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Responses

  • hilda brandagamba
    What is virtuous masochistim?
    4 years ago
  • pietro
    How to know if Im suffering from Self defeating personality?
    3 years ago
  • rhianna
    Do wives like masochistic husbands?
    3 years ago
  • Alan Rider
    What it's like to live with a sel defeating personality?
    3 years ago
  • luciano
    How to cure masochistic personality disorder?
    3 years ago
  • Lukasz
    What is self defeating personality disorder?
    3 years ago
  • HARRISON
    What causes self undoing masochistic disorder?
    2 years ago
  • barbara brauer
    How do people with self defeating personality percieve life?
    2 years ago
  • flora gray
    How to defeat masochism?
    2 years ago
  • jan
    Why am i a social masochist?
    1 year ago
  • rudigar
    Are masochists have liw self esteem?
    1 year ago
  • kenneth ingraham
    What disorder causes masochist like traits?
    9 months ago
  • lucas wechsler
    What causes masochistic behavior?
    7 months ago
  • michael
    What causes Masochistic personality disorders?
    6 months ago
  • catena
    How do people who are masochistic behave?
    4 months ago
  • mollie ritchie
    Is the term disadvantaged self defeating?
    3 months ago
  • timothy
    How do people become a masochist?
    2 months ago
  • Negisti
    What personality disorder likes to evoke sympathy?
    27 days ago
  • Grimalda
    What causes self defeating personaility disorder?
    13 days ago

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