12 Signs You're An Emotional Masochist And Crave Abuse

Emotional masochists derive pleasure from experiencing emotional pain.

woman looking out the window Darren Baker / Shutterstock

Some folks out there always seem to end up in relationships or friendships that make them miserable, but won’t leave them no matter how bad they get.

Though there are some people who are legitimately trying to push through in hopes that things will change, there are others who are in these kinds of relationships because they, on some level, crave abuse.

These folks are called emotional masochists.


What is an emotional masochist?

An emotional masochist is someone who actively seeks out toxic relationships because they derive pleasure from experiencing emotional pain or suffering. The relationships they hunt for create negative emotions like sadness, rejection, or humiliation.

An emotional masochist may find a sense of validation, control, or fulfillment through enduring emotional hardships, as it may reinforce their self-worth or provide a way to cope with struggles.

It's important to note that emotional masochism is a complex psychological phenomenon, and individual motivations and experiences vary.


RELATED: Yes, You Can Get PTSD From Staying In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Why do some people 'crave' abuse?

People who crave or seek out abusive relationships do so as a result of psychological factors:

  • Conditioning: Emotional masochist may have grown up in an environment where abuse was normalized, and therefore may associate abuse with love or acceptance.
  • Validation: Emotional masochists might believe that if someone can inflict emotional pain on them, it reinforces their worthiness of attention, love, or punishment. It may also provide a sense of control by choosing to engage in situations where they can anticipate and manage emotional pain.
  • Self-punishment: Some emotional masochists may have low self-esteem or deep-seated feelings of guilt or shame. They could believe they deserve to be mistreated or that enduring emotional pain is a form of penance.
  • Emotional catharsis: For some emotional masochists, experiencing emotional pain or abuse serves as a release. They may feel a sense of relief or temporary escape from other emotional difficulties.
  • Distorted beliefs about love: Emotional masochists may have distorted beliefs about love, believing that enduring suffering is a necessary part of true love or that their self-worth is tied to their ability to endure pain.

Professional help from therapists or psychologists can provide further insight and support for those who wish to understand and address their patterns of seeking abusive relationships.


Emotional masochists are more common than you’d want to believe. In fact, you might be one, too, especially if any of these signs ring true.

RELATED: 5 Signs You're Definitely Arguing With A Psychopath

Here are 12 signs you're an emotional masochist and crave abuse.

1. You have stayed in relationships you knew were bad for you, even when you realized it was never going to get better.

Most of the time, abused people will go back to an abuser because they are holding out hope that things will change. If you know it’s not going to change and you still are with an abusive partner, there’s a good chance that the reason why you’re with them is that you crave abuse.

2. You legitimately get bored or lose attraction when a man isn’t being mean, cold, distant, or volatile with you.

This is actually one of the more common reasons why emotional masochists end up in so many abusive relationships. They literally get bored when men aren’t terrorizing them on an emotional level.


3. You tend to seek out the approval of people who are nothing but mean to you.

Look, I get this because I’ve done it in the past. But eventually, I realized that getting their approval isn’t ever going to happen. I began to focus on people who do like me — and the people who don’t, I pity.

If you’re stuck in that loop, it can be frustrating, but you need to realize you're only hurting yourself. Unless you're a glutton for rejection, you might want to change course.

4. When there’s no drama around, you do your part to stir some up.

Believe it or not, drama hurts everyone, including the person who stirred it up.

If you're one of those people who loves to see tears, arguments, and shouting, you might be an emotional masochist. This is doubly true if most of the shouting happens in your direction.


RELATED: Why Emotional Abuse Makes You Feel Crazy, Even When You're (Pretty Sure You're) Not

5. People regularly take advantage of you or tell you that you’re 'too nice.'

From what I’ve seen, a lot of people who are doormats and pleasers tend to be emotional masochists. Users are excellent for heartbreak.

6. You’ve gone out with a man who you know treated others poorly.

A leopard will not change its spots.

If you knew a guy was a wife-beater or a cheater because you’ve seen him do it to others, you should know that it won’t be any different when he’s with you. If you still went out with him while knowing this, you're an emotional masochist.


7. You're regularly made fun of by 'friends' but don’t ever stand up for yourself.

This is either a sign that you’re an emotional masochist or have cripplingly low self-esteem, or both. Either way, it’s not healthy for you to hang out with these people.

8. The vast majority of relationships and friendships you had have been abusive on one level or another.

If this is the case, you have to wonder what’s going on here.

Are you actually okay with this, or are you just really unlucky? Do you crave abuse, or are you afraid to stand up for yourself? Only you can answer those questions.

9. When you’re too happy or content, you find reasons to beat yourself up.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who will work tirelessly to find new problems when there really aren’t any at all. This is because they can’t stand the silence of contentment for too long. For them, they need drama and sadness to survive. Sound familiar?


RELATED: 9 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse, Explained By A Therapist

10. You pick fights just because you want to argue and shed tears.

This is a little bit different from causing drama because it’s not causing drama as much as it is alienating yourself from people who probably like you. If you feel the need to do this, you may secretly want people to hate you.

11. You push people away when they get too close or when they make you too happy.

People who enjoy being in some kind of pain don’t like having positive people around them. They like hurting. As a result, positive people tend to get pushed away by them, either consciously or subconsciously.


12. Deep down inside, you know everything you’re doing is hurting you but you don’t want to stop.

This is the crux of the matter. People know when they’re messing up their lives and they also know when it’s taking a serious toll on them.

If you’re aware of it and doing nothing to change it, knowing how bad it is, you’re probably an emotional masochist on some level.

For victims and survivors of emotional abuse who need support, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has trained volunteers available to help 24/7/365. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY, or, if you’re unable to speak safely, log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

RELATED: 1 In 100 People Are Psychopaths — The 3 Personality Traits That Give Them Away


Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, New Theory Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter for more.