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Emotional Masochist: 24 Signs You’re Addicted to Pain and Drama

Being an emotional masochist doesn’t mean you necessarily want to be unhappy, but that part of you feeds off feelings like fear and pain.

Emotional Masochism

Being an emotional masochist isn’t something you ask for. But, when you are facing that reality, you derive pleasure from being hurt. Engaging in repeated emotional negativity and drama in your relationships becomes a pattern.

And, being an emotional masochist doesn’t just mean you thrive on that drama, but you also seek it out. You lean into things that are uncertain and lead to unhappiness.

You may even complain about never being happy, yet your behavior would say otherwise. When you are engaged in something healthy and secure, you find ways to complicate it to sustain your need for the drama.

Being addicted to unhappiness is not uncommon. Most never see the way that they sabotage their own happiness and instead blame it on others. So, are you an emotional masochist?

[Read: Why do you keep loving someone you can’t have?]

What leads to an emotional masochist?

Emotional masochism isn’t something you just come upon one day. It is often linked to your childhood or a past trauma and is usually not a conscious choice.

Someone with a clear mind and healthy childhood probably wouldn’t enter into an affair with someone married, but it is a rush of excitement for an emotional masochist!

Having dealt with a heated or unstable childhood, you are accustomed to the passion, rage, and uncertainty of that pattern, so you seek it out in all of your other relationships. This could be romantic, friendships, and even jobs.

Mike Bundrant from PsychCentral described it perfectly, “…Even though we consciously hate the angst, we are somehow attached to it. It’s often been with us so long that we can’t imagine any other way of being.”

You may wonder why you don’t feel happy or fulfilled, but subconsciously it is because you crave the insecurity of being in pain or not knowing what will happen. You thrive on the drama rather than settling into a routine.

And most people with these characteristics don’t even realize it. You may suspect it, but read on to know for sure. [Read: How abandonment issues affect your relaitonships]

Are you an emotional masochist?

An emotional masochist isn’t someone who is necessarily depressed or even dealing with a mental illness.

Emotional masochism can come from so many places, but is usually a subconscious part of your daily life. It is something almost everyone experiences on some level throughout their lives.

Things like self-sabotage, binge-eating, drug and alcohol abuse, overspending, and criticizing ourselves are all aspects of emotional masochism. It is a mindset guided by seeking misery while under the guise of wanting happiness. [Read: Intentionally hurting someone you love – Why we do this and how to stop]

The thing is, most emotional masochists aren’t aware of these behaviors, what causes them, or how to stop them.

So, if you constantly find yourself in a sad mood, looking for the negative side of any situation, or finding yourself “unlucky” all the time, then you might be your own worst enemy, standing in the way of your own happiness… An emotional masochist. [Read: OMG I’m so bored with life – 20 ways to bring the spark back]

1. You love to hate social media

Emotional masochists experience things that make them absolutely miserable, but refuse to cut them out of their life.

For example, you know that stalking your ex’s Facebook or even looking at old photos of you two will upset you, but you look anyway.

If you scroll through Instagram and it makes you feel bad about yourself, your body image, or makes you feel inferior to others, yet you still do it everyday, you might be doing it to pull yourself back into misery.

Taking a break from social media can really help you feel free of the heaviness of negativity, but you have to be actively trying to stop. [Read: How to love yourself: 15 ways to discover self-love and happiness]

2. You reach out to people who are toxic

If you are someone who swore off a friend or a family member but then gets anxious and sends them a message on the holidays only to be kicked again by no response, then you might be an emotional masochist. You know what the outcome will be, but you do it anyway.

Maybe you reach out to a toxic family member that always puts you down or respond to an ex’s Instagram story knowing they either won’t reply or will pick a fight. You don’t expect a different outcome, you know what will happen, but are used to it and continue to fulfill that pattern. [Read: 20 signs of a toxic friendship to instantly recognize the toxic ones]

3. You find problems where there aren’t any

When you feel a tinge of relief and sanity, you look around and find somewhere to stir up trouble. Maybe you and your partner haven’t fought in a month. Instead of feeling relief, you feel boredom or complacency.

Rather than enjoying some peace, you rehash past problems or even make things up to have a fight and feel that passion and excitement again.

You need the challenge, because you don’t really know what it is to experience pure happiness. Examine why being miserable feels so much better to you so you can break the cycle. [Read: Sabotaging your own life – 12 ways you’re making yourself miserable every day]

4. You stay in relationships that make you miserable

People in your life question your decisions to stay in bad relationships, shitty jobs, or even why you live in an apartment with a cruel or inhumane landlord. Even without an excuse, you stay. It isn’t because there are good things too.

You stay because there is part of you that soaks up that unhappiness. You like to complain. Having something to worry about keeps you going. It is what you’re used to, and that pain that others can’t understand is what makes you feel good! [Read: How to let go of a relationship that’s bad for you]

5. You end good relationships

If every nice person you have a relationship with isn’t your type, then stop and think about what your type is. Could it be someone who treats you badly because you are all about the emotional masochism?

If you are dating someone who is sweet and funny and treats you with respect, instead of leaning into that, you find it boring and make up reasons for it not to work out. [Read: Attention seeking behavior and why some people go looking for drama]

6. You’re always upset with someone about something

If it seems like you want to be bothered by someone all the time, then you might be an emotional masochist. There could be no reason for you to be in a bad mood, but you need someone to be upset with. You find problems where there aren’t any or blow things out of proportion.

This doesn’t just make your life unstable, but creates problems with those around you, making you more unhappy in the process. [Read: How to stop being angry all the time]

7. You agree to things you don’t want to do

If you think you can’t say no because you are a pleaser, think again. No one forces you to say yes but you. You might be driven because you look for misery and negativity.

When someone invites you to something you know you won’t enjoy, instead of passing and enjoying a night at home, you agree. You people please at first and then thrive on your disdain all night. Whatever benefit you felt from agreeing to do something you didn’t want to is halted by actually doing it. [Read: How to say no: Stop pleasing people and feel awesome instead]

8. You are attracted to unhappy people

Misery loves company. If you constantly seek out miserable people to be around, you aren’t trying to find happiness. You are trying to find someone to sulk and be miserable with.

You aren’t attracted to the person who is the life of the party or who people turn to for advice. Instead, you prefer someone you can wallow with. What’s better than self-loathing to an emotional masochist? A self-loathing group. [Reead: How to stop making the same mistakes in relationships]

9. You push away the people who support you

Pushing people away is not you being independent. It is you pushing away positivity and stepping away from a turning point. Having supportive and good friends in your life can actually pull you out of this rut of masochism.

But, you don’t lean into that help. You run from it so you can stay in your bubble of unhappiness and pain. [Read: 15 signs you’re pushing people away]

10. You start fights for the passion

If you are someone who starts fights just for the drama and they make you feel alive, you’re probably an emotional masochist. You think a relationship without fights is boring.

You don’t want to have adult conversations where you disagree and come to an understanding. The yelling and screaming of a dysfunctional relationship makes you excited. The thrill of not knowing how it will turn out makes your life more passionate. [Read: 15 reasons you’re bored in your relationship]

11. You seek out unhealthy friendships and people

People who want to be surrounded by misery and unhappiness seek out people in their lives who put them down, continually hurt them and aren’t sensitive to their needs. You will stay at a job where you are treated poorly even with a better offer because being put down is what you’re used to.

Part of you may think you don’t deserve better. Maybe one of your parents talked down to you all the time as a child, and now that is the type of relationship you crave from all superiors. [Read: 16 clear signs a narcissist is subtly abusing you]

12. People call you a masochist

If you have people in your life who call you a masochist, you are. They aren’t just throwing out words for no reason. If your friends, coworkers, or family members see that as a part of your life, it is most likely true.

They aren’t judging you, but are worried and want you to know you deserve to be happy.

13. You don’t stand up for yourself

You are a punching bag and never stick up for yourself because you find comfort in being put down. The grief that comes with being put down is your comfort zone.

If you hated being yelled at by a partner or boss, you would take a stand, argue back and demand respect, but part of you feels safe in that place. [Read: How to stand up for yourself: Get what you want and deserve]

14. You disregard any praise

You fail to hear anything good about yourself even when it is said pointedly. If someone compliments you, you make an excuse. But when someone is rude to you, you take it to heart.

Being an emotional masochist causes you to thrive in the negatives of life. So you ignore praise and hold onto the bad things. You may even assume people think about you negatively without any actual proof. [Read: How to change your self-deprecating attitude]

15. You seek approval where you’ll never get it

When it comes to approval, instead of finding it through supportive friends and family, you seek it through impossible means. You might look for approval from the internet. Maybe you want a certain number of likes or comments.

Validation from things like this is impossible. And continually putting in effort for something that will never come is asking for unhappiness. [Read: How to stop caring about what other people think]

16. When you begin to heal, you reopen the wound

Rumination is emotional masochism’s best friend and hangs out with them often. When you find yourself no longer thinking about a traumatic experience or an ex, instead of finding joy, you reopen the wound. It is like picking at a scab and creating a scar.

You don’t want to move on or feel better. Going back to that time when you were hurt feels comfortable to you. [Read: How to stop ruminating – Leave your past behind and live your future]

17. You think you have good intentions

An emotionally masochistic person can’t leave well enough alone and walk away. They stay and stir the pot under the guise of trying to make things better. You reach out to someone from your past or someone toxic, thinking you’ll patch things up, when in reality you’ll only make things worse.

Instead of just letting things go, you try to fix the unfixable again and again. You believe you have the best of intentions and want a different outcome.

But deep down, you know things will only be more complicated due to your actions. [Read: Why do I feel so alone? The answers that can change your life]

18. You apologize for being you

If you apologize for what you do and then apologize that you apologized, then you probably have emotional masochism. Rather than gaining confidence or learning from mistakes, you stir in feelings of guilt and inferiority.

You let what others say dictate your future actions and how you feel about yourself.

19. You think you need to make everyone else happy

If you live your life to make people happy or to make them like you, then you set yourself up for unhappiness. You will never know true happiness if you rely on others to validate it.

An emotional masochist will always try to please people. And because it is impossible to please everyone, they always fail, falling even deeper into pain and sorrow. [Read: How to be happy again – 20 rules to draw happiness from within]

20. People constantly tell you that you are too nice

Too nice doesn’t equal too nice. In most instances, it means you feel good about feeling bad.

You talk about how people treat you badly and complain a lot, but continue to stay in those situations. You are too nice because it subconsciously feels good when people are bad to you. [Read: Are you too nice? 20 signs of a people pleaser]

21. You let people off the hook

If you go back to the same person who shows you indifference and treats you like you are insignificant, you aren’t looking for happy relationships. You sit in your own misery and keep yourself stuck.

Maybe you have a friend that never answers your messages or blows off plans religiously. Instead of calling them out or even cutting them out, you let it go and maintain that one-sided friendship. Why? Because the way their actions make you feel is crappy, and you like it. [Read: 17 ways to welcome positive energy into your life]

22. You encourage sadness with sad songs and movies

It is as if you aren’t sad enough already. You then kick yourself when you are down. Instead of letting out a good cry and moving on, you dig the hole even deeper.

You listen to sad songs that make you cry, or watch sad movies to deepen your bad feelings. [Read: 15 best feel-good movies for the broken-hearted]

23. You crave sympathy

Maybe you don’t want to be the center of attention, at least not on the surface, but you like when people feel bad for you.

Even as an adult, you go to cry in the bathroom secretly hoping someone will follow you so you can vent to them and gain their sympathy. [Read: 16 signs you crave attention but pretend like you don’t want it]

24. You bond with other emotional masochists

Emotional masochists are like pack animals. They tend to gather in groups. This is because the pain they seek can be found within others. You drown each other in negativity which makes it easier to remain unhappy.

If you find someone positive to pull you out of your funk of sadness and pain, you may change for the better. And that’s a scary thought for you. As an emotional masochist, surrounding yourself with like-minded people is easier than really trying to be happy.

[Read: The rules of life – 22 secrets to never be unhappy ever again]

Everyone may relate to being an emotional masochist at some point. But if seeking out pain and chaos is the entire way you live your life, you may want to find a new path.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...