The Human Mind

Personality Disorders


Masochistic (Self-defeating) Personality Disorder


Self-defeating Personality Disorder is 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:

  • chooses people and situations that lead to disappointment, failure, or mistreatment even when better options are clearly available;
  • rejects or renders ineffective the attempts of others to help him of her;
  • following positive personal events (e.g., new achievement), responds with depression, guilt, or a behavior that produces pain ( e.g., an accident);
  • 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);
  • rejects opportunities for pleasure, or is reluctant to acknowledge enjoying himself or herself (despite having adequate social skills and the capacity for pleasure);
  • 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);
  • is uninterested in or rejects people who consistently treat him or her well, (e.g., is not attracted to caring sexual partners);
  • engages in excessive self-sacrifice that is unsolicited by the intended recipients of the sacrifice;

The behaviors do not occur exclusively in response to, or in anticipation of , being physically, sexually, or psychologically abused.
The behaviors do not occur only when the person is depressed.


Source: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
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