That Awkward Moment When You Read Diagnostic Criteria…

and think, “Oh my God, that is me!”


Self-defeating personality disorder

Self-defeating personality disorder (also known as masochistic personality disorder) is a proposed personality disorder. It was discussed in an appendix of the manual’s revised third edition (DSM-III-R) in 1987, but was never formally admitted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As an alternative, the diagnosis personality disorder not otherwise specified may be used instead. Some researchers and theorists continue to use its criteria. It has an official code number, 301.90.[1]


Red = This fits me

Definition proposed in DSM III-R for further review

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 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. Well… have depression, but all these things occur outside of depression.

Exclusion from DSM-IV

Historically, masochism has been associated with feminine submissiveness. This disorder became politically controversial when associated with domestic violence which was considered to be mostly caused by males.[2] However a number of studies suggest that the disorder is common.[3][4] In spite of its exclusion from DSM-IV in 1994, it continues to enjoy widespread currency amongst clinicians as a construct that explains a great many facets of human behaviour.[2]

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

Millon’s subtypes

Theodore Millon identified four subtypes of masochist:[2][5]

Subtype Description Personality Traits
Virtuous Including histrionic features 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.
Possessive Including negativistic features 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.
Self-undoing Including avoidant features 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 Including depressive features Experiences genuine misery, despair, hardship, anguish, torment, illness; grievances used to create guilt in others; resentments vented by exempting from responsibilities and burdening “oppressors.”

15 thoughts on “That Awkward Moment When You Read Diagnostic Criteria…

    • I’m sorry! (not pity, but sympathy)

      *sigh* You and I are eerily alike, don’t you think? I’ve never met anyone else (including online self-help forums) who identifies with the strange memories thing. I’ve been in countless group therapy sessions where intensely personal things are spoken about, therefore I think if anyone else had a similar experience, I’d know. Then again, I never brought it up in group therapy or therapy (except that once)

      Plus, law school and then in all this… That is not so surprising because I think it takes a special (insane?!?) kind of person to be a masochistic sub, but even so some of the thoughts and feelings you describe could come from my mind.

      On one hand, it makes me sad that we’re alike in some ways because I wouldn’t wish much of this on anyone. Yet, on the other hand, it is nice not to be alone.

      It is kind of funny, I hate so much about myself, but when I see similarities in you, I don’t hate you. It almost endearing.

      • I do think you and I are eerily alike.

        I don’t hate you at all – and I constantly want you to stop thinking the things you do (which is such hypocrisy, because I often have similar thoughts).

        Maybe, and this is an idea, we can tell each other to be better. So, yeah, we hate ourselves (but not always, at least I don’t – do you?), but we can keep a check on the other person. How does that sound?

        • Ha, don’t worry about hypocrisy! I feel the same way about you. It sucks, but usually I know the “right” thing to say to people who struggle with depression, etc., but I can’t/won’t take my own advice.

          I like that idea! And yes, I don’t always hate myself, just most of the time. >.<

            • Sounds like a plan! Actually, my mom once said that was the point of group therapy. Often we can see the fallacy in other people’s logic or we see how they could fix their problem, but we can’t see the same for ourselves. So, if you get a bunch of people with the same problems together (therefore, similar thought patterns, similar life problems as a result) and have them help each other, eventually they can see the similarities in themselves and eventually learn to be their own voice of reason. 🙂

              Ha, I am jealous that you made it all the way through school!

              • I am not sure if I am ready to become my own voice of reason, but I think your mother is quite right.

                I am glad I did too. I think there was a time my parents believed I wouldn’t get through.

                • Haha, I know I’m not ready! I’m just saying maybe this can help us both get a step closer to that point.

                  🙂 …Yeah…That is where my parents are at the moment. :/

                • Yes, I think it might help us. Let’s try, at least.

                  But then, now that I am through with law school, I feel apathy for it. I think I want to change my line of work, but I don’t know what I am going to do. But, thankfully, my parents are supportive.

                • Agreed!

                  Yeah, I remember you saying that. Are your applications for legal jobs? If so, that could be a huge part of the issue. Do you have ideas for non-legal careers?

                • The six applications I sent out were for legal jobs. I have this urge to go back to all my extra curricular activities (singing, dancing, learning languages) because I let them go. I don’t know yet. I want to do some writing as well. I am very confused at the moment.

        • Also, I think it is especially strange that we are so alike since we’re literally oceans apart. We didn’t grow up in the same society or environment and yet… I wonder what that says about us? About genetics? Humanity as a whole? Nature v. nurture?

          • You know the strange thing, I read till oceans apart and I could almost predict what you’d say next. The nature v nurture debate is such a great one. But, I am sure we have some differences, in the way we were brought up, some fundamental values/opinions? Or, not?

            • Lol, that is strange!

              It is an interesting debate, but I wonder which this favors.

              Definitely! However, despite those differences, we wound up freakishly similar. I suppose that supports Nature.

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