Attitudes and emotions towards pain and sensitivity to painful stimuli among people routinely engaging in masochistic behaviour

R. Defrin*, M. Arad, M. P. Ben-Sasson, K. Ginzburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background People engaged in masochistic behaviour (MB) seek to experience pain and the pleasure it evokes in sadomasochistic (SandM) sessions. The sensitivity and attitude to pain in these individuals has hardly been tested. We evaluated pain perception among these individuals and tested whether their experiences and attitudes towards pain are context-related. Methods Thirty-four healthy subjects participated; 17 routinely engaged in MB and 17 controls. Pressure pain threshold (PPT) was measured in two body regions. A structured questionnaire on SandM activities and context-related pain experiences and emotions was completed, as well as the pain catastrophizing (CAT) and fear of pain (FOP) questionnaires. Results PPT was significantly higher among MB individuals and positively correlated with the frequency of SandM sessions. MB individuals also had lower levels of CAT, and FOP correlated negatively with the frequency of MB and the number of body regions involved. Pleasure evoked during SandM sessions correlated positively with pain intensity and number of body regions involved. Pain in everyday life correlated negatively with MB activities. However, the emotional attitude to everyday pain was ambivalent: MB individuals perceived pain intensity and unpleasantness similar to the controls, but simultaneously gained pleasure from the pain. Conclusions MB individuals exhibited pain hyposensitivity, presumably resulting from frequent engagement in MB. Alternatively, these subjects may have a predisposition which enables this engagement. Attitudes towards pain in MB individuals are complex. They appear to be context-related with pain experienced as pleasurable and rewarding during SandM sessions, and negative but still pleasurable in everyday life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1321-1330
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015


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