I'm looking for two words: Specifically, is there a word to describe the activity of eating or being compelled to eat something despite its hot temperature or spiciness? The second word I'm looking for would describe same concept but at a more general level: a word for doing something eagerly despite the pain that it causes because it feels so good.

I'm looking for a single word, but idiomatic phrases capturing the same meaning would be helpful too.

Edit: Some clarification; while masochism is pretty close, per ermanen's answer, the word I'm looking for isn't about pleasure from pain, but pleasure despite pain. In other words, the hypothetical person is compelled to eat the hot food (temperature) because it tastes so good, not because she derives pleasure from the pain.

  • Spicy foods cause endorphine release, much like a runner's high. It is pleasure from pain. articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-01-31/entertainment/… Commented May 30, 2014 at 4:24
  • Agreed, but for the purposes of this question (and at the risk of appearing to modify it), let's assume it's pain from hot temperature instead of spiciness. Commented May 30, 2014 at 4:44

4 Answers 4


It is called benign masochism or hedonic reversal.

While most scientists still do not quite have a handle on the human preference for spicy foods, the best explanation comes from a mechanism called "hedonic reversal", or "benign masochism". Something happens, in millions of humans each year, which changes a negative evaluation into a positive evaluation, like flipping a light switch.

Rozin writes: "If the oral receptors are sending the same message to the brain in the chilli liker and the chilli hater, then the chilli liker must have come to like the very same sensation that the chilli hater, the infant, and nonhuman animals find aversive. One gets to like the burn." Only humans seem to be able to derive pleasure from the negative sensation itself. Animals have been trained to endure self-harm, but only within the context of positive reinforcement.

Also, hedonic reversal applies to enjoying horror movies, sad movies and roller coasters as well. Further reading: http://journal.sjdm.org/12/12502a/jdm12502a.html

Benign masochism refers to enjoying initially negative experiences that the body (brain) falsely interprets as threatening. This realization that the body has been fooled, and that there is no real danger, leads to pleasure derived from “mind over body.”

This can also be framed as a type of mastery. Hedonic reversals have been demonstrated in a number of domains besides irritant spices, including fear and sadness.

In general, it is masochism but the word has stronger connotations as well.

In psychiatry, the terms sadism and masochism describe a personality type characterized by the individual deriving pleasure and gratification from either inflicting or receiving physical pain and/or humiliation, respectively.

  • Along with Dispensador's answer, I like this one a lot. The only thing missing is a connotation of compulsion. While awkward, I think 'masochistic devoration' is close to the more narrow activity I was looking for. Commented May 29, 2014 at 20:17
  • What about Masochist's Meal ? :)
    – ermanen
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 20:23
  • Also for compulsion: "force-feed" or "shove food down throat" may fit. Though you may not enjoy that :)
    – ermanen
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 20:31
  • Also, compulsive eating is related. Though, it is overeating as well.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 20:35
  • 1
    @Fuhrmanator: It does not neglect, it complements. My answer explains the psychology and the article you gave explains the biology part of it.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 16:34

If an idiomatic phrase for this feeling is what you're looking for more than the scientific name ermamen gives, I would say something like "it hurts so good". For the general idea, I'll agree on masochism. Aside from that phrase, I'm lacking at the moment and will maybe come back with a few more after I've given this some more thought.






With little forbearance.

Sadistic Revelry.



  • Any chance I would get a head's up on my negative so I can work to improve my answers? (I can see why it might not get up-voted, but curious on the down vote)
    – PCSgtL
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 13:37
  • I'd guess lack of explanation, definitions, or sources Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 21:04

In the general sense of ...When you eat or are compelled to eat something despite but not specific to hot temperature or spiciness is a form of allotriophagy:

Having food cravings that are different from the expected or the norm

The act of doing something within the context of gaining pleasure and experiencing pain is algedonic: Pertaining to both pleasure and pain.

ALLOTRIOPHAGY, al-lot'ri-of'a-gi, n. in med. a depraved appetite for some particular article of food or for noxious or not eatable substances. [Gr. allotrios, belonging to another, and phago, to eat.]-The American Dictionary of the English Language : Based on the latest conclusions of the most eminent philologists...New York : P.F. Collier & Son, c1908.

  • 3
    -1 - I really hate when you take medical terms and twist them to suit your needs. Spicy food is not the same as eating clay, dirt, paint or other abnormal non-food substances. Allotriphagy is the same thing as pica, which is an ill-understood craving for non-food substances, like dirt. Commented May 29, 2014 at 21:37
  • 3
    Is there a single word for taking medical terms and inappropriately twisting them to suit their needs? If so, you could use it and nobody would know what you are saying
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 23:34

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