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Passive-aggressive personality disorder
ICD-10 F60.8
ICD-9 301.84
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Passive-aggressive behavior refers to passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to authoritative instructions in interpersonal or occupational situations.

Sometimes a method of dealing with stress or frustration, it results in the person attacking other people in subtle, indirect, and seemingly passive ways. It can manifest itself as resentment, stubbornness, procrastination, sullenness, or intentional failure at doing requested tasks. For example, someone who is passive-aggressive might take so long to get ready for a party they don't wish to attend, that the party is nearly over by the time they arrive.

Some people are more inclined than others to produce this behavior and it can sometimes be considered a personality trait

When this type of behavior becomes so severe and pervasive that it causes an ongoing self perpetuating clinical degree of disruption to peoples every day life and interpersonal relationships then it may be considered as passive–aggressive personality disorder.

Someone who is passive-aggressive will typically not confront others directly about problems, but instead will attempt to undermine their confidence or their success through comments and actions which, if challenged, can be explained away innocently so as not to place blame on the passive-aggressive person.

Some passive-aggressive behavior may result from society's conditioning of individuals; direct confrontation can lead to harmful consequences. For example, confronting one's manager may lead to the loss of opportunities, such as being passed over for a promotion or even losing one's employment.

Often passive-aggressive behavior manifests itself in individuals who view themselves as "peaceful". These individuals feel that expressing their anger through passive-aggressive behavior is morally favorable to direct confrontation.

The lack of repercussions resulting from passive-aggressive behavior can lead to an unchecked continual attack, albeit passive, on one's acquaintances.

In the psychoanalytic theory of transactional analysis, many types of passive-aggressive behavior are interpreted as "games" with a hidden psychological payoff, and are classified into stereotypical scenarios with names like "See What You Made Me Do" and "Look How Hard I've Tried". Other types of passive-aggressive behaviors can be described by names like "You Forgot to do that on Purpose, Didn't you" or "I Don't want to be treated like this, do you"

Passive aggressive behaviour is said to stem from a specific childhood environments (i.e. overbearing parental figures, alcohol/drug addicted parents) where the child cannot oppose the parents directly and be listened too, so learns to make their point in covert ways.

Passive aggressive behaviour to some degree is a normal part of most peoples flexible social repetoire. However it can become the basis of a more dominant mode of relating which intereferes with social functioning and can de considered a personality disorder.

Common signs of passive-aggressive personality disorder

There are certain behaviors that help identify passive-aggressive behavior. [1]

  • Ambiguity
  • Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness
  • Blaming others
  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
  • Complaining
  • Does not express hostility or anger openly
  • Fear of competition
  • Fear of dependency
  • Fears authority
  • Fosters chaos
  • Intentional inefficiency
  • Making excuses and lying
  • Obstructionism
  • Procrastination
  • Resentment
  • Resists suggestions from others
  • Sarcasm
  • Sullenness

A passive-aggressive may not have all of these behaviours, and may have other non-passive-aggressive traits.

Passive-aggression as a personality disorder

Passive-aggressive personality disorder is a controversial personality disorder proposal, said to be marked by a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes and passive resistance in interpersonal or occupational situations.

It was listed as an Axis II personality disorder in the DSM-IIIR, but was moved in the DSM-IV to Appendix B ("Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study") because of controversy and the need for further research on how to categorize the behaviors in a future edition. At the moment it appears that PAPD will be included as a diagnositic category in the 2006 publication of the DSM-V. Further information available at Passive-aggressive personality disorder


The term "passive-aggressive" arose in the U.S. military during World War II, when officers noted that some soldiers seemed to shirk duties by adopting passive-aggressive type behaviors.

See also

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
  1. Scott Wetzler, Ph.D.. "Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man". URL accessed on 2006-06-15.