Passive–aggressive behavior: Wikis



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Passive–aggressive personality disorder
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F60.8
ICD-9 301.84

Passive–aggressive behavior (negative personality trait) is passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to following through with expectations in interpersonal or occupational situations.

It is a personality trait marked by a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes and passive, usually disavowed resistance in interpersonal or occupational situations.

It can manifest itself as learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible. It is a defense mechanism, and usually only partly conscious.[citation needed]



Passive aggressive behavior was first clinically used in the context of defying authoritative figures. But noncompliance is not indicative of true passive aggressive behavior, which is the manifestation of emotions that have been repressed based on a self-imposed need for acceptance.

In DSM-1 in 1952, the passive-aggressive was defined in a narrow way, grouped together with the passive-dependent. This is similar to the circuitous negativist (see below) where the negativist has dependent features.[1]

Signs of passive-aggressive behavior

The book Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man lists 11 responses that may help identify passive-aggressive behavior. [2]

  • Ambiguity or speaking cryptically: a means of engendering a feeling of insecurity in others
  • Chronically being late and forgetting things: another way to exert control or to punish.
  • Fear of competition
  • Fear of dependency
  • Fear of intimacy as a means to act out anger: The passive aggressive often cannot trust. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone.
  • Making chaotic situations
  • Making excuses for non-performance in work teams
  • Obstructionism
  • Sulking
  • Victimization response: instead of recognizing one's own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.

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

Diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV Appendix B) & personality disorder

Passive-aggressive personality disorder was listed as an Axis II personality disorder in the DSM-III-R, 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 also categorize the behaviors in a future edition. As an alternative, the diagnosis Personality disorder not otherwise specified may be used instead.

Diagnostic criteria (ICD-10)

The World Health Organization's ICD-10 lists passive-aggressive personality disorder under (F60.8) Other specific personality disorders.

It is a requirement of ICD-10 that a diagnosis of any specific personality disorder also satisfies a set of general personality disorder criteria.

Millon's subtypes

Theodore Millon identified four subtypes of negativist [1][3]. Any individual negativist may exhibit none or one of the following:

  • circuitous negativist - including dependent features
  • abrasive negativist - including sadistic features
  • discontented negativist - including depressive features
  • vacillating negativist - including borderline features

Differential diagnosis: associated and overlapping conditions

Prevalence (epidemiology)

Causes (etiology)

Passive aggressive disorder may stem from a specific childhood stimulus (e.g., alcohol/drug addicted parents) in an environment where it was not safe to express frustration or anger. Families in which the honest expression of feelings is forbidden tend to teach children to repress and deny their feelings and to use other channels to express their frustration.

Children who sugarcoat their hostility do not grow beyond it. Never developing better coping strategies or skills sets for self-expression, they can become adults who, beneath the seductive veneer, harbor vindictive intent.[4]


Martin Kantor suggests a treatment approach using psychodynamic, supportive, cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal therapeutic methods. These methods apply to both the passive aggressive person and their target victim.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Millon, Theodore, Personality Disorders in Modern Life, 2004
  2. ^ Scott Wetzler, Ph.D.. ""Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man"".,M1. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  3. ^ Millon, Theodore - Personality Subtypes
  4. ^ Murphy, Tim and Hoff Oberlin, Loriann: Overcoming Passive Aggression, page 48. Marlowe & Company, New York, 2005
  5. ^ Kantor, Martin, Passive-Aggression. A Guide for the Therapist, the Patient and the Victim, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut 2002

External links

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 17, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Passive–aggressive behavior, which are similar to those in the above article.

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