Personality disorder - passive-aggressive

Alternative names 
Passive-aggressive personality disorder

Definition

Passive aggressive personality disorder is a chronic condition in which a person seems to acquiesce to the desires and needs of others, but actually passively resists them and becomes increasingly hostile and angry.

Note: psychiatrists no longer recognize this condition as an official diagnosis; however, the symptoms are problematic to many people and may be helped by professional attention, so we include it here.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The causes are unknown, but, like most personality disorders, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are probably responsible.

Symptoms

People with this disorder resent responsibility and show it through their behaviors rather than by open expression of their feelings. Procrastination, inefficiency, and forgetfulness are behaviors commonly used to avoid doing what they need to do or have been told by others must be done.

A person with this disorder may appear to comply with another’s wishes, and may even say that he wants to do what he has agreed to do, but the requested action is either performed too late to be helpful, performed in a way that is useless, or otherwise sabotaged to express anger about compliance that isn’t related verbally.

Signs and tests

Personality disorders are diagnosed by psychological evaluation and a careful history of the extent and time course of the symptoms. Some of the common signs of passive-aggressive personality disorder include:

     
  • Procrastination  
  • Intentional inefficiency  
  • Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness  
  • Complaining  
  • Blaming others  
  • Resentment  
  • Sullenness  
  • Does not express hostility or anger openly  
  • Fears authority  
  • Resists suggestions from others

Treatment

Counseling may be of value in helping the person identify and change the behavior.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome can be good with treatment.

Complications

     
  • Stunted career development despite good intelligence  
  • Alcohol Abuse or other drug abuse or dependence

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms suggestive of passive-aggressive personality disorder.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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