PTypes - Personality Types
PTypes Personality Disorders Depressive

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder


Personality disorder is a matter of false judgments of value. Listed below are the false value judgments that are at the root of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

False Good

False Bad

Personality Disorder

to be free to do as one pleases having to fulfill routine social and occupational tasks passively resist fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks
to be understood and appreciated by others being misunderstood and unappreciated by others complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others
to resist the demands of others compliance with others' demands and expectations; external demands is sullen and argumentative
to withhold respect for figures of authority submission to authority figures and their expectations and demands unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority
to possess the same advantages as possessed by others ill fortune and not getting the best in life expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate
for a life of pleasure and comfort personal misfortunes voices exaggerated and persistent complaints of personal misfortune
to be free to do as ones pleases, but also to be taken care of being restricted; alienating those they depend on alternate between hostile defiance and contrition

Perspectives q.v.

The Disease Perspective

Proposed Revision | APA DSM-5 New!

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, pp. 634-635), for research purposes, describes Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
  • passively resists fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks;

  • complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others;

  • is sullen and argumentative;

  • unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority;

  • expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate;

  • voices exaggerated and persistent complaints of personal misfortune;

  • alternates between hostile defiance and contrition.

The disorder does not occur exclusively during Major Depressive Episodes and is not better accounted for by Dysthymic Disorder.

The Dimensional Perspective

Here is a hypothetical profile, in terms of the five-factor model of personality, for Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder (speculatively constructed from McCrae, 1994, pg. 306):

High Neuroticism
Chronic negative affects, including anxiety, fearfulness, tension, irritability, anger, dejection, hopelessness, guilt, shame; difficulty in inhibiting impulses: for example, to eat, drink, or spend money; irrational beliefs: for example, unrealistic expectations, perfectionistic demands on self, unwarranted pessimism; unfounded somatic concerns; helplessness and dependence on others for emotional support and decision making.

High Extraversion
Excessive talking, leading to inappropriate self-disclosure and social friction; inability to spend time alone; attention seeking and overly dramatic expression of emotions; reckless excitement seeking; inappropriate attempts to dominate and control others.

Low Openness
Difficulty adapting to social or personal change; low tolerance or understanding of different points of view or lifestyles; emotional blandness and inability to understand and verbalize own feelings; alexythymia; constricted range of interests; insensitivity to art and beauty; excessive conformity to authority.

Low Agreeableness
Cynicism and paranoid thinking; inability to trust even friends or family; quarrelsomeness; too ready to pick fights; exploitive and manipulative; lying; rude and inconsiderate manner alienates friends, limits social support; lack of respect for social conventions can lead to troubles with the law; inflated and grandiose sense of self; arrogance.

High Conscientiousness
Overachievement: workaholic absorption in job or cause to the exclusion of family, social, and personal interests; compulsiveness, including excessive cleanliness, tidiness, and attention to detail; rigid self-discipline and an inability to set tasks aside and relax; lack of spontaneity; overscrupulousness in moral behavior.

Character Weaknesses and Vices*

  • procrastination
  • argumentativeness
  • dilatoriness at work
  • querulousness
  • obstructionistic behavior
  • scornful of authority
  • resentful of suggestions
  • "forgets" obligations
  • unaware of being incompetent

passive-aggressiveness, passiveness, contumaciousness, uncooperativeness, resentfulness, hostility, angriness, irritableness, argumentativeness, scornfulness, obstructionism, curmudgeonliness, procrastination, blamefulness, captiousness, nitpicking, contrariness, sulkiness, indecisiveness, stubbornness (Stone, 360-62).


idleness, inactiveness, indolence, laziness, slothfulness, sluggishness, clumsiness, dilatoriness, dullness, heaviness, inertness, unreadiness, slowness, dawdling, delaying, drowsiness, laggardness, lingering, malingering, slackness, carelessness, negligence, forgetfulness, tardiness, apathy, accidie, immobility, indifference, insensibility, lethargy, submissiveness, unassertiveness, unconcern, unfeelingness, oppositionalism.

* Derived from Michael Stone's (23) list of the "personality traits" of DSM-III-R Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

The Behavior Perspective



Associated Disorders

Depression (Styron).

The Life Story Perspective


Cognitive Effects

Basic Belief: I could be stepped on. [Strategy]: Resistance (Beck, Freeman & associates, pg. 26).

The "idealized self is made up of beliefs about how we should feel, think, or act" (Tamney, pg. 32).

Compulsive beliefs and attitudes are idols, too.

In Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, Aaron T. Beck, Arthur Freeman, and associates (1990) list typical beliefs associated with each specific personality disorder. According to my view, the beliefs and attitudes rationalize and reinforce the idealized image and the compulsive attachments and aversions. They are analogous to Karen Horney's "shoulds" and "neurotic claims." Here are the typical beliefs that they have listed (pg. 360) for Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder:

  • I am self-sufficient, but I do need others to help me reach my goals.
  • The only way I can preserve my self-respect is by asserting myself indirectly�for example, by not carrying out instructions exactly.
  • I like to be attached to people but I am unwilling to pay the price of being dominated.
  • Authority figures tend to be intrusive, demanding, interfering, and controlling.
  • I have to resist the domination of authorities but at the same time maintain their approval and acceptance.
  • Being controlled or dominated by others is intolerable.
  • Making deadlines, complying with demands, and conforming are direct blows to my pride and self-sufficiency.
  • If I follow the rules the way people expect, it will inhibit my freedom of action.
  • It is best not to express my anger directly but to show my displeasure by not conforming.
  • I know what's best for me and other people shouldn't tell me what to do.
  • Rules are arbitrary and stifle me.
  • Other people are often too demanding.
  • If I regard people as too bossy, I have a right to disregard their demands.

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. 4th ed. Washington: Author.

American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. 4th ed., text revision. Washington: Author.

Beck, Aaron T. and Freeman, Arthur M. and Associates (1990). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders. New York : Guilford Press.

Beck, Aaron T. and Freeman, Arthur M. and Associates (2003). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, 2nd ed. New York : Guilford Press.

Cooper, Terry D. (2003). Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Gunderson, John G. and Philips, Katherine A. (1995). Personality Disorders. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry/VI, Vol. 2. Eds. Harold I. Kaplan and Benjamin J. Sadock. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

McCrae, Robert R. (1994). "A Reformulation of Axis II: Personality and Personality-Related Problems." Costa, Paul T., Jr., Widiger, Thomas A., editors. Personality Disorders and the Five-Factor Model of Personality. Washington, D.C.: The American Psychological Association.

Perry, J. Christopher (1989). Personality Disorders: Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders, Vol. 3. American Psychiatric Association. Task Force on Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. Washington, DC : American Psychiatric Association.

Stone, Michael H. (1993). Abnormalities of personality: within and beyond the realm of treatment. New York: W.W. Norton.

Styron, William (1990). Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. New York: Random House

Tamney, Joseph B. (2002). The Resilience of Conservative Religion. New York: Cambridge UP.

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder: links

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