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Passive-aggressive Personality Disorder

Passive-aggressive Personality Disorder


A personality disorder is a condition in which personality traits are inflexible and cause severe problems in dealing with other people. These traits begin in the teenage or early adult years and remain for life. The passive-aggressive personality refers to people who express their aggression in a passive way.

What is going on in the body?

A person with passive-aggressive personality disorder resists the demands of others. The individual is often unable to come out and refuse to do something. Instead, he or she will put things off, make excuses, or "forget" to do what is asked. These behaviors create many problems in the person's work and social lives.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The cause of passive-aggressive personality disorder is unknown.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is no known way to prevent passive-aggressive personality disorder. Parents who provide love and support for their children may prevent some cases.


How is the condition diagnosed?

Diagnosis of passive-aggressive personality disorder is made based on the symptoms. In some cases, psychological testing is used to help make the diagnosis. Other conditions must be ruled out, including depression and drug abuse.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

A person with a passive-aggressive personality disorder has problems at work and in relationships with others. The person's behavior makes him or her difficult to deal with.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Passive-aggressive personality disorder is not contagious, and poses no risk to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Counseling may help a person with passive-aggressive personality disorder identify and change behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, or individual psychotherapy may be employed to helping the person better relate to others.
Medications may help reduce some symptoms. Medications used to treat depression, called antidepressants, may reduce irritability. Fluoxetine (i.e., Prozac, Serafem) or sertraline (i.e., Zoloft) are commonly used. There is no cure for passive-aggressive personality disorder.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Counseling can increase the person's irritability and anxiety because he or she is forced to confront the negative behaviors. Antidepressant medications may cause sleep disorders, drowsiness, or stomach upset.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

A person with passive-aggressive personality disorder often does not follow the treatment plan. Treatment may not be helpful, and does not cure the condition, although it can significantly improve symptoms and behaviors.


How is the condition monitored?

Passive-aggressive personality disorder lasts for life. The affected person needs frequent monitoring by a healthcare professional, if he or she will accept it. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.


Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder, National Library of Medicine

Textbook of Psychiatry, Hales, 1994

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