Personality Disorders


Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder

Perspectives q.v.

The Disease Perspective

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:

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.

The Behavior Perspective


Associated Disorders

Depression (Styron).

The Life Story Perspective



Universal Personality Disorder

Basic Passions


Value System [New!]

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder is the typological representation of a particular pathological value system ( see The Stoic account of why people behave badly). The passions listed below (derived mostly from Beck, Freeman, and associates, pp. 45-46) have as their objects those indifferent things which the passive-aggressive personality typically and incorrectly judges to be good and bad. I would look to Evolutionary Psychology and Behavior Genetics for the scientific explanation of the origin of these impulses.


Desires/ Pleasures

Fears/ Distresses

  • freedom to do as one pleases
  • oppositional style
  • the goodwill of authorities
  • recognition from authority figures
  • support of authority figures
  • benefits conferred by authorities
  • autonomy
  • passivity
  • submissivenes
  • self-sufficiency
  • strong figures
  • strong organizations
  • social approval
  • social support
  • attachment
  • social acceptance
  • the caring of others
  • doing things one's own way
  • deviousness
  • evasion or circumvention of rules
  • delaying tactics
  • the line of least resistance
  • solitary pursuits
  • compulsory activity
  • encroachment by others
  • intrusiveness of others
  • demandingness of others
  • interference by others
  • control by others
  • dominance by others
  • rules which restrict freedom of action
  • expectations of others, especially authority figures
  • compliance
  • competition
  • reprisals
  • the cutting off of "supplies"
Cognitive Effects
Basic Belief: I could be stepped on. Strategy: Resistance (Beck, Freeman & associates, pg. 26).

In Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, Aaron T. Beck, Arthur Freeman, and associates list typical beliefs associated with each specific personality disorder. Here are some of the typical beliefs that they have listed (pg. 360) for Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder:

Beck's Cognitive Therapy for Personality Disorders

A Preliminary Study of Stoicism as Psychotherapy

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.

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.

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

The Leisurely personality type is a nonpathological representation of this category.

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder: links

Personality Disorders

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