Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder: Living in Ambiguity

Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder: Living in Ambiguity

Last update: 29 January, 2018

Your significant other doesn’t want to go to an event you’ve been invited to, but he agrees to go anyway. However, he wastes so much time that when he’s finally ready, the party has almost ended.

This is a characteristic behavior of people with passive-aggressive personality disorder (PAPD).

It’s much more common than you might think. But it’s very difficult to detect because these people tend to be elusive and crafty.

How do people with PAPD act?

Their behavior is defined by resistance to external demands. They adopt a passive attitude to essential and reasonable obligations that everybody has to accept in their daily life.

It’s very hard to get along with them because they try to avoid responsibility at all costs. They simply “forget” them or put them at the bottom of their priority list.

For example, if they’ve committed to bringing a specific dish to a party, they go out to buy it when everyone has already sat down to eat. It’s an extreme form of apathy.

They tend to be demanding, dependent, afraid of being alone, and low in confidence. They’re two-faced, swinging between two extremes, creating confusion around them. They’re manipulative, pessimistic, and resentful.

On top of all that, they refuse to take a critical look at themselves or accept responsibility for their actions. They make justifications and find any excuse to exonerate themselves of any wrongdoing, however ridiculous it might be.

passive-aggressive personality disorder in a relationship


Ambiguity and anger

People with passive-aggressive personality disorder tend to have a large gap between what they say and what they do. It’s almost impossible to know how they’re feeling, because they either show no feeling at all, or two completely opposing feelings at the same time.

Imagine your spouse telling you, “I don’t love you anymore. I’ve stopped loving you,” and then shouting “never leave me! I can’t live without you!Their communication is always ambiguous and indirect.

With you, but without you.

Normally, when people are bothered by something, they say something about it and try to fix it. But these people don’t. They keep it inside and act as if nothing happened. But their inner self is furious.

Therefore, they’re always compliant, yet full of rage. And they never express this anger because they think it’s a completely unacceptable emotion. They repress it because they’re incapable of expressing it in a healthy way.

In fact, they hide it so well that, although they’re full of rage, nobody around them even realizes that they’re offended or bothered. They appear warm, approachable, docile, and pleasant, but deep down they’re envious, vengeful, and angry.

Grumpy and bad-tempered

Passive-aggressive personality disorder makes people aloof, distrustful, and solitary. They can’t control their emotions, easily getting crabby and irritable.

They feel like they’re constantly being mistreated. Therefore, they tend to act hostile, cynical, and stubborn. Their projection reaches such an extreme that the more reasonable explanations you give them, the more they feel like a victim.

They’re also disrespectful and, as a way to defend their independence, they tend to reject other people’s suggestions.

a boss yelling at his female employees


Obstruction and control

It’s very important to them that the people around them don’t get what they want. They’re all appearance. While they make you believe that they support you and are always there for you, their actions betray the opposite. They never give you what you ask for.

Because they don’t like to answer to anyone, they don’t believe in time limits. If you give them a deadline or a time you want them to finish something, as a general rule, they won’t meet it. They prefer to do things their way, without feeling pressured or obligated.

This hugely affects their performance at work. If their boss asks them to complete a report by the next morning, not only will it not be ready, but they also won’t even try to explain why they haven’t done it. They simply let time pass until they feel like doing it.

In some cases, they make up a story or manipulate certain information to get themselves out of the situation.

Causes of passive-aggressive personality disorder

While experts aren’t completely certain, many believe the origin of passive-aggressive personality disorder is a mix of biological and environmental factors. Self-esteem, childhood attachment styles, family dynamics, and learned behaviors can all play a role.

Childhood abuse, disproportionate punishment, and abuse of psychoactive substances during adolescence can also make it more likely. Other conditions that present similarly to passive-aggressive personality disorder include ADHD, stress, depression, bipolar disorder, various other personality disorders, and various addictions.

a couple hugging, the woman looking sad or upset

How to act around someone with PAPD

As you’ve seen, it isn’t easy to respond to or confront their behavior, because they make other people feel powerless.

If you need to be in close contact with a passive-aggressive person, the best thing to do is try not to let yourself get dragged down by their bad mood.

Instead, respond to them with friendliness. Being positive and optimistic, using humor, and talking about banal topics are good ways to resist their negative influence.

If you have enough influence, it’s best to try to get them to seek psychological help. The psychotherapist will try to reduce their anger and frustration by teaching them effective coping strategies. They’ll work on their objectivity, assertiveness, and problem-solving in an effective and healthy way.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.