Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Know someone who pretends everything is okay, when it is not? If so, they may have passive-aggressive personality disorder. In this lesson, we'll discuss passive-aggressive personality disorder, its symptoms, and how it is treated.

What Is Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder

Jeanne and Dan are a married couple looking to purchase their first house. Dan picks out a nice four-bedroom home in the country, which Jeanne hates. Instead of telling Dan how she really feels about the home he picked out, Jeanne tells him that she loves it and they should buy the home immediately. However, Jeanne misses several meetings with the realtor, fails to sign off on the mortgage paperwork, and refuses to negotiate with the sellers. Because of Jeanne's behaviors, the house was sold to another couple. Jeanne is showing signs of passive-aggressive personality disorder. Dan is frustrated with Jeanne because she seems to do this sort of thing all the time. He offers her an ultimatum: counseling or divorce.

Passive-aggressive personality disorder is a pattern of behavior characterized by the appearance of doing what others want and need you to, while actively trying to undermine them. Instead of directly expressing their true feelings and wishes, people with passive-aggressive personality disorder pretend that everything is okay when it is not. They have a tendency to say one thing, but do another. In other words, their behavior does not match up with what they are communicating to other people.

For example, even though Jeanne said she liked the house, her behaviors showed that she clearly did not like it. Instead of being honest with Dan, Jeanne pretended to like the house. Then she purposefully sabotaged the deal by missing important meetings, refusing to negotiate, and not singing the paperwork.

Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists all of the personality disorders and their diagnostic criteria, passive-aggressive personality disorder is currently not listed in the DSM. In other words, passive-aggressive personality disorder is not considered an official diagnosis. This does not mean that passive-aggressive personality disorder does not exist, but rather mental health experts still need to learn more about the condition, its characteristics, prevalence, and effects. Passive-aggressive personality disorder can interfere with school, work, and social functioning. For example, Jeanne's behavior caused a serious problem in her relationship with Dan and almost led to a divorce.

Symptoms of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder

People with passive-aggressive personality disorder act bitter or resentful toward other people's demands. They often procrastinate and make mistakes on purpose when others ask them to do things. They feel that others don't appreciate them or that they are being cheated. They may also be sullen or hostile. Other symptoms include:

  • Using forgetfulness as a way to avoid being responsible
  • Intentionally being inefficient
  • Excessive complaining
  • Not expressing anger or hostility despite feeling them
  • Fear of authority
  • Purposefully sabotaging the demands and wishes of others

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account