When asked to respond to the needs and desires of others in work and social situations, individuals with passive-aggressive personality disorder appear to comply or act appropriately, but actually behave negatively and passively resist. This personality disorder is a chronic condition, meaning that it lasts throughout life.

A personality disorder is a set pattern or persistent way of behaving and acting that is usually rigid and inflexible. Individuals with personality disorders have a tendency to have a difficult time getting along with others. They are not able to respond properly when circumstances or situations change. This behavior is so persistent that it affects day-to-day functioning.

When a personality disorder such as this affects normal behavior, it is important to contact a medical professional and seek treatment.


The cause of this disorder is unknown. There may be environmental and genetic (or biological) factors that contribute to the development of the disorder. These factors are often considered to be involved in personality disorders.

Prefrontal Cortex

Prefrontal cortex brain
This part of the brain is believed to control our ability to act in a way that is socially appropriate. Biological changes to this area may contribute to personality disorders.
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

There are no established risk factors for passive-aggressive personality disorder, however, genetics may play a role.


If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to passive-aggressive personality disorder. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions.

Symptoms include:

  • Contradictory and inconsistent behavior. An individual with passive-aggressive personality disorder may appear enthusiastic to carry out others’ requests, but he or she purposely performs in a manner that is not useful and sometimes even damaging.
  • Intentional avoidance of responsibility. Some behaviors that may be used to avoid responsibility include:
    • Procrastination – to delay or postpone needlessly and intentionally
    • Deliberate inefficiency – purposefully performing in an incompetent manner
    • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of resentment toward others
  • Stubbornness
  • Argumentative, sulky, and hostile, especially toward authority figures
  • Easily offended
  • Resentful of useful suggestions from others
  • Blames others
  • Chronically impatient
  • Unexpressed anger or hostility


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, including mental health history. Then, the doctor will most likely refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

To locate mental health services in your area, visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s “Locate Services” website at: .



There is no medication available for this disorder. If anxiety]]> or ]]>depression]]> is also involved, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants. Antidepressants are medications that ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Counseling can help the individual become aware of the problem and acknowledge the need to change.


There are no known ways to prevent passive-aggressive personality disorder.