Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Lori Pace
Most people are familiar with passive-aggressive abuse behavior. Nearly everyone has experienced it. Many of us have unknowingly displayed this behavior. This type of behavior is marked by passive hostility and avoidance of direct communication. It is when someone indirectly expresses negative feelings through their actions.
This means that there is a difference in what they say and do. It can be confusing and even very damaging to be the one on the receiving end. Anxiety can be caused by the inconsistency between what passive-aggressive people say and what they do. This could be the cause of depression.
It is possible that they did not show it by being neutral or even pleasant to be around. They would find indirect ways to express their frustrations, anger, or resentment. For example, they might be stubborn, use delaying tactics, and/or be purposefully inefficient at tasks.
Is Passive-Aggressive Abuse Behavior A Mental Health Illness?
It’s not currently considered a mental illness. However, some people with mental illness will display passive-aggressive behaviors. In the 1990s, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the diagnostic “guidebook”, used by most mental health professionals across America – removed it from the list of personality disorders. They said it was too narrow and not sufficiently supported by scientific evidence.
It is now listed under “Other Specified Personality Disorder”. This means that, although it does not meet the criteria for a particular personality disorder, it is clear that it can cause clinically significant distress and impairment.
In 1960s editions of DSM, however, it was called “passive-aggressive personality”. This was a pattern of behavior that is marked by passive aggressiveness.
Signs Of Passive Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Many passive-aggressive behaviors are used to abuse, manipulate or punish others. These behaviors can also be subtle and difficult to spot. A passive-aggressive person, for example, doesn’t like working on a project. However, they don’t have anything to do with it.
They may show up late for meetings or make excuses why they must leave early. You might also find them intentionally missing deadlines or having a noisy phone conversation with someone who needs to focus on the task at hand.
- Always arrive late
- Intentional inefficiency.
- “Forgetting” something is a sign of failure.
- Avoid people who are upset with you.
- When people are angry at you, stop talking to them.
- Instead of engaging in meaningful conversations, use sarcasm.
- Continually complain during a task.
- Be critical of others.
- When a response is expected, it is best to remain silent.
- Repeatedly fail to complete a task.
- Avoid direct and unambiguous communication
- It is a good idea to make mistakes.
- Being argumentative or disagreeable.
- Being cynical.
- Blaming others.
- Complaining about being undervalued.
What causes this abuse behavior?
Passive-aggressive behavior is a trait that often comes from childhood. Unknowingly, we copy our parents. Sometimes, normal emotions like frustration and disapproval may not have been expressed directly because it was unsafe. For example, if a parent was known for launching angry outbursts when their rules were challenged or broken, this could be an indication.
This could indicate that the person is having trouble handling negative emotions. As children, they were not taught how to deal with negative emotions. Many households discourage the expression of emotion. Passive-aggressive behavior can also be caused by child abuse, neglect, and severe punishments. Additionally, low self-esteem can make it difficult for adults to assert themselves.
As adults, some people learn passive-aggressive behaviors. It is a manipulative strategy to obtain what they want and avoid confrontation.
Some conditions have been linked to this abuse behavior, such as:
- Addiction to drugs and/or alcohol
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- Anxiety disorders.
- Bipolar disorder.
How To Deal With Passive-Aggressive Behavior
You can use “I” statements to help you identify someone who is acting passive-aggressively. You could say, “When you make loud phone calls next to me, I can’t concentrate.” If you could make the calls in another room, I would be grateful to have them there so I can complete the project on time.
This may be a repeatable process. Passive-aggressive behavior can be difficult to change, especially if they were taught it as a child. However, if the behavior does not change, a therapist may be able to help you improve your communication skills with passive-aggressive people. It might also be the time to end the relationship.