What is Avoidant Personality Disorder

What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Avoidant Personality Disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by extreme anxiety and hypersensitivity in social situations.

The DSM-V categorizes it among other nine personality disorders. Patients with personality disorders exhibit rigid and unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving that make it difficult for them to interact with others and their environment. Consequently, patients struggle to maintain relationships and may perform poorly at work or school.

In the United States, about 9% of the population suffers from a personality disorder.

The DMS-V groups personality disorders in three clusters. AVPD belongs in Cluster C, which is characterized by pervasive anxiety.

What Is Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD)?

As a Cluster C personality disorder, AVPD causes fear and nervousness primarily in social situations. The intense negative feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness cause people with this personality disorder to avoid interacting with others. These feelings and behaviors cause limitations in many areas of their lives.

Approximately 2.4% of people in the United States suffer from AVPD, and it appears to affect men and women in equal measure.

While it may seem like average shyness, the difference between a healthy personality trait and a personality disorder is the level of disruption it causes in a person’s life.

A shy person might not readily engage in some social situations like large parties or jobs that require them to interact with a high number of people every day. However, they can perform satisfactorily at work or school and engage in other social situations that make them more comfortable, as small gatherings with intimate friends and family in more quire settings. Shyness does not disrupt their daily life and does not cause intense feelings of fear and anxiety.

Contrarily, someone with AVPD experiences a level of disruption in their daily life. They are more ready to avoid social situations not out of preference but to relieve the powerful negative feelings arising from interacting with other people. In reality, they crave social connections, but it’s extremely difficult for them to establish them.

Like other personality disorders, AVPD usually begins manifesting in adolescence or early adulthood. While it might be observed in children, it isn’t diagnosed in children under 18 years of age.

Often, changes in a patient’s life during their teenage years and early adulthood, such as moving away from home or getting their first job, can aggravate symptoms or make them more apparent.

Symptoms of AVPD


For a person with AVPD, the fear of rejection or ridicule from others is so overpowering that they choose to avoid social situations altogether. This avoidance becomes a pattern of behavior, with different degrees of severity.

Other traits found in people with AVPD are:

  • Social inhibition keeps them from trying anything new or taking risks
  • Awkwardness, shyness, self-consciousness in social situations
  • An intense fear of criticism, rejection, or disapproval
  • Strong anxiety in social situations stemming from their fear of rejection or ridicule
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Few, if any, friendships and close relationships
  • Aggrandizes problems and obstacles
  • Feelings of inferiority and inadequacy


The exact cause of AVPD is still unknown. However, medical professionals agree it stems from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

Some patients may be genetically susceptible to developing a personality disorder like AVPD. This predisposition means that AVPD may run in families. Sometimes, life experiences and other external factors act as a trigger or a contributing factor.

In particular, childhood experiences often play a crucial role in developing personality disorders as adults. Situations such as rejection by parents or friends can affect the patient’s self-esteem, which in some people may contribute to developing AVPD in the future.

Factors contributing to Avoidant Personality Disorder

Risk factors

Because the exact cause of AVPD is not known, it’s difficult to pinpoint specific risk factors.

However, medical experts have observed a few common traits among people who develop AVPD.

Among these factors are:

  • A history of shyness as a child, although not all shy children grow up to present AVPD
  • An unstable or abusive family situation
  • Bullying or rejection from peers as a child
  • A previous diagnosis of a conduct disorder in childhood

Diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder


Anyone suspecting they may have Avoidant Personality Disorder needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional to confirm a diagnosis.

During the consultation, the provider may perform a physical exam and consult the patient’s medical history. The doctor or mental health provider needs to have a thorough understanding of the patient’s past and current health conditions to ensure a physical illness isn’t causing the symptoms.

They will also carry out a psychiatric evaluation. The physician may ask questions about your behavior, thoughts, and feelings to narrow down a diagnosis.

The goal of the examination is to assess aspects of the patient’s personality such as their perception of themselves and the world around them, their attitude and behaviors toward others, and impulse control.

Because symptoms may overlap with those of other personality disorders or mental health conditions, getting a diagnosis isn’t always straightforward.

Differential diagnosis

In particular, AVPD may overlap with the following conditions:

  • Schizoid personality disorder.
    As another Cluster C personality disorder, it also presents social isolation and anxiety. The difference lies in the cause of isolation. While people with AVPD often crave close relationships, the powerful fear of rejection and ridicule makes them avoid interacting with others. In contrast, people with schizoid personality disorder isolate themselves from others because they are not interested in others.
  • Social anxiety disorder.
    At its core, social phobia and AVPD share the avoidance of social situations because of a fear of ridicule or rejection. The differences are subtle, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. One key difference is which situations cause fear and anxiety. People with social phobia often fear that an action they perform will make others reject them. In contrast, people with AVPD avoid socializing because they believe there is something inherently wrong with them that will make people automatically reject them. For example, a person with social phobia might avoid a job interview out of fear of saying the wrong thing. Someone with AVPD may do so because they believe they are not intelligent enough to do the job.

Compliactions of Avoidant Personality Disorder


AVPD may cause major disruptions in the patient’s work, school, and relationships. It makes it difficult for them to build a strong support network, making it hard for them to receive emotional support and care.

For this reason, one complication of AVPD is the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms.

Some patients may use substances to help them in social situations. For example, by drinking alcohol excessively to be more outgoing at a party. Over time, using substances as aids for social interaction may result in substance abuse and addiction.

Fear of social situations can severely hinder the patient’s performance at work or school. They may struggle to go to class or the office. Over time, it may be an obstacle to complete their studies or get a job.

Treatment of Avoidant Personality Disorder


Because the cause of AVPD is still unknown, it’s not possible to prevent its onset. However, the sooner the symptoms are treated, the better the outcome for the patient.

If during a physical exam the physician doesn’t find a physical condition that explains the symptoms, they will refer the patient to a mental health professional.

Depending on the person’s situation and severity of the symptoms, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and social workers may be involved in the treatment to ensure all the patient’s needs are met. For example, someone with more severe symptoms may need support to gain the social and occupational skills to find and maintain a steady job.

The primary treatment for AVPD is psychotherapy. The goal of psychotherapy is to change the person’s maladaptive patterns of thoughts and behaviors and replace them with healthy ones.

Therapy helps people overcome fears, reduce or eliminate unhealthy behaviors, and develop healthy coping skills. While therapy is carried out most often in individual sessions, some persons might benefit from group sessions with other patients or with friends and family.

Sometimes medication may be used alongside therapy. There are no specific medications for AVPD, but some may help ease symptoms. The most common medications involved in treating AVPD symptoms include anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, and mood stabilizers. Only a medical doctor can prescribe medication.

People who present severe symptoms and cannot take care of themselves may need to be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.

Following the treatment is vital to manage AVPD and reduce symptoms.

Malignant Narcissism

How to Identify a Malignant Narcissist

Narcissism has been talked about for a long time as a general personality trait, like the self-absorbed somebody who is so focused on their own appearance and self-admiration that it becomes annoying. But did you know that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a legitimate disorder that involves more than somebody who suffers from a general dose of vanity?

While the causes for NPD haven’t been pinpointed to an exact cause, it is understood that the cause for the disorder is complex and could largely revolve around parent-child relationships involving excessive amounts of praise or punishment, inherited genetic characteristics, or even a neurobiological basis.

What we do know is that the narcissistic personality disorder is a condition where an individual presents with an inflated sense of self-importance and high levels of self-admiration, a need for constant attention and admiration from others, trouble forming and maintaining relationships, and a general lack of empathy for others. What lies underneath that mask of projected self-importance a lot of the time, however, is a fragile self-esteem that relies on external messages from others and the environment to maintain their notion of self-worth.

When we come across somebody who displays narcissistic qualities, it is good to ask: are we simply dealing with someone who has a selfish character? Or someone who has NDP? An understanding of their behavior allows us to navigate interactions with them more effectively.

Like all types of personality disorders, there are different types of NPD that come with their own nuanced behaviors. Malignant narcissists are often regarded as having the most extreme form of NPD, and while they will have the regular qualities of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, their self-absorption and self-obsession is accompanied by some darker behaviors as well.

Learning how to identify malignant narcissists, what their motivations are, and how best to handle them and interact with them can help you in the long run to avoid any unsavory encounters.

Malignant Narcissism Symptoms

So, What Exactly Is Malignant Narcissism?

As well as all of the regular behaviors associated with NPD, malignant narcissism also involves antisocial behavior, sadism (deriving pleasure from the pain or suffering of others), and a paranoid orientation. This can be contrasted with other common types of NPD, such as grandiose narcissism which generally requires excessive amounts of attention and praise, and vulnerable narcissism which generally involves feeling vulnerable, defensive, and requiring support from others.

The term “malignant” in this case refers to being “aggressively malicious”, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Malignant narcissism often involves a combination of internal fragility, aggression, and general suspiciousness of those around them. They are known for being manipulative, and the lack of empathy for others often means that they will do what they must in order to get what they want. Professionals often use the terms malignant narcissist and psychopath interchangeably.

Some of the most common behaviors and symptoms of malignant narcissism include:

  • Only seeing things as black or white, such as whether someone is a friend or an enemy, or whether or not someone wronged them
  • They show zero remorse for harming someone, where someone with a different type of NPD may feel guilty after harming someone for self-gain
  • They will do anything that it takes to get what they want, regardless of the harm it causes others
  • They may feel empowered by hurting or harming others
  • They rank relationships and other people based on superficial standards rather than emotional qualities

Obviously, just because someone has no empathy or is self-absorbed doesn’t make them a malignant narcissist or even someone with NPD. However just because someone who has some of these traits isn’t diagnosed as a malignant narcissist doesn’t mean that they can’t do any damage. This article therefore may help you in other interactions as well.

When we interact with malignant narcissists, it is common for people to feel intimidated, anxious, and fearful of someone with this condition. Malignant narcissists may leave an impression that makes people feel like they are jealous, petty, hateful, and cunning.

There are other signs and symptoms that we can look out for as well that are also found in other forms of NPD, and may provide indications that someone is a malignant narcissist. They include:

  • Focusing on fantasies regarding their beauty, success, and power
  • Blaming other people for their bad behavior
  • Having a weak sense of self and lots of hidden insecurities
  • Taking over conversations and bullying people who they think are below them
  • Believing they deserve the best from everything and everyone and expecting that to be how things work
  • Never experiencing remorse or feeling like they need to apologize unless it is for their own benefit
  • An inability to self-regulate their emotions
  • Having an inflated sense of self
  • Lack of empathy for people and animals
  • Being heavily focused on their appearance and superficial aspects of themselves
  • Lashing out at others when they feel wronged or emotionally exposed
  • Taking advantage of people to achieve their own goals
  • Being unable to take criticism from others

Malignant Narcissism in the Mental Health World

Malignant Narcissism in the Mental Health World

Although malignant narcissism is genuinely considered to be a manifestation of NPD, with experts agreeing that it is the most severe form of the personality disorder, it isn’t recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). Even though it isn’t listed as a formal diagnosis, psychologists and other mental health experts still use it as an effective term for describing a set of characteristics in people affected by NPD. The reason why it hasn’t been classified as a formal diagnosis is because malignant narcissism is essentially at a crossroads between multiple disorders. It combines aspects of NPD with Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), aggression and sadism, and paranoia.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Because of many of the shared similarities between APD and malignant narcissism, it is helpful to understand this type of personality disorder so that it may shed light on some of the characteristics of malignant narcissism. Someone with APD will show some of the following symptoms:

  • Zero regard for their own safety or that of others
  • An inability to follow social norms and laws
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Being aggressive and irritable
  • Showing zero remorse for their actions
  • Lying and manipulating others for their own amusement or to achieve their own goals
  • Consistent irresponsibility and an avoidance of taking responsibility for their own actions

Dealing with a Narcissist

Whether you have to deal with a loved one who has NPD, or even malignant narcissism, or if it is someone outside of your family like a co-worker or your boss who you can’t avoid, know that there are some approaches and general rules that you can follow to maintain a safe interaction:

  • Acknowledge that dealing with them won’t be easy.
    People with NPD generally have poor perceptions of boundaries; however, it is important that you establish and maintain them and acknowledge that it may take some effort to do so. This may involve establishing physical space between the two of you, or maintaining personal boundaries if they repeatedly ask for favors from you.
  • Don’t expect them to change.
    Because this is a personality disorder, these kinds of behaviors and aspects of their personality sit at such a core level within them that trying to change them will likely just leave you (and them) frustrated. This is not the same as correcting bad behavior in a child who will learn from the experience, so be prepared to leave them be.
  • If you challenge them openly and directly, they may fight back.
    This may not involve physical violence. However, they may try to either manipulate you in retaliation to challenging them over something, or they may manipulate other people against you in an attempt to win and gain dominance. This is an important rule to remember, especially when setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Sometimes instead of outright saying no and creating a confrontational atmosphere, it can be a good idea to find less confrontational approaches to maintaining boundaries. You don’t have to agree with everything they say or go along with everything they ask, but focus on maintaining a friendly atmosphere and kindly suggest alternatives to them if you really need to.
  • If confrontation is unavoidable, don’t do it in front of a crowd.
    If, no matter how hard you try, a confrontation can’t be avoided, doing so in front of spectators will only make them feel like they need to protect themselves more in order to save face in front of a crowd. This can lead to even heavier retaliation. It can be a good idea to pull them aside beforehand, and let them know that you don’t want to challenge them in front of other people as a favor to them.
  • Let your friends know and surround yourself with supportive people.
    After any interaction with a malignant narcissist, it is a good idea to keep the people who you trust in the loop regarding what happened so that if anything bad happens that negatively affects you, you will have people around you who are not so easily manipulated who can stand up for you when you are not around and can support you and help protect you if needed. That way you won’t be fighting any battles alone.

Dealing with someone with NPD can be a difficult task, and if they have malignant narcissism, it can be even harder. Remember to try and keep as much distance as you can between them and yourself, however we realize that if they are a family member or someone who you have to regularly interact with then this can be hard. You can reach out to a mental health professional to get access to some great tips and coping methods to ensure that you stay safe and can confidently navigate any future interactions you have with them.

Personality changes

What Are the Big Five Personality Traits?

There are many different ways to assess personalities from the lighthearted and meaningless BuzzFeed quiz that tells you what type of citrus fruit you are to the horoscope which assesses you based on the circumstances of your birth to more serious and methodological approaches like the highly popular Myers-Briggs test.

Yet most people outside of the psychological profession haven’t heard of one of the most scientifically popular models, the Big Five personality traits, otherwise called the OCEAN model.

In this article, we’ll tell you all about this model and what the big five traits are, as well as explain how it might be useful (or not useful) to you personally to examine yourself using this schema.

History of the Big Five Personality Traits

The first Big Five personality model was developed in the 1960s as a way to understand the relationship between human personality and academic behavior, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that it started to really draw attention and the 1990s that it was solidified as the model that it is today.

Interestingly, the same big five personality traits have been independently identified by at least four different sets of researchers, although with slight differences in names and definitions. However, this is definitely compelling evidence of the accuracy of the Big Five model as a way to describe the human personality.

How the Big Five Model Works

As you can imagine based on the name, the Big Five personality model points to five different traits as being the main underlying factors of personality. Each of these exists on a continuum or spectrum with most people falling somewhere in the middle of the range.

The five traits were identified by lexical modeling, which basically means that the researchers used language as a tool, collecting thousands of adjectives that are used to describe people, grouping them into related categories and narrowing them down further and further until landing at the five following traits that make up the Big Five today.

Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five Traits

So what are these much-talked-about Big Five traits? Here’s a rundown.

Openness to Experience

The first of the Big Five traits is openness to experience. This involves things like imagination, curiosity, adventurousness, sensitivity, and willingness to try new things. People high in this trait are more likely to appreciate art, to want to have as many new experiences as possible, to be creative, to be aware of their feelings, to take risks, and to seek out intense experiences.

In contrast, people who are low in this trait are more consistent and cautious. They’re more realistic, pragmatic, and data-driven, with a tendency to think before they act and resist change or new ideas. They’ll appreciate concrete numbers and facts more than abstract concepts.


The next Big Five personality trait is conscientiousness, which refers to qualities like self-discipline, achievement, impulse control, focus, and even stubbornness. People high in conscientiousness are always prepared, see things through to the end, are detail-oriented, can stick to schedules and meet deadlines, and prefer to plan rather than be spontaneous.

On the other hand, people low in conscientiousness are more likely to procrastinate, to get distracted, to be flexible, to be harder to rely on, to lose things, and to be perceived as sloppy or forgetful.


The third Big Five personality trait is extraversion, which refers to outgoingness, engagement with the outside world, enthusiasm, high energy, assertiveness, and dominance in social situations. A person high in extraversion is somebody who might be described as the life of the party, who gets energy from being around many people, who feels comfortable around others and likes being the center of attention, and who tends to start conversations with and enjoy talking to people.

On the other side of the extraversion spectrum are the introverts, who are more quiet, deliberate, and prefer their alone time. These people are more independent, needing less social stimulation and more alone time. They can be reserved, not talk too much, avoid drawing attention to themselves, and are quiet around strangers.


The next Big Five personality trait is agreeableness, which you can think of as desiring social harmony, getting along well with others, and being good at cooperating. Agreeable people are seen as kind, considerate, generous, trustworthy, helpful, optimistic, affectionate, and altruistic. They care about people, like to help out, want to keep everybody happy, and are very sympathetic.

People who are less agreeable tend to be more focused on themselves than they are on others. They’re less likely to offer help to somebody, they don’t take as much of an interest in others, and they don’t care quite as much how other people feel. They might be perceived as selfish, manipulative, competitive, and unfriendly.


The final Big Five personality trait is neuroticism. This is associated with negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, anger, and emotional instability. People high in neuroticism experience more stress and sadness, they are more irritable and have more mood swings, they’re easier to upset, and they often worry about many different things.

On the other hand, people who are low in neuroticism are more stable emotionally. They aren’t as reactive and don’t get upset as easily. They take things in stride, remain calm, feel relaxed more often than they feel anxious, and are less likely to experience negative feelings on a regular basis.

What affects your personality

What Affects Your Personality?

As you can see, there are a lot of different combinations of Big Five traits that you might have that make you who you are. But why are some people extroverted while others prefer to be alone? Why do some people feel sad and anxious often while others are more emotionally stable?

Well, there are several factors that play a role in which of the Big Five personality traits you score high or low in.

When it comes to the question of nature or nurture, you may be interested to know that based on twin studies, it appears that both heritability and environmental factors play about an equal role in all five of the Big Five traits, ranging from about 40% to 60% genetic influence on each of the different traits.

That means that you’re already born with about half of your personality pre-decided for you by your DNA. In fact, just by being born a girl, you’re more likely to be neurotic and agreeable. Interesting, huh?

But that does leave another half of your personality to be decided by factors such as how you’re raised, your family life, your age, and your culture. For example, as you age, you generally tend to become more agreeable and conscientious, and less neurotic. Factors like disease can also change your personality, with Alzheimer’s patients’ Big Five scores typically descreasing in conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness and increasing in neuroticism.

What Does It All Mean?

It can be a lot of fun to take personality quizzes and assess yourself based on various personality models, but what is the implication of all of this? Are your Big Five personality traits significant to your life, mental health, and well-being?

As you can imagine, this question has been interesting to a lot of people, with many researchers studying it in depth. And the findings of these studies have certainly been fascinating.

For example, based on a few studies on the connection between Big Five personality traits and health, it was concluded that:

⦁ Neuroticism significantly predicted chronic illness
⦁ Optimism was related to physical injuries caused by accidents
⦁ High conscientiousness could add as much as five year’s to a person’s life
⦁ Higher conscientiousness was associated with a lower risk of obesity

Other studies have had such interesting outcomes as:

⦁ Personality contributing to 14% of GPA
⦁ Neuroticism being negatively related to academic success
⦁ A link between innovation and openness to experience and conscientiousness
⦁ High agreeableness being linked to lower salary
⦁ High conscientiousness being linked to right-wing political identification, and high openness to experience to a left-leaning ideology

However, as interesting as this all is, even a personality model as highly supported and researched as the Big Five traits cannot predict how individuals are going to behave or how somebody’s life is going to turn out. The exact relationship between personality traits, life outcomes, temperaments, and social context is still, to put it simply, a mystery.

So if you’re curious about Big Five personality traits and want to assess yourself accordingly, you may have a lot of fun exploring your results and what they might mean about you. But take everything you learn with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, personality is not an exact, perfect science and who you are as an individual human being is more complicated than any personality test can fully capture.

Agressive behavior

What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

The term “passive-aggressive” has been thrown around so casually for so long that, like many other mental health terms such as OCD and ADD, it has become diluted and come to take on a new meaning. In fact, many people around the world are probably misusing the term as you read this article to refer to any of a number of various kinds of irritating or unpleasant behavior.

The reality is that many of us can be passive-aggressive every so often as it is frequently used in place of healthier, more direct methods of communication. But passive-aggression has significant downsides, so if you can identify that you indulge in it from time to time and commit to replacing it with other, more effective ways to handle conflict, you and the people around you will all benefit as a result.

In this article, we’ll define passive-aggressive behavior with concrete examples, explain where it comes from and why it’s important to understand it, and help you discover alternative ways of problem-solving.

Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior is, essentially, what it sounds like: behaviors that are aggressive in a passive rather than an active way. The important thing to understand is that these behaviors are nonetheless aggressive although they may not come off overtly as such which can, in fact, be even more insidious as it creates the opportunity for the person exhibiting the behaviors to deny that they are being aggressive at all.

Perhaps one of the best ways to illustrate what passive-aggressive behavior is is to offer examples, many of which you’ll probably recognize from your personal life as behaviors that you’ve seen from others or even indulged in yourself.

Several examples of various passive-aggressive behaviors include:

⦁ Leaving your roommate a series of notes on the fridge asking them to stop being noisy or to tidy up after themselves instead of discussing it with them in person
⦁ Avoiding somebody or cancelling plans at the last minute in order to not have to address unresolved issues
⦁ Claiming to be fine and not angry even when you are, indeed, angry
⦁ Saying yes to doing a favor you don’t want to do and then resenting the other person for asking
⦁ Giving backhanded compliments such as, “I wish I was confident enough to wear an outfit so out there”
⦁ Playing the victim
⦁ Excluding somebody socially as a form of punishment or as a response to conflict
⦁ Holding grudges and keeping score of past mistakes
⦁ Being sullen, sulking, sarcastic, and/or complaining
⦁ Giving the silent treatment

Causes of passive-aggressive behavior

Causes of Passive-Aggressive Behavior

It’s easy to agree that passive-aggressive behavior is rarely pleasant to witness, yet most of us indulge in it every once in a while and some of us even do so compulsively, most often without realizing it. So why is that the case? What is so attractive about behaving in this unsavory manner?

How We’re Raised

So much of our communication patterns and behaviors are modeled after the people who raised us. As such, if we’ve been treated passive-aggressively by our parents, role models, and guardians throughout our formative years, we’re much more likely to repeat these patterns ourselves in our adulthood.

Fear of Confrontation

Especially in Western culture, many of us have been raised to fear dealing with conflict and confrontation head-on. It can be uncomfortable for us to stand up for ourselves and directly address problems so, instead, we find a “safer” way to make it known that we’re unhappy that is, ultimately, no less aggressive than just talking about things in an open manner.

Expressing Emotions

Similarly, it can often be very difficult for people to openly express their emotions in a productive manner, especially when those emotions are negative ones like anger. So instead of just feeling and processing our feelings, we turn to other outlets, such as passive-aggression, which is a roundabout way to let out our feelings.

Situational Adaption

Even people who are great at confrontation and expressing their emotions can find themselves in situations in which it is less appropriate to do so such as certain family gatherings or work meetings. When this happens, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up expressing your feelings in a passive-aggressive way, as the alternative is not seen as socially acceptable.

It’s Easier

Finally, it’s worth mentioning one more reason why people might behave passive-aggressively: it’s easier. Call it a “cop-out” or “taking the easy road,” but either way, leaving a note on somebody’s door is emotionally and socially easier than having to have an open conversation about how their behavior bothers you. When the idea of truly talking things out seems hard and scary, passive-aggressive behavior can become an appealing alternative.

Why Passive-Aggressive Behavior Matters

So why does all of this matter? Who does passive-aggressive behavior hurt and why should we bother changing it?

Well, because it is an indirect and incomplete form of communication, passive-aggressive behavior is not actually a productive way to solve problems. It leaves things unsaid, issues unaddressed, upsets other people, and can even escalate the problem and make it worse.

Think about how you feel when somebody is passive-aggressive toward you. Imagine that you are telling a friend how excited you are about having recently gotten into jogging and how much better it’s making you feel physically. What if their response is to say to you, “Oh, that’s great for you. I wish I had the time for things like that but I’m too busy taking care of my family and working hard to pay my mortgage to have hobbies.”

How would you feel? In all likelihood, it won’t be too pleasant – and that’s a relatively mild example of passive-aggression.

Now imagine an even more problematic scenario. Let’s say your partner is upset with you because you’ve been forgetting to ask them about how their day went when they get home from work. Instead of telling you, they sulk and hold it in, but claim that everything is fine every time you ask if something is wrong.

As you can imagine, the longer your partner goes engaging in this passive-aggressive behavior without telling you how they feel, the worse the issue will get, with growing resentment and you not having an opportunity to adjust your own behavior and meet your partner’s needs.

This is why it’s so important to address things head on and cut off passive-aggressive behavior at the bud, both when it’s coming from you and when somebody else in your life is the source.

Recovery from passive-agressive behavior

How to Change Passive-Aggressive Behavior

So here is the important part: how can you address and change passive-aggressive behavior before it spirals out of control?

First, it’s critical to learn how to identify when you’re behaving passive aggressively. When you’re angry or feeling slighted, observe how you respond.

Do you bring it up with the person immediately? Do you openly explain how you feel and what you’d like to see change? Do you behave in an honest manner? Do you direct the conversation toward solutions?

Or, on the other hand, do you find yourself trying to ignore how you feel and pretend everything is okay? Do you sulk and avoid people? Do you stop talking to people that you’re angry with or use sarcasm as a way to not have to talk about your real feelings?

If you do, you should know that you are by no means the only one. All of us have the tendency to behave this way from time to time. But the more you practice, the better you’ll be at identifying your own passive-aggressive behaviors and correcting them, choosing instead to be open about your feelings and address things head-on.

Additionally, becoming better at identifying passive-aggressive behavior will also make it easier for you to be able to tell when somebody is acting that way toward you. Then, you can try one of the following strategies:

⦁ Pointing out how it seems that the passive-aggressive person may be feeling
⦁ Being non-judgmental but open and factual
⦁ Modeling openly expressing your feelings as a way to make the other person safe doing the same
⦁ Giving people space as an opportunity to work through their feelings

At the end of the day, addressing passive-aggressive behavior is like any other social skill: it takes practice, especially if you weren’t taught how to do it in your younger years. But the more you do your best to handle conflict in a healthy and open manner, the easier it will become over time and the better your relationships will be as a result.

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