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3 Ways to Treat Passive Aggressive Behavior

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated June 13, 2017

Know When Passive Aggression is Becoming a Problem

It's normal to feel resentful or uncooperative at times, especially if you've been talked into something that you don't necessarily want to do. Passive aggression, however, is a way of life for many people. By harboring resentment and fear, these individuals often avoid responsibility completely. Individuals who are passive aggressive usually agree to cooperate and then provide constant excuses not to follow through on promises or agreements. In many cases, the intention is to sabotage a project or task, or to undermine authority.

Passive aggression becomes a genuine problem when it interferes with normal daily activities and jeopardizes personal relationships. While people with passive aggressive tendencies see these behaviors as a way to avoid responsibility and express anger or resentment in a non-confrontational way, they are often surprised when they are no longer trusted or even liked. That's when it's time to seek treatment or counseling.

Use Therapy to Discover the Hidden Emotions Behind Passive Aggression

Passive aggression is no longer considered a mental illness or personality disorder according to the DSM-IV, the diagnostic manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists. Passive aggressive behaviors are usually the result of fear and anger that have been repressed for a number of years. The secret to treating and eliminating passive aggressive tendencies is to identify those negative feelings and emotions and to address the causes. Sometimes this can be accomplished with a single conversation between friends or loved ones, but most of the time psychotherapy or behavior therapy is needed to stop the behavior completely.

Stop Enabling the Passive Aggressive Behaviors

Most individuals with passive aggressive tendencies continue to act in this manner because they perceive it as a way to either avoid responsibility or lash out at others in positions of authority. A myriad of excuses or complaints are usually offered as an explanation for these behaviors. One of the secrets to discouraging passive aggression is to simply analyze and investigate the excuses and not to accept them at face value. If an excuse is found to be irrelevant or incorrect, it's best to bring this up directly and to ask the individual if they have a specific complaint. With passive aggression, honesty is often the best policy.

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