The Negativistic Passive Aggressive Personality

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Some people just seem unsure of which way to turn in life. Ever ambivalent, they vacillate between uneasy feelings of dependence and an equally uneasy desire for self-assertion. Simultaneously needy and independent, they agree to conform to requests for performance, but nevertheless have strong issues with authority and resent external control. Inevitably, they feel misunderstood, unappreciated, and disillusioned. As their discontent deepens, they begin to find fault with the way others treat them and engage in indirect or passive forms of behavioral and emotional protest. On the surface, they agree to follow through but then sabotage the expectations of others through procrastination, intentional inefficiency, shoddy workmanship, and subtle obstruction. Stubborn, uncooperative, contrary, nitpicking, sulking, pouting, and pessimistic, they dampen the spirits of those around them. Though they sometimes make genuine confessions of remorse, eventually they become sullen and oppositional once more. All despise and defy authority and seek to avenge their disillusionment by undermining anyone who would require something from them.

Such individuals are often called passive-aggressive personalities. In this chapter, negativistic is the preferred designation, a newer label that captures the broader elements of the total pattern. The pattern is perhaps best understood as being both similar and opposite to the compulsive. In terms of the evolutionary model, both are ambivalent patterns that struggle mightily with issues of obedience and defiance (Rado, 1959). The negativistic pattern, however, is actively ambivalent, whereas the compulsive is passively ambivalent. As such, compulsives follow a strategy of containment, suppressing their conflicts to appear self-controlled, perfectionistic, orderly, and morally scrupulous. In contrast, negativists work out their resentments on the surrounding world, but only in indirect ways, thus symbolizing their inability to break free of ambivalence and pursue a strategy of overt opposition.

Consider the case of Kim (see Case 15.4). Because Kim is presenting for therapy of her own free will, you would think that she wants to get the most out of the experience. But her personality keeps getting in the way (see criterion 1). Her first strategy is to transfer responsibility for therapy totally to the therapist. Asked what she would most like to change, she replies, "You're the doctor; how would I know what's going on?"; her aim is to create a lose-lose situation in which any further inquiry effectively calls the therapist's credentials into doubt. Essentially, Kim is implying, "As a doctor, you should know what the problem is, and if you don't, how can you call yourself a doctor?" If the therapist buys into this, no information can be gathered and therapy cannot proceed. If the therapist doesn't buy into this, the therapist is unworthy of his or her degree. The correct response would be some variant of, "Perhaps as more information comes to light, you and I can work collaboratively on the issues that emerge."

As the interview moves on, Kim adopts a new strategy: She overelaborates what she believes is irrelevant and underelaborates the relevant. She technically conforms to the requirements of the interview, but in the wrong way. Moreover, whenever the therapist offers some interpretation, Kim is now more than happy to produce relevant biographical information that refutes the hypothesis. Eventually, she concludes by saying, "I guess you don't know me any better than anyone else," an invitation to reduce the interview to an argument by provoking, "How could I, you won't tell me a damn thing!" from the interviewer. All of the previous in itself, however, is valuable diagnostic data— much more valuable than Kim would like it to be.

The subtle confrontation that Kim desires begins to subside only when the interviewer touches on deeper issues by asking if she has been coerced into coming (see criterion 4). Further diagnostic evidence now comes into view. Her complaint that the doctor doesn't understand her converges with a similar complaint about her husband, who "doesn't appreciate me, doesn't understand me," and just wants her to "fake nice" (see criterion 2). She states that she has come to therapy to "make amends for being

CASE 15.4

At the beginning of the clinical Interview, it was obvious that Kim, age 23, was dissatisfied with her life.1 When asked what she would most like to change, Kim exclaimed, "You're the doctor, how would I know what's going on!" As the interview wore on, a basic pattern became clear. Kim would overelaborate anything irrelevant to the treatment process, and underelaborate anything relevant.

Her claim of ignorance about her problems eventually proved to be a setup. As soon as the doctor would offer an interpretation of her problem, Kim would argue that that could not possibly be the case, or produce contradictory biographical information that had been previously withheld, all while blaming the doctor. "I guess you don't understand me any better than anyone else," she sighed. Sometimes her expression was more obviously sullen; sometimes her oppositionalism was concealed with a smile.

Because Kim obviously felt ambivalent about therapy, it was important to determine if she had been somehow "coerced" into coming. At this point, her manner abruptly changed. She acknowledged that she was not too happy at present and supposed she wanted therapy, to "make amends for being a such a bitch." As Kim gained some control over her emotions and allowed her resistance to subside somewhat, she stated that the first order of business would be fixing her relationship with her husband. She claimed that she needed more emotional space. "I must drive him crazy, but that's me," she said. "He's so damn controlling. He's such an idiot and he doesn't even know it and I resent it. He doesn't appreciate me, and he doesn't understand me, he just wants me to fake nice," she continued, obviously hostile. "I'm like everyone else would be if they didn't feel tied to social protocol and bogus civility. And he seemed so perfect and lovable at first!"

When asked directly about her family relationships, Kim noted that these had always been a problem, except when she was very young. As a little girl, she was regarded as adorable and cute. At family gatherings, her mother and father showed her off, referring to her as "our pride and joy." But at age 10, life changed. Her mother became pregnant, and announced that because Kim was becoming a woman, she would have to pull her weight in the household, sharing the washing, ironing, cooking, and dishwashing. If she neglected her chores, harsh punishment followed. "I supposed they did what they thought was right for me," Kim reflected, "but what they felt was right turned me into a slave, while they treated my sister like a goddess. She got away with everything. I got them back, though. I knew just where to make a mistake."

Apparently, Kim has no insight into the connection between her early development and current problems in her marriage. In fact, she quickly becomes resistant and defensive whenever anything is asked of her, even where it furthers her own larger plan. Toward the end, the session degenerated into a "gripe session," with Kim refusing to "own" any of her difficulties. Others were overly controlling, she was only reacting to the injustices forced upon her. At the end of the interview, she asks in a covertly accusing tone, "I'm supposed to feel better, right?

Negativistic Personality Disorder DSM-IV Criteria

A. A pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

(1) passively resists fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks

(2) complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others

(3) is sullen and argumentative

(4) unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority

(5) expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate

(6) voices exaggerated and persistent complaints of personal misfortune

(7) alternates between hostile defiance and contrition

B. Does not occur exclusively during Major Depressive Episodes and is not better accounted for by Dysthymic Disorder.

Reproduced with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Copyright 1994 American Psychiatric Association.

1 Numbers mark aspects of the case most consistent with DSM criteria, and do not necessarily indicate that the case "meets" diagnostic criteria in this respect.

such a bitch," yet whenever anything is asked of her, she immediately becomes defensive, resistant, and argumentative. Toward the end, the interview has degenerated into a gripe session (see criterion 3). A resentment of authority (see criterion 4) is indirectly present through a resentment of the therapist's control, the instrument of authority, and a resentment of whatever power her husband might have presumed for himself in their relationship. Moreover, Kim's resistance at the beginning of the interview was probably created because the therapist's credentials create an aura of prestige that, for her, is symbolic of authority. The origins of her resentment are made clear when she notes that when her parents demanded that she pull her own weight in the household, "What they felt was right turned me into a slave." Like most negativists, Kim resents those who have been more fortunate than she (see criterion 5), as evidenced by her attitude toward her sister, whom her parents "treated like a goddess." Finally, Kim shows that a considerable fund of guilt underlies her resentment (see criterion 7) when she supposes she wants therapy to "make amends for being such a bitch" to her husband.

Given the portrait of Kim, we are now in a position to approach additional issues that form the plan of this section. First, we compare normality and abnormality; then we move on to variations on the basic negativistic theme. The section "Evolutionary Neu-rodevelopmental Perspective" shows how the existence of the personality disorder follows from the laws of evolution. Also included are a comparison between the negativistic and other personality constructs and a discussion of how negativistic personalities tend to develop Axis I disorders.

From Normality to Abnormality

Although the negativistic personality is obviously pathological in its full expression, negativistic traits and behaviors are frequently found in the course of everyday life. Almost everyone knows what it feels like to be overcontrolled and how that experience summons thoughts of getting revenge in some indirect way or at least making life a little more difficult for the controlling person. Most people have such thoughts around tax time, for example, when the government is experienced as autocratic, unfair, and exacting. Fuming with anger underneath the burden of meeting a deadline just to give away their hard-earned money to an entity that shows them no appreciation, most individuals experience daydreams of getting inside the system and causing trouble or even secretly bringing about its downfall. Such thoughts are normal, but they represent what negativists feel most of the time. To them, every request or expectation feels like a willful imposition. Meeting requests or honoring expectations feels like submission, and meeting demands feels like humiliation.

Another way of creating a negativistic personality style is to normalize the diagnostic criteria for the negativistic personality disorder found in DSM-IV (see Sperry, 1995). Whereas individuals with the personality disorder resist fulfilling social and occupational duties (see criterion 1), those with the personality style conform to expectations but would like to put their own personal stamp on their productions. Whereas the disordered complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated (see criterion 2), the style makes substantial contributions but enjoys receiving due credit. Whereas the disordered is sullen and argumentative (see criterion 3), the style is able to get along with others, becoming resistant only when sensing a sense of entitlement from others. Whereas the disordered unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority (see criterion 4), the style is able to use protest constructively without exaggerating faults. Whereas the disordered is envious of those more fortunate (see criterion 5), those with the style do not begrudge others their good fortune but may become quickly disappointed if their own efforts are not appropriately rewarded. Whereas the disordered complains about personal misfortune (see criterion 6), those with the style are simply more conscious of the distribution of rewards in life but are nevertheless able to take initiative to better their own situation. Finally, whereas the disordered vacillates between defiance and expressions of remorse (see criterion 7), the style does not act out so extremely that such expressions are necessary. For each of these application contrasts, Kim falls more toward the pathological side.

Variations of the Negativistic Personality

Figure 15.4 presents a summary of the subtypes of this pattern. Actual cases may or may not fall into one of these combinations.

The Circuitous Negativist

In the first DSM (1952), the passive-aggressive was grouped together with the passive-dependent. The circuitous negativist reflects the wisdom of this early alliance, a combination of the negativistic and dependent personalities. Indirect resistance to the expectations of others is an almost defining feature, especially where such expectations

Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder
FIGURE 15.4 Variants of the Negativistic Personality.

assume compliance and thus value the individual as a means to an end, not as a unique human being. As the name suggests, these persons avenge themselves mainly in roundabout and covert ways that undercut and frustrate anyone who would take them for granted or demand a certain level of performance.

Their exact methods vary but include procrastination, dawdling, stubbornness, for-getfulness, and intentional inefficiency. Fearful of expressing resentments directly, the circuitous negativist fulfills obligations with foot-dragging slowness and inconsistent performance. Depending on the prominence of dependent features, feigned incompetence or exhausting requests for help may be used to frustrate others. Given a looming deadline or the need to perform at unusually high levels, somatic complaints may be used passive-aggressively as a means of excusing them from work, thus increasing the level of tension for everyone else.

The Abrasive Negativist

Whereas circuitous negativists struggle with their internal resentments, abrasive nega-tivists remain caught in the conflict between their own agenda and a loyalty to others but have become more overtly and intentionally contentious and quarrelsome nonetheless. Such individuals, in fact, feel so torn by conflict that every request or expectation feels like a major burden, an opportunity to incur contempt. Past experience has shown them that even their most conscientious performances are likely to be evaluated with disappointment and derision. Abrasive negativists are so tired and jaded that they have deep doubts about whether life will work out or whether happiness is even possible at all.

The abrasive negativist fears that loyalty and the tender emotions are only a sad illusion created to conceal the perverse cruelty of human nature. Many were subjected as children to "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations by their attachment figures. As such, minor frictions tend to exacerbate into major confrontations and power struggles. Some take special joy in spotting inconsistencies in the behaviors or ethical standards of anyone who would require something from them. They construct arguments that amplify observed contradictions and shove these squarely in the face of their antagonists, just for the sadistic pleasure of undermining their self-confidence and watching them squirm.

Aware of the sadistic power of the superego, many take the moral high ground and dogmatically insist that others are either hypocritical or mentally defective. When pressed, even such indirect oppositionality may give way to contemptuous faultfinding and outright insults. During such periods, anyone who crosses their path may become an object of scorn and derision. Abrasive negativists represent a blend of the negativis-tic and sadistic personalities.

The Discontented Negativist

As a combination of the negativistic and depressive personalities, discontented nega-tivists are the consummate gripers. In contrast to circuitous negativists, who sabotage through covert action or inaction any satisfaction others might receive from accomplishing their goals, the discontented negativist attacks emotionally through annoying complaints, thinly cloaked criticisms, and unsubtle digs. Whereas the abrasive negativist can be brutal, the discontented negativist fights a war of attrition, actually a series of small battles designed to wear down the enemy.

Constantly disapproving, they seek some thin rationale by which to be negative and faultfinding. They point out imperfections, pick at old wounds, work others into a state of irritation, and then complain further that their concerns have not been properly addressed. Often, their assertions have some basis in fact but represent trivial concerns in the context of the larger plan. Some represent themselves as persons of goodwill who are exasperated with the problem at hand, perhaps struggling with the inefficiency or ineptitude of those around them, especially those who give the orders. By getting attention for their complaints, some may cultivate the image of being more competent than their managers, whose recognized status and authority they deeply resent.

The Vacillating Negativist

Representing a combination of the negativistic and borderline patterns, the vacillating variant is distinguished by unstable and rapidly fluctuating emotions and attitudes. They may, for example, present themselves as affectionate, predictable, interesting, even charming, but then suddenly become irritable, oppositional, and disagreeable. Or they may appear self-assured, decisive, and competent, only to abruptly regress to a clinging dependency. Or they may be pleased with themselves one moment, only to become angry and depressed the next. Torn by conflict, the thoughts of vacillating nega-tivists seem to flow freely in almost any direction, putting them at the mercy of rapidly changing emotions. Emotions are expressed directly and primitively, untransformed by a cohesive self-structure that might give direction to behavior. Tantrums are common. Unable to fathom the source of such shifts, others find them aversive, if only because their emotional maelstroms are difficult to understand.

Evolutionary Neurodevelopmental Perspective

The psychodynamics of the negativist can be traced to either a satisfying first stage of the oral phase where basic trust is established with the second half of the oral phase where sadistic biting develops or to the anal stage where issues of autonomy versus external control are confronted. Cognitively, the negativist is skeptical and cynical, extremely rigid, controlled by "I should not" statements, and suffers from black-and-white thinking. Interpersonally, negativists are excessively concerned with the distribution of rewards and become bitterly jealous. In work situations, negativists assume that they will be exploited by others and promise to complete tasks on which they do not deliver.

The evolutionary interpretation stresses the interplay of factors across all domains of personality. In this model, negativists are portrayed as being actively ambivalent, conflicted between putting their own needs first versus deferring to the agenda of others. Compulsives are also conflicted but are portrayed as passively ambivalent. Thus, compulsives react against feelings of rebellion to become impressively conscientious. They overconform to rules, while worrying that authority figures might still find some reason to disapprove of them. The mechanism of reaction formation produces excessive self-control, leaving their emotional expression constricted.

In contrast, negativists are impressively frustrating. Conflicted on the self and other polarities, they eventually find either alternative distasteful. Being without a consistent or single-minded direction in life, they often shift erratically back and forth, manifesting fluctuating attitudes and unpredictable behaviors. If they move toward the fulfillment of what others desire, they become irritated and annoyed with themselves for doing so, quickly shifting their thoughts and feelings in favor of doing their own thing. In so doing, however, they jeopardize the security and support they need from others, leading them quickly to become contrite and to reverse their position again. They either agree to perform but fail to follow through or engage a reverse conscientiousness, anticipating what others want but perverting the meaning of the task or rendering their performance useless in the big picture. Their emotions ride close to the surface, making them appear immature or childish at times. Nevertheless, their resentments are not expressed openly against others but instead are displaced onto safer targets, usually by putting obstacles between others and their desires.

Infants whose behaviors and moods vary unpredictably may develop rather normal and stable patterns as they mature. The possibility arises, however, that a disproportionately high number of such "difficult to schedule" infants will continue to exhibit a "biologically erratic" pattern throughout their lives, thereby disposing them to develop the features of the negativistic.

Fretful and nervous youngsters are good candidates for the negativistic pattern also because they are likely to provoke bewilderment, confusion, and vacillation in parental training methods. Such irregular children may set into motion erratic and contradictory reactions from their parents, which then serve, in circular fashion, to reinforce their initial tendency to be spasmodic and variable.

The central role of inconsistent parental attitudes and contradictory training methods in the development of the negativistic personality has been referred to repeatedly in our discussions. Although every child experiences some degree of parental inconstancy, negativistic youngsters are likely to have been exposed to appreciably more than their share. Their parents may have swayed from hostility and rejection at one time to affection and love another; this erratic pattern has probably been capricious, frequent, pronounced, and lifelong.

As a consequence, these children may develop a variety of pervasive and deeply ingrained conflicts such as trust versus mistrust, competence versus doubt, and initiative versus guilt and fear. Their self-concept will be composed of contradictory appraisals; every judgment they make of themselves will be matched by an opposing one. Am I good or am I bad; am I competent or am I incompetent? Every course of behavior will have its positive and its negative side. Thus, no matter what they do or think, they will experience a contrary inclination or value by which to judge it.

Their internal ambivalence is paralleled by their inability to gauge what they can expect from their environment. How can they be sure that things are going well? Have they not experienced capricious hostility and criticism in the past when things appeared to be going well? Their plight is terribly bewildering. Unlike the avoidant and histrionic personalities, who can predict their fate, who "know" they will consistently experience humiliation or hostility, negativistics are unable to predict what the future will bring. At any moment, and for no apparent reason, they may receive the kindness and support they crave; equally possible, and for equally unfathomable reasons, they may be the recipient of hostility and rejection. They are in a bind; they have no way of knowing which course of action on their part will bring relief; they have not learned how to predict whether hostility or compliance will prove instrumentally more effective. They vacillate, feeling hostility, guilt, compliance, assertion, and so on, shifting erratically and impulsively from one futile action to another.

Paradoxical and contradictory parental behaviors often are found in "schismatic" families, that is, in families where the parents are manifestly in conflict with each other. Here, there is constant bickering and an undermining of one parent by the other through disqualifying and contradicting statements. Children raised in this setting not only suffer the constant threat of family dissolution but also are often forced to serve as mediator to moderate tensions generated by their parents. They constantly switch sides and divide their loyalties; they cannot be "themselves," for they must shift their attitudes and emotions to satisfy changing and antagonistic parental desires and expectations. The different roles they must assume to placate their parents and to salvage a measure of family stability are markedly divergent; as long as the parents remain at odds, these children must persist with behavior and thoughts that are intrinsically irreconcilable.

Whether the negativistic personality expresses more passive-aggressive or more vacillating behaviors depends on the relative strength of the polarities that compose the construct. Those who are more ambivalent than active are likely to remain bound by existing power structures. As such, they express their dissatisfaction in indirect ways, the subtle sabotage of procrastination, intentional inefficiency, shoddy workmanship, as well as sulking, pouting, and pessimistic attitudes that wring the joy out of those around them. Contained by external constraints, these individuals are passive and aggressive simultaneously. In contrast, those who are more active than ambivalent more readily express their conflicts in their environment, shifting from one moment to the next in their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. They tend to cycle from one pole of their ambivalence to the other, generating a state of perpetual discontent and dysphoria that superficially resembles the borderline personality. Table 15.4 presents a review of the total negativistic personality.

Contrast with Related Personalities

Anger, resentment, and oppositionality cut across a variety of personality patterns. Both the paranoid and the negativist feel that they have been mistreated or injured by others; both rarely own blame; both seem complaining, hostile, and lacking in tender feelings; and both deeply resent feeling controlled. Paranoids, however, insulate themselves from others and seek the safety of their castle walls. For the most part, their complaints revolve around fears and suspicions that others are talking about them or trying to influence them and undermine their autonomy.

In contrast, negativists react against feelings of being unappreciated and taken for granted in the course of being controlled. They may be suspicious, but they are more overt in voicing their complaints. Given consistent praise, loyalty, love, and a measure of independence, their attachment to authority figures is more remediable, and an eventual willingness to contribute as part of a team can be created. Negativists must feel that they belong, not that they are being used. Moreover, negativists do experience periods of conscious guilt and contrition. Paranoids fight off or project such feelings, asserting that others are trying to make them feel guilty.

Both the narcissist and the negativist are hypersensitive to perceived slights, both find it difficult to be genuinely happy for others, and both may seem to exhibit a sense of entitlement, but for different reasons. Narcissists are unable to appreciate the joy of others because they are lacking in empathy, whereas negativists begrudge others their joy and success because of a deep discontent at the way life has treated them. Moreover, narcissists are hypersensitive because their ego inflation compensates for deep feelings of inferiority, whereas negativists are hypersensitive because they feel others are not adequately sympathetic to the cosmic injustices they have suffered. Narcissists are entitled because of their supposed intrinsic superiority; negativists are entitled to good fortune or at least a reprieve from bad fortune. Finally, narcissists need to feel admired, whereas negativists need to feel appreciated. Narcissists can be bitching and complaining when such supplies are not forthcoming, but for the most part, they relate to others

TABLE 15.4 The Negativistic Personality: Functional and Structural Domains

Functional Domains

Structural Domains

Expressive Behavior




Resists fulfilling expectancies of others, frequently exhibiting procrastination, inefficiency, and obstinate as well as contrary and irksome behaviors; reveals gratification in demoralizing and undermining the pleasures and aspirations of others.

Sees self as misunderstood, luckless, unappreciated, jinxed, and demeaned by others; recognizes being characteristically embittered, disgruntled, and disillusioned with life.

Interpersonal Conduct



Assumes conflicting and changing roles in social relationships, particularly dependent and contrite acquiescence and assertive and hostile independence; conveys envy and pique toward those more fortunate, as well as actively concurrent or sequentially obstructive and intolerant of others, expressing either negative or incompatible attitudes.

Internalized representations of the past constitute a complex of countervailing relationships, setting in motion contradictory feelings, conflicting inclinations, and incompatible memories that are driven by the desire to degrade the achievements and pleasures of others, without necessarily appearing so.

Cognitive Style


Morphologic Organization


Is cynical, doubting, and untrusting, approaching positive events with disbelief and future possibilities with pessimism, anger, and trepidation; has a misanthropic view of life, is whining and grumbling, voicing disdain and caustic comments toward those experiencing good fortune.

There is a clear division in the pattern of morphologic structures such that coping and defensive maneuvers are often directed toward incompatible goals, leaving major conflicts unresolved and full psychic cohesion often impossible by virtue of the fact that fulfillment of one drive or need inevitably nullifies or reverses another.

Regulatory Mechanism


Mood/ Temperament


Discharges anger and other troublesome emotions either precipitously or by employing unconscious maneuvers to shift them from their instigator to settings or persons of lesser significance; vents disapproval by substitute or passive means, such as acting inept or perplexed, or behaving in a forgetful or indolent manner.

Frequently touchy, temperamental, and peevish, followed in turn by sullen and moody withdrawal; is often petulant and impatient, unreasonably scorns those in authority and reports being annoyed easily or frustrated by many.

Note: Shaded domains are the most salient for this personality prototype.

Note: Shaded domains are the most salient for this personality prototype.

from a baseline of insouciance, the belief that everything will turn out okay; the negativist relates to others from a baseline of discontentment.

On the surface, the negativist is also similar to several other personalities. The erratic attitudes and emotions of some negativists—especially anger, resentment, and a tendency to be easily frustrated—resemble the borderline personality, especially its emotional lability. Negativists vacillate in response to a dual orientation, the conflict between following the agenda of others and putting their own needs and desires first.

In contrast, the lability of the borderline stems from a basic lack of cohesiveness in the self-construct. Negativists are usually capable of regulating their drives and conflicts but do not know which way to turn. The borderline lacks such a capacity. The nega-tivistic and sadistic personalities are obviously similar in acting against others, but sadists are direct and usually want others to know the source of their suffering, whereas the negativist fears authority and acts covertly and passive-aggressively. Negativistic and antisocial personalities are often quick-tempered and contrary, and both may feel they have received a raw deal from life. However, antisocials are self-concerned, possess a deficient conscience, and therefore go through life remarkably free of guilt and anxiety. In contrast, the negativist has superego introjects but rebels and suffers horribly from guilt and anxiety. Negativists, masochistic, and depressive personalities are all discontent, but depressives blame themselves, whereas masochists need to be blamed by others.

Pathways to Symptom Expression

As always, it is important to remember that there is a logic that connects the personality pattern with its associated Axis I syndromes. Because ambivalence is felt subjectively as anxiety, moodiness, and discontent, negativists are likely to experience anxiety disorders, often tinged with depressive complaints. Such feelings crystallize and vent their tensions and provide a subtle means of expressing anger and resentment. To an extent, anxiety is instrumental. Usually, tension is discharged in brief episodes of passive-aggressive behavior or through verbal channels. When this is not possible, however, panic attacks or generalized anxiety can develop. Phobic symptoms may be used for secondary gain by giving negativists a reason not to meet the expectations of others or to excuse themselves from task demands.

Other disorders can also occur. Depressive episodes are common, ranging from occasional severe depressive episodes to a more subtle but pervasive dysthymia. Nega-tivistic personalities most frequently display an agitated dysphoria, vacillating between anxious futility, despair, and self-deprecation on the one hand and a bitter discontent and demanding irritability on the other. Such sour moods and complaints also ruin things for others and give the negativist compensatory feelings of retribution. Somato-form disorders are not unusual in situations of unresolvable conflict, but they usually have an added, passive-aggressive benefit that makes them especially burdensome to others. Finally, negativists share with the paranoid a deep concern about autonomy and external control, suggesting that paranoid decompensation could occur in some cases.

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  • fernando
    When your firend is negativistic?
    2 years ago
  • ZAK
    How to deal with pouting and sullen people?
    11 months ago

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