Negativistic Personality Disorder
Pessimism, Aggression, and Personality
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 15, 2022 (modified January 15, 2023)
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 15, 2022 (modified January 15, 2023)
Definition, description, and causes for negativistic personality disorder
Negativistic personality disorder, formerly known as the passive-aggressive personality disorder, is not a American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognized personality disorder. Negativistic personality disorder was championed for inclusion in later versions of the DSM by a few members of the personality disorder committee. However, as with many personality disorders, the negativistic personality disorder, like its predecessor passive-aggressive personality disorder, did not make the final cut and was excluded.
During committee discussions passive-aggressive personality disorder was renamed to negativistic personality disorder, expanding the focus of the disorder was intended to help with DSM inclusion. The renaming to negativistic personality disorder was accompanied by changing the focus of the disorder, amplifying attention to "the negative attitudes thought to underlie passive-aggressive behavior" (Hopwood & Wright, 2012).
The American Psychiatric Association describes negativistic personality disorder as "a personality disorder of long standing in which ambivalence toward the self and others is expressed by such means as procrastination, dawdling, stubbornness, intentional inefficiency, “forgetting” appointments, or misplacing important materials. These maneuvers are interpreted as passive expressions of underlying negativism" (APA Dictionary of Psychology).
Negativistic Personality Disorder is a personality disorder experiencing extreme negative affect (unpleasantness) from small occurrences. The overwhelming negative affect than impacts behaviors, often resulting in non-direct, passive-aggressive reactions.
Negativistic Personality Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms common to the negativistic personality disorder include:
Negative Perception of the World
The negativistic personality type has been portrayed in detail from numerous distinguished clinicians and psychologists before the 1980's push to include the negativistic personality type in DSM-III.
Historical writings portrayed this personality type as:
Negativistic Personality Disorder and Expressions of Anger
The negativistic personality disorder pairs heightened displeasure with experience with expression of anger. Perhaps, attempts to repress or suppress anger fail and less obvious expressions, camouflaged emissions cascade through shadowy means.
T. Franklin Murphy wrote, "passive aggressive attacks is done in the dark, shrouded in enough ambiguousness that reactions to the vicious, quiet attacks are interpreted as inappropriate." Murphy continues, "passive aggressiveness is a gaslighting of sorts. The underlying goal is to express hostile aggression without facing any retaliatory consequence" (2022).
The message is clear, "I hate you. I want to hurt you; but I don't want to leave enough evidence for you to challenge me on these name calling, disapproving, shots against your character."
Interpersonal Relations with Negativistic Personality Type
Pop psychologists and arm chair clinicians don't specifically mention the negativistic personality but they certainly refer to it. These are the people, they warn, we must distance ourselves from to maintain emotional stability. Their sour, petulant attitude, subtle harsh judgments, and irritable and fluctuating moods draw from our resources, provide nothing to our wellness, and beat down our cheery dispositions. Basically, prolonged contact with negativistic personalities depletes the ego.
While I find it ethically wrong to discard people completely because they don't possess the correct personality traits, we must limit and monitor our exposure to maintain our own sanity. We can't lift others if we are broken ourselves.
Negativistic Personality Disorder and Overlap with Other Personality Disorders
Ultimately, negativistic personality disorder, or its predecessor passive-aggressive personality disorder never was designated as officially accepted disorders. The passive-aggressive personality disorder was too narrow, while the broader negative personality disorder overlapped with personality disorders already included in the DSM literature.
Negativistic Personality Traits and Masochism
Of particular interest is the extensive overlap between the masochistic personality and negativistic personalities. The masochistic personality, like the negativistic personality experiences heightened negative affect. The masochistic turns aggression inward, hating and hurting the self.
The masochistic may try to show an outer kindness, giving and compassionate, but their altruism is camouflaged. Murphy wrote, "their self sacrifices are 'trojan horses' filled with sharp barbs and traps. When their suspicious gifts of kindness don't return the rewards they seek, resentments and anger build. The masochist still may mediate their reaction, fearing rejection, but express their anger in less obvious ways, such as through passive aggressiveness" (2022).
Milton's Subtypes of Negativistic Personality Disorder
Vacillating negativist includes borderline personality disorder features. For the vacillating negativist emotions fluctuate in rapid and bewildering ways. The vacillating negativist may present themselves in "affectionate, predictable, interesting, even charming, but then suddenly become irritable, oppositional, and disagreeable" (ALPF Medical Research, 2022).
These unpredictable shifts, moving from congenial to monstrous, are extremely aversive, encouraging surrounding others to arm themselves with a protective wedge. Our desire for predictable futures are thwarted by unpredictable people who may shift from kind to dangerous without warning.
Discontented negativist is a combination of the depressive and negativistic personalities. These are the chronic complainers, constantly bellyaching over the terribleness of life.
"The discontented negativist attacks emotionally through annoying complaints, thinly cloaked criticisms, and unsubtle digs." The discontented negativist slowly wears everyone around them down. "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" (ALPF Medical Research, 2022).
Circuitous negativist shares trait with the antisocial, dependent and negativistic personality styles. Passive-aggressive expressions operate in full swing in this subcategory. The circuitous negativists expresses opposition in a roundabout and ambiguous manner though procrastination, dawdling, forgetfulness, neglect, stubbornness, and intentional inefficiency.
Abrasive negativist is a combination of sadistic and negativistic personality traits. The abrasive negativist expresses discontent with open hostility. The abrasive negativist no longer appears in conflict between there own agenda and need for the approval of others.
However, the conflict may still exist, but instead of motivating cautious maneuvering it instigates frustration and fear. "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" (ALPF Medical Research, 2022).
A Few Final Words on Negativistic Personality Disorder
Negativistic personality disorder naturally should describe a person or two in our social circles, perhaps, even detail a few our own maladaptive character traits. We can still function well, even when bogged down with traits that interfere. We all have a few. With wisdom and guidance, we can attend to traits that impede growth, give them attention, replace the with something better and move forward.
Hopwood, C. J., & Wright, A. G. (2012). A comparison of passive-aggressive and negativistic personality disorders. Journal of personality assessment, 94(3), 296–303.
Millon, T. (1993). Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 7(1), 78-85.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2022) Passive Aggressive. Flourishing Life Society. Published 3-2-2022. Accessed 3-14-2022
Murphy, T. Franklin (2022) Masochism. Flourishing Life Society. Published 3-11-2022. Accessed 3-14-2022.
ALPF Medical Research (2022) The Negativistic Passive Aggressive Personality. Published 1-6-2022. Accessed 3-14-2022.