Understanding Passive Aggressive Behavior in Addiction

Published On: November 20, 20163.9 min read784 wordsCategories: Addiction Treatment And Rehab

Learning how to deal with a passive aggressive person is difficult. When they’re suffering from a substance addiction, it can be even more complicated, especially if they’re family. You don’t want to start arguments, but the passive aggressiveness is becoming more than you can (and should have to) handle. But how to fix the problem? How do you deal with a passive aggressive person who is also addicted to substances? 

What is passive aggressive behavior?

Passive aggressive behavior is exactly what it sounds like – aggression that is inactive, passive. It might be constant sarcasm, jokes that are actually hard comments or chronic forgetfulness. Someone who frequently behaves passive aggressively does their absolute best to avoid conflict at all costs because it allows them, in a sense, to avoid feelings of anger and not directly handle a situation where they believe they have no control. 

They may have learned these behaviors as a child when expressing their feelings was not encouraged. As a result, a person learns to keep their true feelings inside and instead expresses their emotions through indirect actions instead of direct conversation. It’s true that conversation can lead to talking about the hard topics, but because of insecurity, a lack of control or even depression or anxiety, facing this conflict head-on seems insurmountable. 

How does passive aggressiveness manifest in addiction?

A passive aggressive person, especially one struggling with addiction, might behave in frustrating ways as a result of avoidance or insecurity. There are different types of passive aggressive behaviors you may notice: 

  • Avoiding competition – allows the individual to stay away from situations where they may fail; 
  • Forgetfulness – where “forgetting” allows one to avoid potential failure and also causes problems for the other;
  • Helplessness – which forces other people to take responsibility for their problems; 
  • Blaming – to avoid taking responsibility; 
  • Lateness – which inadvertently inconveniences everyone else; 
  • Silence – to anger those around them, avoid responsibility and indirectly display anger or frustration;
  • Excuses – where they can cover up or deflect attention from failures; 
  • Refusing intimacy – to keep anyone growing close to them emotionally or physically; 
  • Claiming to be the victim – so they do not need to assume responsibility especially for problems they have caused. 

For those who struggle with addiction, it is not uncommon that their behaviors will turn passive aggressive. 

Addiction and passive aggression  

Addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol, is a disease of the mind where you lose much control over the demands of your brain. The more synthetic chemicals you put into your system (i.e., the more substances you consume), the more manipulated your brain becomes. 

Now, everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions in order for family life/community life to function smoothly. We all makes mistakes, we all experience anger and few people genuinely like to take responsibility for their errors. And when struggling with a mental health disorder as taboo as substance addiction, we definitely do not want to admit to our faults. 

Addiction is a perfect time for passive aggressive behavior to take root – no one wants to battle addiction, and passive aggression allows them to avoid openly admitting and taking responsibility. But the key to recovery is learning the importance of admitting to our faults and failures, being assertive (not aggressive) about our emotions and learning to openly communicate our thoughts without being ashamed of what we’re feeling. 

Recovery from more than addiction 

Addiction recovery is more than just getting over a substance use disorder. It is an entire recovery from addiction and the root causes of the addiction itself. The best treatment programs not only help you detox from substances, it helps you find peace and freedom from anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. This, in turn, can impact behaviors that stem from these mental health conditions, including passive aggression. 

When one learns to stop passive aggressive behaviors, they aren’t taught to be outwardly aggressive; rather, they’re taught what it means to be assertive. Being assertive isn’t about demanding your needs be met, but seeking ways to work alongside others peacefully and communicably so that everyone’s needs are met. Recovery facilities provide a safe space to admit to failures, take responsibility and learn to be vocal so that you can then take the tools you’ve learned and use them in every day life. 

Find addiction treatment today 

If you’re seeking recovery options for yourself, are researching for a loved one or simply want to speak with a mental health/addiction professional for more information or guidance, reach out to Freedom Detox today. With personalized treatment plans and a staff of certified counselors and therapists, you’re sure to find the help you’re looking for. Visit our website anytime or call our offices at (704) 481-6995


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