To be on the receiving end of passive-aggressive behavior is definitely not a pleasant experience. It doesn’t matter whether you are partly to blame for how another person feels about you, passive-aggressive behavior is not the solution.

Unfortunately, you may be subjected to this type of behavior even if you are completely innocent and not at fault. This is why passive aggression is a destructive behavior that is damaging to people’s trust and relationships. It covertly communicates hostility.

This behavior enables the aggressor to express their emotions without being accountable for their actions. It is an easy way out of a conflict situation for them as they refuse to be emotionally vulnerable and unwilling to assume any responsibility or wrongdoing in the situation.

Passive-aggressive actions and behaviors are common, but to help get a better understanding of them, we need to look at the different causes and reasons why some people behave this way.

Momentary Stressful Situations

Passive-aggressive behavior may be used as a coping mechanism for occasional distress and situational crisis. Stress can arise from many different issues, such as financial problems, disease or illness, employment issues or unemployment, and relationship breakups. These stressful situations can lead some people to become deeply overwhelmed and shut themselves off emotionally.

Passive-aggressive actions can result from these types of stressors making people act in ways not entirely consistent with their nature. They may become angry, frustrated, and confused at other people or themselves, and are unable to express their negative emotions directly so they manifest in passive-aggressive ways.

These situations don’t justify their behavior, but it provides an understanding as to why they are behaving this way. Quite often it is easy to not be offended by their behavior as it is seen as only a temporary release.

Most of the time, when people get back on their feet and recover from the stressful situation, they will act as they normally do. Their passive-aggressive behavior was just a way to cope with a temporarily difficult period.

Childhood Environment and Upbringing

One major reason why people behave passive-aggressively, rather than be able to express their emotions openly and in a healthy manner, is due to their childhood environment. They have become accustomed to this type of behavior. Childhood experiences influence many of our traits and behaviors.

The way a child is raised, and the various parenting styles, all have a way of influencing passive-aggressive behavior. Some people with unresolved trauma in childhood develop certain coping mechanisms to avoid the recurrence of the trauma happening again.

For example, if a person expressed their positivity and emotions openly as a child and a parent abandoned them, they may feel that they and their emotions were the cause.

Alternatively, if a child was raised to believe that it is wrong to feel angry or express any form of negative emotions, they will do their best to suppress their negative feelings, or at least any outward display of them.

As human beings, we feel both good and bad emotions regularly, and at all times. To feel bad is normal and to feel good is normal, yet a child who deeply believes that there will be consequences if they feel angry will try to keep the peace and avoid conflict.

This can manifest in passive-aggressive behaviors, as emotions that are not expressed openly have a way of showing themselves eventually, especially if left unresolved.

Mental Health Issues

Occasionally, the presence of mental health issues can reinforce passive-aggressive behavior. People with mental health problems may express themselves in passive-aggressive ways to regain a sense of control or dominance in a situation. It may also be their way of getting people’s attention or making themselves heard.

Depression and anxiety are common mental health problems. A person suffering from these issues can become emotionally overwhelmed and feel out of control. Their passive-aggressive behaviors may be a cry for help. In many cases, people who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder turn to passive-aggressive behaviors in order to make themselves feel heard or seen.