Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

Written by Maureen Donohue | Published on July 16, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is defined by extreme preoccupation with perfectionism, an inflexible need for order, and strict control over the people and circumstances in one’s life.

People with OCPD find it hard to express their feelings. They have difficulty forming and maintaining close or intimate relationships with others. They are hard working, but their obsession with perfectionism can make them inefficient. They often feel righteous, indignation, and anger. Their social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.

OCPD is often confused with the anxiety disorder obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) because the terms sound similar. However, they are not related.

A person with OCPD has no idea that his or her thought processes are problematic. The person believes that his or her way of thinking and doing things is the only “correct” way, and that everyone else is “wrong.”

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of OCPD?

According to Dr. Barbara Van Noppen of the International OCD Foundation, approximately one in 100 people in the United States has OCPD. It occurs in approximately twice as many men as women (IOCDF, 2010).

The exact cause of OCPD is unknown. Genetics may play a role because there is some evidence that OCPD runs in families. Environmental factors and influences in early childhood may also play a role. A person with OCPD may have had distant or overly controlling parents. As a result, he or she may have felt the need to be a “perfect” or “perfectly obedient” child. Alternatively, he or she may have been raised in an authoritarian society or religion that required strict adherence to a rigid set of rules.

What Are the Symptoms of OCPD?

A person with OCPD may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • perfectionism to the point that it impairs the ability to finish tasks
  • stiff, formal, and/or rigid mannerisms
  • being extremely frugal with money
  • an overwhelming need to be punctual
  • extreme attention to detail
  • excessive devotion to work at the expense of family or social relationships
  • hoarding worn or useless items
  • inability to share or delegate work for fear it “won’t be done right”
  • fixation with lists
  • rigid adherence to rules and regulations
  • an overwhelming need for order
  • a sense of righteousness about the way things “should be done”
  • rigid adherence to moral and ethical codes

OCPD is diagnosed when symptoms impair a person’s ability to function and interact with others.

How Is OCPD Treated?

If you have OCPD, your therapist will likely use a three-pronged approach to treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Psychotherapy can help improve your insight into OCPD. It can also give you tools to put less emphasis on work and more emphasis on recreation, family, and other interpersonal relationships.

Medication

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to decrease inflexible, detail-oriented thinking.

Relaxation

Specific breathing and relaxation techniques can help decrease the sense of stress and urgency common in OCPD sufferers.

What Is the Outlook for Someone with OCPD?

The outlook for OCPD sufferers may be better than that for people with other personality disorders. Treatment can help lead to greater awareness of how the symptoms of OCPD adversely affect others. In addition, OCPD sufferers may be less likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, which is common with other personality disorders. This is because of their need to be in control.

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