What is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder that’s characterized by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness. People with OCPD will also feel a severe need to impose their own standards on their outside environment.
People with OCPD have the following characteristics:
- They find it hard to express their feelings.
- They have difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships with others.
- They’re hardworking, but their obsession with perfection can make them inefficient.
- They often feel righteous, indignant, and angry.
- They often face social isolation.
- They can experience anxiety that occurs with depression.
OCPD is often confused with an anxiety disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, they aren’t the same.
People with OCPD have no idea that there’s anything wrong with the way they think or behave. They believe that their way of thinking and doing things is the only correct way and that everyone else is wrong.
The exact cause of OCPD is unknown. Like many aspects of OCPD, the causes have yet to be determined. OCPD may be caused by a combination of genetics and childhood experiences.
In some case studies, adults can recall experiencing OCPD from a very early age. They may have felt that they needed to be a perfect or perfectly obedient child. This need to follow the rules then carries over into adulthood.
The International OCD Foundation (OCDF) approximates that men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with this personality disorder. According to the
Those with existing mental health diagnoses are more likely to be diagnosed with OCPD. More research is needed to demonstrate the role that OCPD plays in these diagnoses.
Additionally, those with severe OCD are more likely to be diagnosed with OCPD.
The symptoms of OCPD include:
- perfectionism to the point that it impairs the ability to finish tasks
- stiff, formal, 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
- an inability to share or delegate work because of a fear it won’t be done right
- a fixation with lists
- a rigid adherence to rules and regulations
- an overwhelming need for order
- a sense of righteousness about the way things should be done
- a rigid adherence to moral and ethical codes
OCPD is diagnosed when symptoms impair your ability to function and interact with others.
If you have OCPD, your therapist will likely use a three-pronged approach to treatment, which includes the following:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of mental health counseling. During CBT, you meet with a mental health professional on a structured schedule. These regular sessions involve working with your counselor to talk through any anxiety, stress, or depression. A mental health counselor may encourage you to put less emphasis on work and more emphasis on recreation, family, and other interpersonal relationships.
Your doctor may consider prescribing a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to decrease some anxiety surrounding the obsessive-compulsive cycle. If you’re prescribed an SSRI, you may also benefit from support groups and regular treatment from a psychiatrist. Long-term prescription use isn’t usually recommended for OCPD.
Relaxation training involves specific breathing and relaxation techniques that can help decrease your sense of stress and urgency. These symptoms are common in OCPD. Examples of recommended relaxation practices include yoga, tai chi, and Pilates.
The outlook for someone with OCPD may be better than the outlook for other personality disorders. Treatment can help give you greater awareness of how the symptoms of OCPD can adversely affect others. If you have OCPD, you may be less likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, which is common with other personality disorders.
As with other personality disorders, finding the treatment that works for you is the foundation of success. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help improve your ability to interact and empathize with your loved ones.
If you suspect that your spouse, partner, or family member has OCPD, pay attention to their obsessions and their compulsive behaviors. A person most likely has OCD or another personality that’s not OCPD if their obsessions are:
- motivated by danger
- limited to two or three specific areas of life
- irrational or bizarre
People with OCPD are typically reluctant to change their behaviors. They often see others as the problem instead.
Most individuals that get treatment for OCPD are encouraged to do so by a spouse or loved one. However, it can be very difficult to approach someone with OCPD about their behaviors. It can also be helpful for significant others and loved ones of people with OCPD to seek support for themselves.
There are multiple forums and support groups that a spouse or loved one of someone with OCPD can join. The International OCD Foundation keeps a list of support groups for those coping with OCD, OCD tendencies, and personality disorders such as OCPD.
What’s the most important thing I can do for someone with OCPD?
The most important thing you can do is recognize that the behavior that someone with OCPD exhibits is part of their personality, which is an enduring characteristic of the psychological makeup of that person. Before clashing with them over the way they want something done (or if you see that they have redone something that they asked you to do because they feel that your work doesn’t meet their unique standards), be certain to ask yourself “is this issue important enough to me to argue or fight with them over it?” Also, if you find that they prefer to do something themselves, don’t take it personally. Recognize that this trait is part of who they are and remember that it’s not a negative reflection on you.Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.