Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

COPE Centre can help you with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality disorder?

It is one of the most common personality disorders in the community. It is characterised by a constant preoccupation with details, scheduling, organization and/or rules. A focus on perfectionist goals and ‘productivity’ highly influences the enjoyment of everyday life and one’s relationships with others. Those with Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) perceive themselves as logical and rational and tend to intellectualise their experiences. Instead of presenting how they may ‘feel’, they focus more on what they ‘think’. These personality responses, particularly the intellectualising of experiences, prevents those with OCPD from dealing with their internal conflicts.

Obsessive-Compulsive personalities will make grand efforts in setting rules and conventions to ensure they feel ‘in control’. Expressions of affection are perceived to be immature, and a sense of embarrassment would be felt if they accidentally behaved childishly. 

Origins of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder – why does it happen?

Children who are increasingly rigid and inflexible are often a product of parents who share similar characteristics. These children may experience episodes of rage, and later in development find it difficult to transform this rage into healthy assertiveness. Conversely, this can create a greater susceptibility of perceiving themselves from a grandiose perspective.

Some theorists believe that Obsessive-Compulsive personalities stem from early childhood. These children may have felt that they needed to be ‘perfect’ or a perfectly obedient child. Their need to be perfect for their parents continues throughout their life and usually first manifests in adolescence and early adulthood. 

This preoccupation for perfectionism can also create an entrenched lack of control over reality. These difficulties may lead those with OCPD to procrastinate, struggle to socialise and have a constant feeling of anxiety. Reoccurring thoughts, uncontrollable urges, and compulsive behaviours are also common symptoms. 

Symptoms – what does it look like? (according to the DS-V)

A person with Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder is preoccupied with orderliness and perfectionism. They struggle to be open or flexible, and in order to keep issues at bay, they exhibit mental and interpersonal control. Their presentation will be marked by the presence of four (or more) of the following:

  1. Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organisation and/or schedules, to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  2. Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).
  3. Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the detriment and exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
  4. Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification).
  5. Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
  6. Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.
  7. Adopts a miserly spending style towards both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
  8. Shows rigidity and stubbornness.

What is the difference between Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

The main difference between both personalities is their perception of their thoughts. Those that suffer from OCD are aware that some of their thoughts are unreasonable, while those that suffer from OCPD believe that their way of thinking is the right way. Interestingly, those that suffer from OCD experience issues with work and interactions with others, while those suffering from OCPD have issues with interactions but, in appearance, are adjusted at work. People with OCPD don’t believe that they need treatment. They also believe if everyone follows rules, everything will be fine. On the other hand, people suffering from OCD are very distressed by their thoughts, compulsions and rituals. 

Treatment – how do we manage it?

Those suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder will present uncooperative to treatment and will find it difficult to allow the therapist to explore their emotional world (as they perceive it). Effective therapy will aim to address emotional issues that the person goes to enormous efforts to keep out of their consciousness.