What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

You’ve most likely heard of the anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). But what is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)? As it turns out, these two disorders are very different from each other.

While neither should be taken lightly, OCPD has complications that OCD does not. This article will answer the question ‘what is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?’. We’ll also be covering what some symptoms, causes and treatments could be.

Understanding all of this could help you or someone you love who may be struggling with OCPD.

Let’s get into it…

What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

To understand the answer to ‘what is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?’ it’s important to note that OCPD is a personality disorder, not an anxiety disorder.

It’s important to understand what makes this personality disorder different in order to distinguish the two. In so many words, when someone has OCPD, they will seem like they’re uptight about their preferences. They will be extremely particular on how things are done and will appear to be a perfectionist.

This sounds relatively harmless, however, the extreme levels of how particular they are seriously affect multiple areas of their lives. 

The difference between OCPD and just being “particular” about things is that someone with OCPD will feel an intense need to have things done their way.

Since they’re living with a personality disorder, they will not know that there is anything wrong with their behavior.

This can be frustrating for those around them as the person struggling with OCPD seems convinced that their way of doing things is the best. They will be very insistent that others do things the way they do and it can lead to problems in the relationship.

what is obsessive compulsive personality disorder

Not only this, but someone with OCPD will most likely be experiencing trouble at work.

They might be inefficient due to their need for perfection. They also tend to spend too much time working and could neglect relationships because of this.

The book, It’s sad to think about someone unknowingly hurting themselves in various ways like this but there is treatment. Much of the time, if someone has OCD it could further develop into OCPD.

Anxiety disorders (OCD) are caused by a variety of different things and obviously could lead to more extreme disorders (OCPD).

It’s important to get help by talking to a therapist if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder (or any disorder or mental/emotional concern).

Also, people with personality disorders (especially OCPD) are usually in denial or refuse to acknowledge that they have a disorder. Treatment is possible, however, it’s much more difficult for someone with a personality disorder to accept that and seek help.

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Symptoms of OCPD

Now that we’ve answered the question: “What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder” let’s get into some of the symptoms of OCPD.

According to the International OCD Foundation, a few could be an extreme need to follow rules.

People with OCPD will be “obsessed” with lists and small details. They’ll usually be unwilling to delegate work for fear that it won’t be done how they want it to be.

what is obsessive compulsive personality disorder

They will be “obsessed” with lists and small details and they’ll be unwilling to delegate work for fear that it won’t be done how they want it to be.

People suffering with OCPD will most likely have a very strict moral/ethical code that they follow and they might have hoarding behaviors as well. These are just a few (key) symptoms of OCPD.

Someone who has this disorder may possess few, many or all of these and they can be on different scales as well. It’s important to know that OCPD is not a “one size fits all” disorder.

You can see how someone living with OCPD might have a hard time in social situations or establishing meaningful relationships.

If you or someone you know is affected by this behavior to the point where it is taking a toll on their life (and relationships), they may have OCPD. 

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Causes of OCPD

There is not just one cause for OCPD. Like many personality disorders, it is typical for it to be caused by experiences from childhood.

Similar to anxiety or OCD, OCPD can be inherited from our parents as well.

Since it is a personality disorder, this cause is not uncommon. We all carry many personality traits from our parents and unfortunately personality disorders are typically part of that.

Our brains decide how they want to operate by a young age – usually under age 10.

If a parent is extremely strict, a perfectionist and in turn puts all of that pressure on the child, it is very understandable that a personality disorder could develop as the child becomes an adult.

Sometimes, if the individual is able to address their personality issues and work through their limitations they can avoid personality disorders and other mental health issues.

If you’re not particularly aware of the strain that was put on you, or if you have genetic tendencies, developing OCPD will be a gradual process.

People diagnosed with OCPD do not think anything is wrong with them. In fact, they think that others are often wrong. This stems from the urgent need they felt to in “good standing” with their overbearing parent(s).

This could have been because they were always getting in trouble for the smallest things. They were taught to do things a very specific way and there would be consequences if they did not. Or they wanted the attention and love from their parents and only received it when they were on their best behavior and/or doing everything they could to please them.

what is obsessive compulsive personality disorder

OCPD is much more common in men than it is in women.

I’m interested to know why that is if this disorder usually stems from some sort of pain or struggle. It makes me wonder if men somehow experience elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression more easily in certain situations. 

Aside from childhood experiences, OCPD can be caused by a pre-existing condition such as the anxiety disorder OCD.

While OCD can be inherited, it may also be developed. Symptoms such as anxiety and depression (caused by intense emotional struggles) can lead to OCD which can lead to OCPD.

In short the “small” mental health issues should not be overlooked. Getting help should be a priority if you have any mental or emotional concerns at all.

Generally speaking, the treatments for all personality disorders are similar.

The use of medication is not used as part of treatment unless it is needed to target symptoms of the disorder (like depression).

There are several successful treatments that help improve the quality of life for those diagnosed with COPD. 

Let’s look at a few of the top treatments used…

1. Psychodynamic psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is one of the top treatments with any personality disorder, not just OCPD. Psychotherapy is known as “talk therapy” and the oldest form at that.

This is used for a variety of disorders and emotional support. Psychotherapy is great for working through the daily struggles that individuals with OCPD face.

Working with a professional therapist in psychotherapy will help control the disorder’s symptoms and give the patient a better quality of life.

Depending on the severity of the individual’s disorder, psychotherapy can be a short process or can last for years.

According to research and this article the majority of people in psychotherapy typically see helpful results.

The professional skills and knowledge a therapist has can help rewrite destructive patterns of behavior.

This will lead to better outcomes in every area of the patient’s life such as relationships, their job, and even their relationship with themselves.

2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also a form of psychotherapy (“talk therapy”), although its focus is slightly different.

CBT specifically targets eliminating negative thought patterns. This focus may be an appropriate treatment if someone has self-esteem issues that affect a variety of areas in their life.

what is obsessive compulsive personality disorder

If you think about it, what we think about ourselves shapes who we become.

If you have negative subconscious thoughts/beliefs about yourself and see them as facts, you’ll base important areas in your life around that.

By working with someone to eliminate negative thoughts/beliefs, you open a door to endless possibilities for yourself.

There are also a variety of other personality disorders that benefit from CBT.

You can see how starting with yourself and then working to external factors is essential for laying the groundwork for success.

Many people experiencing mental health issues aren’t even aware of the negative thoughts/beliefs they possess.

Imagine talking to someone and being able to find the cause for everything that is “wrong” in your life.

CBT is not just reserved for people with personality disorders. Those with any emotional and/or mental health issues can also benefit from it as well.

Imagine being able to become the person you never thought you could! CBT can help get you there.

If you change your thoughts, you change your behavior which yields real life “large and in charge” results! To read more about CBT check out this article.

3. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

It is very common for someone struggling with OCPD to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a common antidepressant used for treating depression.

If someone with COPD does not have depression then this would not apply to them.

The use of SSRIs regulates certain cells in the brain that are responsible for emotion.

Many mental health disorders are developed (genetic, environmental, or childhood experiences) but they leave physical effects in the brain such as chemical imbalances or nervous system issues. 

On a side note, isn’t the connection between the mind and body so fascinating!? It’s interesting how something external can be taken in emotionally and then manifest into a physical issue.

We as humans have an extraordinary capacity to try to cope with pain and I believe in some way, this is the brain’s way of “re-routing” negative emotions to try to help.

Unfortunately, depression and anxiety caused by these imbalances never helped anyone. The good news is that these are two of the easiest disorders to treat. Life trauma that has been done to the brain, can often be undone or improved through treatment.

Back to SSRIs…

The way SSRIs work is amazing. They work to optimize the way your brain is functioning with the signals that are transmitted. 

This is a rough analogy I came up with but stay with me…

Remember those little canisters at the drive up window at the bank? You sit in your car, and send stuff back and forth using the canisters to deliver everything needed for your transaction.

Now think of your brain operating something like that.

The bank is one neuron (brain cell) and you/your car is another neuron. The neurotransmitters are the little canisters that go back and forth.

In this scenario, there are different types of bank canisters (as there are different types of neurotransmitters).

Serotonin is the type of neurotransmitter that regulates your mood (the “happy bank canister”).

When the neurotransmitter (the happy canister) is sent to a brain cell (the bank) it releases some of its contents when it gets there and that’s how your brain knows to feel happy/positive emotions.

Each time the neurotransmitter goes back and forth (from your car to the bank and so on) the process of reuptake happens.

Reuptake is essentially when the neurotransmitter (“canister”) is “refilled”.

When you have depression, the serotonin neurotransmitters do not function properly.

It’s like this canister is meant only for serotonin transactions but other “sad” chemicals (neurotransmitters) try to hijack the transaction when the “canister” is sent back to be refilled.

The role that SSRIs play in this “banking transaction” scenario is to block the reuptake (refill) process so the “sad” chemicals can’t get into the “canister” to be delivered.

When this happens, serotonin builds up as it goes back and forth during the messaging process (“bank transaction”). This leads to more regular levels of serotonin.

The antidepressant is called “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” because it’s literally selective toward serotonin neurotransmitters.

As someone who loves discovering how things work, I found this whole process fascinating! I hope this analogy helped paint a more understandable picture for what I was trying to explain.

So basically, the use of antidepressants is only useful for someone with a personality disorder such as OCPD if they also struggle with depression.

Once the neurotransmitters are functioning properly the use of psychotherapy will be more effective. It’s a process but absolutely worth it in the long run.

In conclusion, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a serious personality disorder that drastically affects the person living with it.

If someone you know is struggling with OCPD, it can be difficult to help them as they may not think they need help.

In some cases, OCPD may not be intrusive enough to act on, but usually this disorder is responsible for bringing negative outcomes to a person’s life.

Being open to help during these times may be all you are able to do for your loved one struggling with OCPD.

My advice could be to offer to attend therapy with them if they’re having a hard time understanding that they are suffering with a disorder.

Keep in mind that disorders such as OCPD usually stem from places of deep pain. Always show compassion while doing what’s best for you/your loved one.

If you’re interested in learning more on the benefits of psychotherapy, check out this related article on the 11 Benefits of Mental Health Counseling

As previously mentioned, here is my discount link to sign up for online therapy (plus the “extras” toolbox) at 20% off! GET HELP ONLINE 20% OFF

Thank you so much for sticking around to learn more about ” What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder“!I hope it helps you or someone you know. Feel free to leave a comment or EMAIL ME with any comments or feedback.


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Hi, I'm Marissa! I'm passionate about mental and emotional health and want to share what I've learned over the years with others! I've seen first hand how mental health struggles can cause serious issues within relationships, work life, daily productivity, self-worth and more! I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves to bring more awareness to these life changing topics. Start your mental/emotional health journey by learning more today!

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