WHAT IS OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE PERSONALITY DISORDER?

First thing's first (as opposed to what? first thing's third?) Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), despite the name, this isn't the same condition as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

OCD describes a type of behaviour, rather than this, which is form of personality disorder. People with OCPD believe their actions are justified, whilst people with OCD will understand what they do isn't rational, but are incapable of stopping. OCPD is a Cluster C, long-term, rigid, personality style that lasts a lifetime.

Many of us will prefer our homes, our offices and our lives in general to be ordered and organised. As much as we like it, many of us won't lose too much sleep if those standards slip a little (or a lot). People with OCPD won't see it that way. Their need for things to be perfect becomes all-consuming and they will rigidly adhere to certain rules, rituals and systems at the expense of a happy and fulfilling life. Doesn't sound like too much fun now does it?

That said, OCPD probably only strengthens the often inaccurate and usually flippant cliche that those who live with either condition are obsessed with cleaning. It is true to say that those with OCPD are driven by the need to keep everything in their life in order and under control and begin to feel anxious when they're not, but it isn't as black and white as that. The need to be in control of aspects of their life may come across as controlling to other people, but they will often be viewing the situation without the knowledge of the condition.

People with OCPD become preoccupied with orderliness, the drive for perfection and interpersonal control. However, these come at the expense of openness and flexibility to adapt. This can mean their relationships with family and friends will suffer as will their physical and mental health. When the 'systems' aren't followed, they will become very distressed and anxious.

Living in such a regimented way might not sound too bad, but this constant need for perfectionism can take its toll. The need for everything to be 'just so' can mean they spend almost all of their time on edge fearing that something, anything, will go wrong. When it does, they can become angry, frustrated and show signs of passive-aggressive behaviour.

THE SYMPTOMS

Due to the nature of the condition, it is often friends and family members, rather than the person themselves, who tend to spot the symptoms of OCPD. These are the most common symptoms, but it's not a definitive list and there may be others. Before a diagnosis can be made, a person will need to have displayed at least four of these symptoms. They include:

  • Being concerned more with work than spending time with family and friends.
  • Preoccupation with details, routines and lists.
  • Adhering so strictly to their own way of working that projects either can't begin or, when they do, never get finished.
  • Inflexibility to adapt to other people's requests or needs.
  • Following moral or ethical code rigidly, in spite of the cultural or religious beliefs of others.
  • Reluctance to work cooperatively.
  • Being extremely punctual.
  • Conducting themselves in a stiff, rigid or overly formal manner.
  • Hoarding items that are of no value or worth, even sentimental value.
  • Spending little money.
  • A difficulty in expressing emotions.

Other symptoms can also include:

  • Passive-aggressive behaviour.
  • A false sense of entitlement.

WHAT CAUSES OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE PERSONALITY DISORDER?

There isn't a single, definitive cause of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. You'd be amazed if there were wouldn't you!

The commonly agreed cause is that it is an amalgam of psychological and social elements, i.e. how they've interacted with others as a child. Often (but not always) how a child has been treated by their parents can play a part. For example, if they felt the need to be the 'perfect' child in order to win the affection or attention of distant parents, then that could play a part.

In addition, if they have grown up in a society with a strict adherence to rules and regulations, i.e. a strict religious group, that can also contribute. Let's not forget, it's not an exact science, so neither of these are a guarantee that anyone will, or won't, develop OCPD in later life.

There is evidence to suggest that OCPD is genetic and therefore that it runs in the family, although it is important to stress that environmental factors may add to the chances of anyone developing OCPD.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

Obssessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder can be treated effected with a number of treatments. It's important for those taking part in psychotherapy, that the therapist they see tailors their techniques to every aspect of a sufferers cognitive schema, particularly their rigid view of the world and its structure. CBT and psychodynamic therapies seem to work best with OCPD.

Medication also helps with OCPD but is often more effective when it's used in combination with psychotherapy.


If you live with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.

Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with OCPD with our community so they can better understand how it feels, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.