Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

What’s obsessive-compulsive personality disorder?

With the stigma and stereotypes surrounding obsessive compulsive personality disorder, it can be difficult to get an honest look at what the disorder is like and how it affects the person who has it. Whether you or a loved one is suffering from OCPD, it can be beneficial to know the basics about the disorder. Not everyone’s obsessions and compulsions are the same, so it can vary greatly from person to person.

The manifestation of the disorder can also vary depending on the individual’s background, their coping methods, and how they handle the disorder, so never apply stereotypes to a stranger or friend with OCPD. If you think you yourself may be experiencing symptoms of obsessive compulsive personality disorder, understanding it can be the first step to reaching a diagnosis and finding help and treatment.

Treatment methods can include a number of things, from therapy to various forms of medication. Similar to how every person experiences OCPD differently, every person reacts to medicine and treatment methods differently. Every experience is unique, and should be treated with the same sensitivity as anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness.

Patients with obsessive compulsive personality disorder may also be diagnosed with anxiety, major depressive disorder, and even have a heightened risk of suicide. Because of this, it is important to recognize symptoms early and seek help before the issue escalates into a fatal one. People with OCPD may also be diagnosed with eating disorders, which can seriously affect their physical health if left untreated.

While OCD and OCPD are similar, they are not the same exact disorder, and should be handled differently during treatment. OCD is an anxiety disorder, while OCPD is a personality disorder. This puts them in very separate categories, and therefore makes them different at the root.

Where sufferers of OCD recognize that their compulsions are illogical or rooted in anxiety, patients with OCPD believe they are achieving perfection, perfectly rational, and are justified in their obsessions and compulsions. This is a large behavioral gap and can seriously affect treatment plans and diagnoses, so it is important to recognize the similarities and differences between these disorders.

OCPD Causes

Like most mental illnesses and disorders, obsessive compulsive personality disorder does not have definite “˜causes’ and can be rooted in any number of things. Anyone can be diagnosed with OCPD, no matter their gender, race, age, background, or upbringing. While some people are more predisposed to the disorder than others, cases can crop up anywhere. That is why it is important not to base a person entirely on their experiences, and instead look at their symptoms and current personality in order to make a proper judgement of their mental health.

There is a definite gender bias in the disorder. Obsessive compulsive personality disorder is twice as common in males as it is in females, making men more likely to develop OCPD than women. This can have its roots in genetics, societal standards, or even cultural upbringing. Most symptoms also fade with age, with the most extreme cases occurring in an adult’s 20s or 30s before dropping off later in life.

Trauma in childhood can lead to cases of OCPD. Mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse by parents, guardians, or other figures in a child’s life can lead to them developing personality disorders as they grow older. These disorders can include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive personality disorder. Compulsions may be used as coping methods, or the patient may overcompensate with perfectionism.

A case of OCPD may lie dormant in an adult until it is triggered, especially if they are genetically or behaviorally predisposed to the disorder. A traumatic event such as the death of a loved one can cause the disorder to manifest and become prominent. In cases such as these, treatment and guidance should be sought out all the same, as the disorder is chronic and may require medication.

While there are no surefire causes to determine whether someone will have OCPD or any other type of personality disorder, educated guesses can be made based on their family and their mental health history. If one or more close family members have a diagnosed case of OCPD, it may be more likely that a child close to them will develop it later in life. Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 18-25.

OCPD Symptoms

Obsessive compulsive disorder and obsessive compulsive personality disorder can have a wide plethora of symptoms, ranging from very obvious displays to small symptoms only visible by friends, family, or the person themselves. There may also be symptoms similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, since the two are closely related and many people suffering from one share compulsions or obsessions with the other.

It is important to recognize symptoms early and keep track of what is experienced most often, to what degree, and for how long. Associated illnesses such as depression or anxiety can aggravate or accompany symptoms of OCPD.

Symptoms of OCPD include:

Excessive perfectionism

This may range from an unparalleled amount of attention and effort on a mundane task, to an inability to complete work before deadlines because of needless nitpicking and obsession.

Black/white morality

A person suffering from OCPD may find themselves obsessing over the morality of every single situation, whether it’s occurring in real life, on the news, or in a fictional setting. They will likely be inflexible on their standpoints on the matter, and get upset when others do not share the same opinion.

An obsession with control

They may refuse to do projects or work with others unless they follow their set guidelines and methods of doing things, and may get increasingly agitated in an uncontrollable situation.


Whether it’s money or insignificant objects, a person with OCPD may find themselves collecting and storing things for imagined future emergencies. This can include anything from food, newspapers, money, or even objects and animals.

Is needlessly devoted to work or projects

They may continue working even when they have enough money, or becoming so dedicated to a project they forego sleep, food, and necessary hygiene in favor of putting more effort towards their goal.

An obsession with lists, rules, details and organization

They may be extremely organized to the point of excessiveness, or very untidy with their own ideas of organization. They will be very strict with themselves and others, and may get irrationally upset when things do not go according to plan.

These symptoms are more common with sufferers of OCPD, and they may be stacked on top of existing symptoms of OCD. Symptoms of OCD can include common compulsions, such as cleaning, sorting, checking, and intrusive thoughts. While obsessive compulsive personality disorder is unique in many of its symptoms, it is still obsessive compulsive, and therefore shares symptoms with its anxious counterpart.

OCPD Treatment

The most common treatment plan for obsessive compulsive personality disorder is the combined effort of long-term psychotherapy and medication. Medications do not solve the disorder, but they do handle debilitating symptoms so the patient can focus on themselves and build healthy coping methods. Self-help is also recommended, and a therapist or psychologist may recommend ways that a patient can help themselves and understand their own feelings.

Many people with OCPD may have anxiety or depression, in which an antidepressant may help them cope with the added effects of another mental illness on top of their personality disorder. It can also reduce the risks for suicide exponentially, and help them lead natural lives along with the help of regular therapy sessions and an active effort on their part.

Self-help sessions in groups have also proven to help people with OCPD make important personal connections, relate to others, and share experiences to gain support and sympathy from others suffering a similar issue. For people who do not have the time or money to get regular therapy sessions from a professional, these group sessions may prove invaluable to finding support and discovering new methods of coping.

Decreasing stress and increasing healthy coping methods and strategies is the best way to combat this disorder, especially in mild cases. Stress can lead to breakdowns or aggravated symptoms, and proper coping methods and therapy can help the patient find new, better solutions to a problem without burdening themselves with obsessive behaviors or compulsions.

If you believe you may have OCPD, it is best to reach out to a medical professional and get an official diagnosis before taking any medications or contacting any third parties. Regardless, recognizing the symptoms and asking for help is the first step. If you are also suffering from depression or anxiety, it can be a necessary part of protecting your life and health from any further complications.

OCPD Prevention

Since there are no definite causes of obsessive compulsive personality disorder, there is no surefire method to prevent it. Treating and recognizing the disorder is the best way to keep it from severely impacting the person’s life, and reaching out to loved ones who you think may have the disorder is the best way to help others who you think are at risk. Awareness, understanding, and positive action are the best ways to avoid disasters involving mental illness.

That being said, a child from a stable household with no history of abuse, particularly sexual or physical, is less likely to develop OCPD than a child who experienced trauma in their youth. A good gene pool can also help “˜prevent’ the disorder, although it is not flawless and can rarely be truly controlled. If you suspect someone close to you may be showing signs of the disorder, it may be a good idea to check for any mental health histories in the family.

Men are also more likely to develop a personality disorder, but many symptoms are frequently overlooked due to societal standards. If a man is controlling, easily stressed, detail-oriented, or a “˜workaholic’, they may be showing symptoms of having OCPD, but these symptoms may be overlooked due to their gender. This can harm them more than help them, so it is important to pay attention.

It is also vital to be sensitive, especially when confronting a loved one or friend about their potential disorder. Do not make assumptions, and do not “˜diagnose’ them yourself based on your encounters with them. The journey to a diagnosis should be a personal one, so beyond making a suggestion to see a doctor or mental health professional, it may be best to treat the topic gently.

With the proper understanding and awareness of obsessive compulsive personality disorder, people with this personality disorder can get the help they need without suffering from any social stigma in the process. The road to recovery begins with support, so it is important to offer it and reach out for it in equal measures.

Last Reviewed:
September 17, 2017
Last Updated:
September 17, 2017
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