Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

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We all have that one friend who will re-fold laundry that wasn’t folded “perfectly,” or who will obsess over a crooked painting on the wall with the excuse of, “sorry, it’s my OCD!” While crooked photos and wrinkled sheets are annoying, the realities of Obsessive- Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) stretch past organizational quirks and can be rather debilitating.

Those struggling with this disorder are described as having a “preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control,” to such an extreme that when completing ordinary tasks, people need strict, clear-cut instructions; otherwise, prioritizing and organizing can be laborious, and, at times, quite agonizing. In fact, those affected can struggle with a decision with such intensity, that the job may never get completed at all.

These inhibitions can thus lead to frustration and anger when the individual is unable to gain control of their bodily and/or social environment, which can result in passive-aggressive outbursts or sanctimonious exasperation over very minute issues.

Intimate and social relationships can suffer, as expressions of tenderness are generally restrained and artificial. It can prove an uncomfortable situation for those with OCPD to be involved with someone who is very emotionally expressive. In addition, social and professional relationships are often formal, staid, and rigid.

The symptoms of OCPD begin to appear in early adulthood and are manifested as follows:

  • Preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
  • Show of 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)
  • Excessive devotion to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
  • Overly conscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
  • Inability to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
  • Reluctance to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
  • Adoption of a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
  • Show of significant rigidity and stubbornness

Most individuals with OCPD never seek out treatment until it becomes so debilitating that he or she is unable to move forward with everyday life, and the only way to make an accurate diagnosis is through a trained mental health professional.

It is unknown what factors directly affect the development of this personality disorder, however, psychologists tend to use the biopsychosocial model of causation to better understand genetic and social factors that could have contributed to the onset, as well as psychological factors, such as personality, temperament, and coping skills. OCPD is two times as prevalent in males than females and makes up 2.1-7.9% of the population.

The only effective treatment for individuals dealing with this personality disorder is extended psychotherapy, although medications can be prescribed for certain symptoms that are incapacitating. Like most personality disorders, intensity of the symptoms tends to wane with age, having the most severe symptoms decreased substantially by 40-50 years of age.

In popular culture, it is hard to find accurate portrayals of OCPD in the media, as many of these depictions lean more towards OCD, rather than OCPD. Nevertheless, in the 1968 movie “The Odd Couple,” character Felix Unger is a rather close example of someone with the personality disorder. His meticulous obsessions infiltrate into every aspect of his life; as a career photographer, every detail is accounted for and ensured to be nothing less that perfection. In his dating life, Felix holds his romantic interests to extreme standards, expecting them to look and act to his exact preference. He indulges in his hobbies with neurotic-level perfection, partaking in each interest with a particular way. One example of his meticulous compulsions is demonstrated while cooking; not a splash is to fall out of the pan, and everything has to turn out perfect for him to feel satisfied. While these habits might seem like a headache to keep up with, it is in turn what provides Felix’s OCPD with some peace of mind.

Does this sound like someone in your life?

Contact us for support at drkatrina@kkjpsych.com.


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Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones

My interest in forensic psychology derives from my desire to ensure that people are treated justly and that everyone has the same opportunities. To me, justice emphasizes logic and weighing principles to determine moral rights and responsibilities. It also includes care reasoning which involves empathy and compassion; the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I want to know that my work and expertise is helping make a positive difference in the world. Not many practitioners feel comfortable working within the legal system; therefore, I have brought together clinicians, and partner with other professionals, who provide people with opportunities for respectful conflict resolution.