Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: Understanding the Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is a personality disorder that affects about 1% of adults worldwide. Unlike OCD, which is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that cause significant distress, OCPD involves persistent patterns of behaviour and thinking that are inflexible, perfectionistic, and often lead to difficulties in work, social relationships, and overall quality of life.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

OCPD is a mental health condition that falls under the umbrella of personality disorders, which are characterized by deeply ingrained and persistent patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that deviate from cultural and societal norms. People with OCPD have an excessive need for control, order, and perfectionism, often to the point of neglecting other important aspects of life such as fun, relaxation, and socializing. They may have an overwhelming fear of making mistakes, which can lead to rigid thinking and rigid adherence to rules and schedules. They may also struggle to delegate tasks to others because they feel that they can only trust themselves to do the task properly.

Although people with OCPD may have certain obsessions and compulsions, they are not as extreme or distressing as those seen in OCD. For example, someone with OCD may feel the need to wash their hands numerous times a day in order to avoid germs, whereas someone with OCPD may spend excessive amounts of time double-checking work to ensure that there are no errors or reorganizing their possessions to make sure they are perfectly arranged.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

The symptoms of OCPD can vary depending on the individual, but some common characteristics include:

  • Excessive preoccupation with rules, lists, and order that the individual may find hard to deviate from.
  • Being a perfectionist to the point of impairing progress or enjoyment of tasks.
  • Holding unreasonable standards for oneself and others.
  • Trouble making decisions or feeling comfortable with uncertainty.
  • A constant need for control in daily life, leading to inflexibility especially when things don’t go the way they were planned.
  • Flawed prioritization of work or activities to the point of putting them before social or leisure activities.
  • Predisposition to hoarding or saving objects that others would normally dispose of due to emotional attachments to them.

Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

The exact cause of OCPD is unknown. However, like most personality disorders, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Research has suggested that OCPD may be due to changes in the dopamine and serotonin systems in the brain, which are involved in reward, motivation, and mood regulation. People with OCPD may have low levels of dopamine, which can cause a lack of pleasure in everyday activities and lead to an excessive focus on work or self-control, both of which can generate a sense of pleasure when achieved.

OCPD has also been associated with childhood experiences of rigidness or control – either too much or too little – and an emotionally or physically abusive upbringing. Childhood neglect may also increase the risk of developing OCPD.

Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Like most personality disorders, OCPD can be difficult to treat, as the individual may be unaware or resistant to their behaviour. Treatment can involve a combination of therapy and medication depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating OCPD. CBT aims to change the way the individual thinks, feels and behaves by focusing on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. CBT can also help individuals learn how to loosen their control and become less rigid in their thinking and behaviour.

Other types of therapy that may be used to treat OCPD include dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy and psychotherapy.

Medication may also be used to treat OCPD in combination with therapy, particularly in instances where the associated symptoms of anxiety or depression are present. Some medication can help regulate the production and transmission of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which may reduce the severity of OCPD symptoms.

Conclusion

OCPD is a mental health condition that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. The excessive need for control, order and perfectionism, and inflexibility leads to challenges in social relationships and daily living. If OCPD symptoms are affecting functional aspects of daily life, individuals must seek treatment with a qualified healthcare provider to ensure proper management of symptoms to avoid future complications.

FAQs

What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is a mental health condition that is characterized by a preoccupation with perfectionism, orderliness, and control. People with OCPD tend to be overly focused on rules, rigid in their beliefs, and are often unwilling to delegate responsibilities to others.

What are the symptoms of OCPD?

Symptoms of OCPD may include perfectionism, excessive orderliness, a preoccupation with lists, schedules and details, a strict adherence to rules and regulations, an unwillingness to compromise, rigidity in beliefs and strict moral and ethical standards. In addition, people with OCPD may experience difficulty expressing their emotions, lack spontaneity, and have trouble forming close relationships.

Is OCPD treatable?

Yes, OCPD is treatable. However, treatment typically involves long-term therapy and support, and may require a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in the treatment of OCPD, as it seeks to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that underpin the disorder. In some cases, people with OCPD may also benefit from medication to help alleviate anxiety or depression.


References

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

2. Abramowitz, J. S., Taylor, S., & McKay, D. (2009). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Lancet, 374(9688), 491–499. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60240-3

3. Ruscio, A. M., Stein, D. J., Chiu, W. T., & Kessler, R. C. (2010). The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Molecular Psychiatry, 15(1), 53–63. https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2008.94