Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, commonly referred to as OCPD, is characterized as a mental illness which causes a person to develop an obsession with perfection, organization and structure. This may include obsessions with following rules, excessive cleanliness or perfection pertaining to tasks, chores or work ethic. People who have this disorder have a tendency to follow routines that they have developed and often expect others to do the same.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

There are many different ways that symptoms of obsessive compulsive personality disorder may develop, but the underlying drive is common among sufferers. Whether the obsession is with morality, frugality or cleanliness, people with OCPD can generally be recognized by some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with details, lists, order and organization
  • Rigidity and inflexibility in beliefs regarding any obsession
  • Perfectionism which interferes with finishing a task, chore or work responsibility
  • Excessive focus on productivity
  • Hoarding items of little or no value
  • Difficulty trusting others to complete a work assignment or home chore
  • Anxiousness regarding the potential for things to go wrong
  • Possible repetitive facial expressions, tics or audible noises like grunting or humming
  • Relationship problems due to excessively high standards set upon others

Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

An exact cause for the development of obsessive compulsive personality disorder has not yet been discovered. Extensive research has been conducted in an attempt to uncover possibilities that may lead some toward the tendency to develop OCPD. The most important of these is genetic predisposition. Many researchers believe that a specific gene may be passed down the family tree that could be linked to the disorder. Especially for children who grow up in a family with a parent or close relative who suffers from the condition, if the gene is present, it may be more likely for the child to develop similar behaviors, leading to obsessive compulsive personality disorder. While this may be true, there are some patients who do not possess this gene and may show signs of the condition caused by other factors such as stress or trauma, brain chemical imbalance or environmentally learned behavior.  

Diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Despite the similarity between names, obsessive compulsive personality disorder differs from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Patients may experience symptoms of both disorders simultaneously and the presence of each may be found within families, but there are several characteristics which differ from one to the other. In order to make a diagnosis of OCPD, symptoms of OCPD must be present and differ from those of OCD in the following ways:

  • Obsession with details and list making is not engaged for the purpose of relieving stress, anxiety or obsessive thoughts. For people with OCPD, making a list or sticking to a routine is a more efficient use of time.
  • Activities and routines acted upon by people with OCPD are not a source of distress. People with this disorder find their symptoms beneficial and even necessary.
  • People with OCPD do not necessarily engage in ritualistic behavior. While they may spend an extraordinary amount of time on any one particular task, they don't necessarily become overwhelmed by the process.
  • Perfectionism plays a big role in OCPD and may adversely affect relationships.

Treatment Options for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Treatment options for obsessive compulsive personality disorder generally involve one or more types of therapy. Medication is limited to those who are experiencing symptoms of related disorders or underlying panic, anxiety or depression. Behavioral therapy or self-help courses can relieve symptoms by teaching the patient to recognize triggering events and react in a more healthy and productive fashion. Patients may also work to avoid substances which may encourage symptoms, such as the intake of alcohol and caffeine.