• OCPD, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, is a condition that typically induces strong desires for perfection, organization and control in all aspects of life.
  • It’s thought that OCPD may be partially genetic in nature, meaning that heritability plays a role in the development of this personality disorder.
  • Other factors theorized to play a role in OCPD include serotonin deficiencies, strict parenting styles in childhood, and traumatic events.
  • OCPD is often treated with medication, as well as CBT and relaxation training from a therapist who specializes in personality disorders.

Individuals who suffer from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder seek to uphold a feeling of control through their meticulous attention to rules, details, procedures, instructions, schedules, or lists—to an extent where the behavior can interfere with everyday functioning, relationships, or quality of life. 

They are very careful in all of their actions and are always checking for possible mistakes. These individuals often don’t realize that these tendencies affect others to the point of inconveniencing them and/or annoying them, and may not see an issue with their behavior. But for their long-term wellbeing and functioning, finding assistance for their symptoms with therapeutic interventions is often recommended. 

What Is the Difference Between OCD and OCPD?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is characterized by a preoccupation with organization, perfectionism, and control—both mental and interpersonal—at the expense of flexibility and efficiency, while OCD is characterized mainly by obsessions and compulsions. 

When we compare OCD vs OCPD, people with OCPD typically place a high value on personal orderliness and productivity, and may be excessively devoted to work or other activities to the point of neglecting their social or personal relationships. The behaviors associated with OCPD can interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively in social, occupational or personal situations, leading to difficulties at work, school, and in personal relationships. 

Although OCPD symptoms can be distressing, people with this disorder may not perceive them as problematic and may be resistant to treatment. When looking at OCD vs OCPD, each can cause impairment in their own ways. OCD can be very debilitating and very distressing while OCPD is often less distressing.

What Are 3 Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

OCPD symptoms typically fall under the following three traits, as stated above: 

  • Perfectionism: Having perfectionism that interferes with completing tasks.
  • Organization:  Being preoccupied with and insisting on details, rules, lists, order and organization.
  • Control: Being unwilling to compromise, perceive everything as black or white thinking or dichotomous thinking, becoming overly fixated on an idea or belief 

Making an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder diagnosis can be quite tricky. Clinicians should not only discount a small degree of perfectionism but also behaviors that reflect customs, habits, and styles that may be attributed to the individual’s culture, as certain cultures place greater emphasis on work and productivity. 

Additionally, a few other disorder possibilities should be considered and assessed, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding disorder, and other personality disorders, which all share certain symptoms and/or characteristics.

When it comes to differences between the sexes, it appears that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is diagnosed about twice as often among those assigned as male at birth. So, other than males possibly having a higher risk of developing obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, there are not any additional risk factors for this mental illness.

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Are People Born with OCPD?

No — in fact, no one is “born” with any mental health disorder, but rather through development and growth, mental health disorders are formed. It’s believed to be a combination of one’s environment (learned behavior), genetics (DNA/family genes), and social constructs that influence their mental health and the development of certain disorders. 

Why Do People Develop Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

The exact cause of OCPD symptoms is unknown but believed to be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. Studies have shown that people with a family history of OCPD are at a higher risk of developing the disorder themselves. 

Childhood experiences, such as strict parenting or traumatic events may also contribute to the development of OCPD. Additionally, some researchers believe that certain personality traits, such as perfectionism and rigidity may increase a person’s vulnerability to OCPD. 

When Does Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Develop?

This question is tricky, as there is no exact age that people develop OCPD. This varies from person to person. Like all personality disorders, OCPD should not be diagnosed prior to young adulthood, as an enduring pattern of behavior must be established.

 It is possible that OCPD symptoms may go undiagnosed and/or undetected for years, as often a person with OCPD may be highly successful in the school or work place and people may congratulate them, as they reach high levels of academic excellence or milestones at work, while a person with OCPD may be struggling to maintain personal and social relationships due to placing such a significant burden on themselves to “act with excellence” or to “perform with excellence.” 

Often, society celebrates success and achievement, so externally, a person may appear high functioning and well, but internally a person may be suffering from the pressure to perform to such high standards and even feel isolated in their struggle. 

What Causes Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder in the Brain?

Some evidence suggests that there may be a genetic component to obsessive-compulsive traits, as it has been found to run in families. Research has also shown that environmental factors, such as childhood trauma may increase the risk of developing OCPD. 

Neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, have long been thought to play a role in the development of OCPD. The imbalance of serotonin may play a role in the development of OCPD. 

Can Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Be Treated?

Like most other mental illnesses, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder can be effectively treated. The following are treatment options:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This form of therapy involves talking through any feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression with a mental health counselor. The counselor may encourage and work with you to shift your focus from work to recreational activities and relationships with family and other loved ones.
  • Medication: In some cases, doctors prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which can help decrease anxiety that comes with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. 
  • Relaxation training: This involves learning specific breathing and relaxation techniques that can help an individual deal with and decrease feelings of stress and/or urgency, which are common in those with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. For example, one might be instructed to take up yoga or Pilates.

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder consists of having obsessions of the mind or unwanted, intrusive thoughts while having compulsive behaviors to neutralize the anxiety. In order to better understand, restrain, and redirect these habits, working with an empathetic and experienced counselor is key to symptom remission and long-term mental health.