Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder that is characterised by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness. People with OCPD will also feel a severe need to impose their own strict and precise standards on their outside environment. A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of thinking and perceiving, and consists of behavior that deviates from the norm.

Individuals with OCPD are prone to become upset or angry in situations in which they’re unable to maintain control of their physical or interpersonal environment, although the anger is typically not expressed directly. For example, a person may be angry when service in a restaurant is poor, but instead of complaining to the management, the individual will worry about how much to leave as a tip. On other occasions, anger may be expressed with righteous indignation over a seemingly minor matter. Things get out of proportion and an individual with OCPD will be unnecessarily perturbed by events that the average person would be able to let go of. For example – not cooking the perfect dinner or noticing a slight smell in their home.

Individuals with this disorder usually express affection in a highly-controlled or stilted fashion and may be very uncomfortable in the presence of others who are emotionally expressive. Their everyday relationships have a formal and serious quality, and they may be stiff in situations in which others would smile and be happy (e.g., greeting a lover at the airport). They carefully hold themselves back until they are sure that whatever they say will be perfect. They may be preoccupied with logic and intellect.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is approximately twice as prevalent in males than females, and occurs in between 2.1 and 7.9 percent of the general population.

People with OCPD have the following characteristics:

  • They find it hard to express their feelings.
  • They have difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships with others.
  • They’re hardworking, but their obsession with perfection can make them inefficient.
  • They often feel righteous, indignant, and angry.
  • They often face social isolation.
  • They can experience anxiety that occurs with depression.

OCPD is often confused with an anxiety disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, they aren’t the same.

People with OCPD have no idea that there’s anything wrong with the way they think or behave. They believe that their way of thinking and doing things is the only correct way and that everyone else is wrong.

The symptoms of OCPD

The symptoms of OCPD include:

  • perfectionism to the point that it impairs the ability to finish tasks
  • stiff, formal, or rigid mannerisms
  • being extremely frugal with money
  • an overwhelming need to be punctual
  • extreme attention to detail
  • excessive devotion to work at the expense of family or social relationships
  • hoarding worn or useless items
  • an inability to share or delegate work because of a fear it won’t be done right
  • a fixation with lists
  • a rigid adherence to rules and regulations
  • an overwhelming need for order
  • a sense of righteousness about the way things should be done
  • a rigid adherence to moral and ethical codes

If you have OCPD, your therapist will likely use a three-pronged approach to treatment, which includes the following:

Treatment options for OCPD

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of mental health counseling. During CBT, you meet with a mental health professional on a structured schedule. These regular sessions involve working with your counselor to talk through any anxiety, stress, or depression. A mental health counselor may encourage you to put less emphasis on work and more emphasis on recreation, family, and other interpersonal relationships.


Your doctor may consider prescribing a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to decrease some anxiety surrounding the obsessive-compulsive cycle. If you’re prescribed an SSRI, you may also benefit from support groups and regular treatment from a psychiatrist. Long-term prescription use isn’t usually recommended for OCPD.

Relaxation training

Relaxation training involves specific breathing and relaxation techniques that can help decrease your sense of stress and urgency. These symptoms are common in OCPD. Examples of recommended relaxation practices include yoga, tai chi, and Pilates.

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