Friday Counseling Issues: The Personality Disorders

Today:  Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.



First, there is a difference between Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  Here is a quick summary of the differences:

Difference #1: Insight

Folks with OCD usually know that their thoughts are not exactly reasonable (“Did I turn off the stove?  I’d better check,” or “If I wear unmatched socks, something bad will happen to my brother.”)

By contrast, individuals with OCPD believe their sky-high standards and work ethic are not only reasonable, but the only way to get things done.

Difference #2: Distress

In OCD, the obsessions and compulsions are stressful and unpleasant. For instance, feeling convinced you just drove over someone and circling back dozens of times to check for a body turns one’s stomach into knots. By contrast, for those with OCPD, the rigid schedules and rules of the condition are often comforting and feel right.

Difference #3: Guilt

In OCD, individuals can, but not always, feel guilty about asking others to conform to their rituals (for example, “I know it’s a hassle to put on shoe covers whenever you come inside, but I really, really need you to do that.  I’m so sorry.”)  On the flip side, those with OCPD think others should conform to their methods and firmly believe they’d be better off for it.

Difference #4: Anxiety

With OCD, compulsions – the actions someone with OCD can’t resist doing, like checking, counting, or washing – are performed to reduce anxiety.  For instance, an individual with OCD might review her schedule for the day over and over again because she’s  terrified she’s forgotten to include all her appointments.

By contrast, someone with OCPD might make and review a detailed schedule in order to be comprehensive and efficient.  Anxiety isn’t part of the picture.

Difference #5: Time

By definition, OCD takes more than an hour a day.  That’s right – part of an OCD diagnosis can be the fact that the obsessions, plus the compulsions to neutralize the obsessions, suck up a lot of time. OCPD, on the other hand, is more tightly interwoven to one’s personality. Rather than being an activity unto itself, the perfectionism and control of OCPD is more of a trait, not a time suck.

Quick Tip: Think of the one-letter difference between the two acronyms: OCPD has a “p” in it, which you can pretend stands for “perfectionism,” the defining feature of the disorder.

Any way you slice it, these disorders are tough to live with.  The good news?  They’re also treatable, particularly OCD.  With work and practice, the only difference you’ll think about is what a difference good treatment makes.

(taken from:

As with all the personality disorders, the person who has one thinks it is everyone else who is odd, wrong, strange, unreasonable, and needs help.  People who have OCD, as opposed to OCPD, are willing and often eager to seek help. On the contrary, OCPD people don’t think they need any help.  If only everyone else were as organized, scheduled, meticulous, PERFECT as they are, the world would be a better place.

Both of these disorders used to be classed under anxiety disorders. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, has given OCD a place of its own, while OCPD is still under Personality Disorders.

Confused?  Think of it this way. OCPD people many not have the counting rituals, the constant handwashing, checking and rechecking of OCD, but they are absolutely convinced that their way is the ONLY right way, and they don’t mind imposing their standards on everyone else.

If you have an OCPD boss, that person will demand absolute obedience to every rule in the book, and he knows them all by heart.  He probably wrote them.  He simply doesn’t understand a cluttered desk, and will insist that his employees have prisitine  desktops. He doesn’t understand at all that some of us just don’t see the clutter, and we actually work more efficiently and productively if things are not antiseptically clean.

I knew someone who always did her wash on Monday, no matter what. No exceptions. She hung her laundry outside, even in the coldest weather, because the sun and fresh air helped kill bacteria that her boiling hot water and bleach may have overlooked.  If it rained or snowed on wash day, the clothes were hung on lines in the basement, but she worried incessantly that the clothes just weren’t as clean as if she’d been able to hang them out.

It messed up her whole week.  She could hardly wait until the following Monday.

That’s OCPD. To her, it was just normal, and she simply didn’t understand why Monday washday was not sacred to me. It bothered her. A lot.

She also ironed and mended on Tuesday, baked on Wednesday, shopped on Thursday, cleaned on Friday, and did yard work or major deep cleaning on Saturday.  Like clockwork.

OCPD people can find it difficult to make time for an unscheduled lunch date, or just taking an hour off to read or nap. Being off-schedule is intolerable.  Rules of etiquette are strictly observed, and there isn’t much spontaneous humor.

The other day, at work, I’d been doing some research during a free hour.  My desk was cluttered with several books, a legal pad full of notes, and the usual collection of pens, tissue box, and so on. It was a mess.  Didn’t bother me a bit;  it was work in progress.

When my client, a very nice lady who was seeing me for some marital help, came into my office, she stopped cold and stared at my desk. “Would you like me to help you clean that up before we start?”  she asked.

I could see that the mess would distract her completely, so I quickly gathered up, straightend up, and put things in my desk drawers. It was a pain for me, because I would have to get it out all over again. For her, it was intolerable and she wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything but my messy desk.

Treatment is helpful only when the person realizes she needs it. People with OCD respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy and treatment for anxiety.  People with OCPD  have to be persuaded that they need any help at all.

Today’s post concludes our study of the personality disorders.  I hope it’s been interesting for you, and even better, perhaps it’s been helpful.


6 thoughts on “Friday Counseling Issues: The Personality Disorders

  1. I think I do/did have OCD to a point. I have always been an organized workaholic and pretty much all work and no play so happiness is not something I’m familiar with. So busy trying to do things right, I left out fun because I was trying to prove to certain people I was good enough. All except the hoarding, thankfully. I actually know quite a few people who have my same personality and not all related to me. Must be why I like the Big Bang Theory’s character “Sheldon.” When I found myself no longer working, I gradually started relaxing my neatness and organization. Now I pretty much don’t care. I was never like this til I married someone with OCD strangely enough. Interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

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