Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a developmental disorder that needs to be differentiated from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is important to know that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) resembles OCD much less than the name suggests if we take a look at the DSM criteria—in the way that OCPD is not characterised neither by obsessions nor by compulsions. However, looking at OCPD as a point on neurotic spectrum leading to OCD might be a better way to look at it—also when facing with OCPD or OCD in therapy.
Perfectionism, order, standards and how they relate to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)
OCPD is characterised by individual’s tendency for perfectionism, which is usually up to the point when efficiency in concluding the task is lost due to strive for perfection. A person presenting with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) will not think twice before spending a lot more time on a task just to gain perfection—also when the task could have clearly been done good enough with a lot less effort.
Individuals with OCPD will also obsess with order, process and organisation. Everything needs to be done according to some standard and any straying from such standard will evoke anxiety in the person. This is the way they consider controlling the environment and others.
Control of self, others and environment with OCPD
Control is a big thing for OCPD individuals and this is their attempt to avoid catastrophe. They will usually have quite an omnipotent and grandiose stance towards control—as though they are more powerful and have more control over things and situations than is in fact true. This of course is a psychological delusion, which sometimes they will even be aware of.
Not only will they attempt to control the environment, situations and others, but also themselves, their thoughts and their feelings. Similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), their controlling behaviour is an effort to relieve anxiety that builds up in them because of their sense of responsibility.
Rigidity and OCPD
Rigidity is a big thing for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) individuals. Because they will strive for perfection, they will tend to do things obsessively—they will repeat tasks, organise their schedules to last detail, and do all that with severe attention. They will also resort to rituals, because they will give them a sense of familiarity.
Everything is committed to the task at hand rather than the result they are trying to achieve. If the task is not properly performed—even if the result is good enough—they will build up anxiety that will often force them either to repeat the task or to obsess over it and feel guilty for not doing it perfectly. They will be thinking of the next time they are able to get it just right.
This makes the world of an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) client extremely rigid and narrow. Their comfort zone will shrink to the point where they will be hurting from their perfectionism.
This rigidity will also come to surface in individuals with OCPD being extremely self-reliant and sure of themselves. Their way of doing things is most of the time the only way that seems proper to them and they are not open to other people’s suggestions or ideas. They will also be very rigid in their views and values connected to the world and morals. Often they will impose their views on others and “persecute” others in order to “rescue” the “common people”. This will make them authoritarian individuals.
OCPD individuals will tend to be workaholics. Their sole purpose is to achieve internal equilibrium by doing things, performing and doing it perfectly. They are in constant state of anxiety and in delusion that if they work hard enough and achieve things to their perfection, their anxiety will decrease.
This, of course, never happens and they will go on working for lengthy periods of time, seemingly not even needing any rest or time off. They will not see this as a problem, but take pride in it. This is also why obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is sometimes so resilient to treat in therapy—individuals who pose with it want to get rid of only some of the symptoms but take pride in most of its features and do not want to change in essence.
Procrastination and OCPD
Because OCPD individuals are such perfectionists, procrastination and leaving things to the last moment is also one of their traits. They will often avoid even starting tasks in order for them not to make a mistake while performing the task and also in order not to mess it up—which for them is anything short of perfect. This is most often an unconscious process and OCPD individuals will not know why they procrastinate, they will just feel unable to start a project or a task. Sometimes it will go so far that they will unconsciously sabotage themselves from performing a task in order not to risk performing it less than perfectly.
Both obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be successfully treated in psychotherapy.