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What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

obsessive compulsive personality disorder


People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) harbor an intense need for order. They demand that rules be followed precisely and are unwilling to stray from them at all. Details dominate their lives, and they often struggle to see the ‘big picture.’ They are perfectionistic to a fault, frequently running out of time on tasks because they could not meet their own, impossible standards. People demand and require structure, even at times that no one else would, such as with hobbies or leisure time.

Problems arise

When external forces prevent these people from following their desired guidelines, it leads to problems. People with this personality disorder become irritable and angry when others fail to meet their standards. They may react in passive-aggressive ways or nit-pick about minor issues that dissatisfy them.

These people also have a lot of trouble expressing and receiving expressions of friendliness or love. They often feel awkward and unsure of how to act. They appear withdrawn and unapproachable in situations where most others would be overly expressive. All of this leads to difficulties forming and keeping close, intimate relationships.

Different from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

One of the main differences between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is insight. People with OCD know that what they are feeling and doing is unreasonable while those with OCPD believe their way is the right way. In the same vein, people with OCPD don’t believe they need treatment. They want everyone around them to go around with their strict way of doing things. On the contrary, people with OCD desperately want to be rid of their symptoms and willingly seek out treatment. Another difference is that people with OCPD focus on many things throughout their lives, while those with OCD focus on very specific areas.

Causes and Risk Factors

Surprisingly common

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is actually one of the most common personality disorders. Depending on what study you look at, this personality disorder appears in somewhere between 2% and 8% of Americans.

OCPD vs. cultural norms

Many people can have a few symptoms of OCPD but don’t actually display enough for the full disorder. Sometimes this is due to cultural norms, especially in cultures that are highly rule-oriented and hierarchical.

Family trends

How people are raised can contribute to the development of OCPD. It can happen if parents are very over-protective or extremely strict with their punishments. Familial tendencies towards perfectionism or compulsiveness can also contribute.

Gender differences

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is twice as common in men as it is in women.

Other possibilities

As expected, when making the diagnosis, doctors have to be careful to differentiate between this personality disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The same goes for other personality disorders like Avoidant Personality Disorder and Schizoid Personality Disorder.

Diagnosing Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

The criteria

People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder excessively focus on organization. They need things to be perfect, exactly following rules at every turn. They are inflexible and unwilling to go any other way than what they firmly believe to be the right way. People with this personality disorder have at least 4 of the following symptoms:

  1. They are over-focused on details, lists, order, and schedules so much that it hurts what they are trying to organize.
  2. Their focus on perfection prevents them from getting things done on time (or at all).
  3. Their excessive dedication to work rules out time for leisure, recreation, rest, or time with friends and family.
  4. They are uncompromising on issues of ethics and morals, unable to see things in shades of gray.
  5. Like people with Hoarding Disorder, they have trouble discarding old, worn-out, valueless items.
  6. They don’t work well with others unless those people meet their exacting standards.
  7. They save money obsessively, living a spartan lifestyle as a result.
  8. These people are generally very stubborn and inflexible.
Treating Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


The most common therapy for this personality disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This therapy helps people work through their rigid practices and learn to be more flexible. This can significantly contribute to improving interpersonal relationships that Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder strains so much. Psychodynamic psychotherapy can also be very good for this personality disorder because it can help with insight. Talking through their experiences in this setting can mitigate people’s resistance to treatment.


No medications have been approved to specifically treat OCPD. However, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) do tread OCD and may be able to help with OCPD. Though they are not a standalone treatment, SSRIs can help when they are added to therapy.

Managing Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Relaxation techniques

People with OCPD can feel a lot of internal tension when they try to resist their need for rigid organization. In these times, they can benefit from relaxation techniques or mindfulness to help them deal with this.

Threats to relationships

Since most people with OCPD don’t think they have a problem, they are often very resistant to treatment. This does not bode well for the long-term health of their interpersonal relationships. In fact, many don’t get help until their disorder does damage. If you are the spouse or intimate partner of someone with OCPD, know that you may have to go to great lengths to get the individual to get help.

Types of Personality Disorders

Wondering about a possible disorder but not sure? Let’s explore your symptoms.

  1. Zimmerman, M. (2022). Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Merck Manuals Professional Edition. Retrieved from on 7/19/22.
  2. OCPD Fact Sheet. (2010). The International OCD Foundation. Retrieved from on 7/19/22.
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Personality Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) [Citation is on Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, Diagnostic criteria]
  4. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) | OCD-UK. (2022). Retrieved from on 7/21/22.