Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a mental health condition that focuses on a preoccupation with rules, regulations, control and orderliness. Often confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), understanding OCPD is an important first step in giving or receiving help for this disorder.

Common OCPD myths only further the confusion surrounding this condition. Learn the facts about OCPD and the treatment that’s available for those who struggle with this disorder.

Myth #1: OCPD is the same as OCD.

Fact: OCPD is NOT the same as OCD.

While both disorders contain the phrase obsessive-compulsive in their description, they are very different disorders. Note some key areas of difference between OCPD vs. OCD:

  • Insight into their condition
  • Thoughts and behaviors
  • Work and interpersonal relationships or conflict

People with OCD are generally aware that their condition appears unreasonable. Their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are unwanted, and the person does not want to experience them. In spite of this, they experience great difficulty trying to control such thoughts and subsequent behaviors. 

People with OCPD, on the other hand, are unyielding in their thoughts and behavior, viewing their way as the best or right way. People with OCPD often do not view their behavior as abnormal and they rely and fixate on self-made rules to manage daily tasks at home or work. 

Just as the thoughts and behaviors associated with OCD are unwanted, the effect they have is unwanted as well. A person with OCD will often feel guilty because of their condition and the demands it places on family. In contrast, a person with OCPD feels that the conflict that arises based on their need for rules and control can be fixed when others yield to them. In other words, they think everyone else is the problem. People with OCPD do not feel a sense of guilt that those with OCD do.

Myth #2: Because people with OCPD are perfectionists, they are more productive.

Fact: Perfectionism with OCPD can interfere with productivity.

The fixation on details, rules and order that comes with OCPD can impede decision-making and prioritizing skills. This trait of perfectionism can interfere with the completion of tasks and contribute to an unwillingness to assign tasks to others for fear they will not be done in the right way. Although these qualities can contribute to effectiveness in the workplace, if the preoccupation with details is too high, it can lead to an overall lack of productivity.

For some people, OCPD can manifest as an extreme devotion to work that interferes with social or family activities. In this instance, effectiveness in the workplace is usually increased, but at a cost. Relationships at work can become strained between co-workers and the employer. Outside of work, family or friends can feel neglected and frustrated. So, while productivity can be high, the risk for interpersonal conflict and breakdown is also high.

Myth #3: OCPD is more common among women.

Fact: OCPD affects both men and women.

The specific traits tied to OCPD, such as the need for lists, order, perfection and control, can often be seen in men and women alike. According to the International OCD Foundation, many people can display the traits specific to OCPD without having a formal diagnosis of the disorder.

The results from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that personality disorders, especially OCPD, were pervasive in America. Approximately 7.9%, or 16.4 million individuals, had OCPD, according to the survey. 

One study conducted in 2012 notes that the lifetime prevalence of OCPD was 7.8% among adults in the U.S., with equal representation among men and women. The risk for OCPD does not change according to gender. 

In general, risk factors for personality disorders can be attributed to being:

  • Native American or Black
  • A young adult
  • Of low socioeconomic status
  • Separated, divorced, widowed or never married

Although there is no specific cause that can be singled out regarding OCPD, some theories suggest it could arise as a coping mechanism in childhood to avoid punishment or to be perceived as obedient by unavailable, controlling or overly protective parents.

Myth #4: People with OCPD are well aware of their condition.

Fact: Individuals with OCPD are not aware that their behavior is abnormal.

Unlike individuals with OCD who are painfully aware of their condition and the impact it has on their life and others, individuals with OCPD do not believe that their actions pose a problem. Often described as rigid and stubborn in their belief patterns, individuals with OCPD will often become upset if someone or something interferes with their routines. 

Certain qualities associated with OCPD can be seen as positive traits, such as devotion to work, attention to detail, and being rule-abiding, self-reliant, firm, high-achieving, clean, orderly and thrifty. However, in the person with OCPD, these traits are taken to the extreme and held up next to a self-imposed guideline for perfection. The effect is that their comfort and satisfaction becomes dependent upon rigid and inflexible standards that they and others close to them cannot maintain. If confronted about such perfectionism, a person with OCPD will usually defend themselves, claiming that they are only trying to perform or behave well.

Myth #5: OCPD is easy to treat.

Fact: OCPD is treatable, but only when the individual is open to treatment.

Like many mental health conditions, the success of any treatment is tied to the willingness of the individual to work along with the treatment plan. 

It is typical of individuals with OCPD to believe that they don’t require treatment. The true state and severity of their condition may be tied up in secrecy. Unwilling to admit the extent of their symptoms, many people will defend their irrational behavior as normal. The motivation for therapy may, therefore, arise from interpersonal conflict at work or home. The fear of losing a job or an important relationship can motivate a person who otherwise wouldn’t seek therapy.

Typically, OCPD treatment includes forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy can help improve the way an individual views matters such as work, and can help change expectations concerning work and recreation. Thought processes and patterns can be re-trained to be more flexible rather than rigid. 

Medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also be of use in an OCPD treatment plan to address any associated depression or anxiety experienced with OCPD. If the motivation to change is present, treatment prognosis for OCPD is promising.

If you or someone you know is struggling with traits similar to OCPD and you are coping by using alcohol or substances, contact us at The Recovery Village. One of our representatives can discuss what our treatment plans consist of and it would fit your circumstances. Don’t wait, get help now and experience the relief of recovery.