Though obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) may sound like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it is not the same. Both conditions do, however, have a unique ability to create distress as these disorders interfere with a person’s thoughts, feelings actions.
For someone who has one of these disorders, learning the characteristics of and differences between OCPD vs. OCD can help them better understand their condition. With this knowledge, a person can find the best treatments available.
Characteristics of OCPD
As the name implies, OCPD is a personality disorder, which means the condition is more likely to be ingrained into a person’s life.
Typically, personality disorders:
- Last a long time with consistent symptoms
- Are challenging to treat
- Cause significant harm to the person and their relationships
- Start during the late teens or early twenties
Perhaps the most noteworthy characteristic of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is perfectionism. Having OCPD means that a person has an intense need for perfection in themselves, their actions and the people around them.
Additional signs and symptoms of OCPD include:
- A strict focus on being organized, attention to detail and sticking to schedules
- A lack of leisure time due to being consumed with work
- Being inflexible about moral and ethics, or seeing situations in absolute terms
- Difficulty throwing away old and worthless items
- Being unable to let others help
- Hoarding money
- Being stubborn and set in their ways
- Perfectionism that stands in the way of happiness and healthy relationships
OCD Traits and Characteristics
In contrast to OCPD, OCD is different in that it involves obsessions and compulsions that affect every part of a person’s life. Obsessions and compulsions are the hallmarks of OCD.
Obsessions are characterized by:
- Intense and unwanted thoughts that trigger stress and anxiety
- Thoughts a person tries to block with another idea or a behavior
Compulsions are characterized by:
- Behaviors a person feels driven to complete repetitively
- Behaviors completed that limit the presence of obsessions
The final significant symptom of OCD is spending large amounts of time during the day performing OCD rituals. For example, needing five extra minutes to check the stove does not mean a person has OCD, but spending five hours in the shower might.
Beyond the presence of obsessions and compulsions, OCD can result in:
- High anxiety in all aspects of life
- Poor relationships
- Inability to maintain work or school commitments
- Increased depression
- Extreme discomfort when leaving home
Depending on a person’s condition, their OCD could cause additional repercussions. For example, if the person compulsively washes their hands, they could have dry, cracked skin.
Differentiating OCPD from OCD
When determining if a person struggles with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder vs. obsessive-compulsive disorder, experts complete a thorough mental health evaluation using the guidelines for diagnosis in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth (DSM-5). Professionals may also gather information from friends and family members to get a complete perspective.
Critical elements in differentiating OCPD vs. OCD are the obsessions and compulsions. A person with OCPD will have some rigid behaviors, but they will not engage in the overwhelming need for repetition linked to OCD compulsions.
Another basis for determining OCD vs. OCPD is the level of insight and self-awareness. Most often, a person is fully aware of OCD and the problems it causes, but OCPD is different. A person with OCPD usually believes their thoughts and behaviors are normal, and other people are the ones who need to change.
A mental health professional will also investigate the impact of the condition. Usually, OCD affects all aspects of life, making work, school or healthy relationships impossible. In contrast, OCPD could relate to improved performance at work or school, but relationships with other people are likely to suffer.
A person who is in a relationship with someone who has OCPD may feel:
- Like a disappointment
- Overly controlled or manipulated
- Frustrated and angry
People with OCD often see the need for treatment while people with OCPD don’t think it will be helpful. A person who has OCPD may encourage their loved ones to seek treatment instead of themselves.
Psychotherapy may focus on achieving short-term goals like:
- Reducing stress and learning relaxation techniques
- Improving healthy coping skills
- Building new relationships and strengthening existing ones
- Learning ways to communicate clearly and kindly
If someone responds well to these treatments, the therapy sessions can shift to a long-term treatment plan with a focus on reducing the feelings of perfectionism and their need for control. This form of treatment can be challenging and time-intensive, though.
Typically, OCD treatment follows another course. A form of cognitive-behavioral therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention aims to expose a person to obsessions while preventing their compulsions. If someone compulsively washes their hands, the therapist may encourage the person to touch something dirty without immediately washing. Their anxiety will rise initially but then fall with time, making the compulsion unnecessary.
When the compulsions end, the obsessions gradually diminish, making Exposure and Response Prevention an effective treatment.
A psychiatrist may offer medication to help reduce the symptoms of OCD as well. Medications paired with therapy seem to be the most successful treatment methods for OCD.
Conversely, medications are used less frequently with OCPD. If a doctor does prescribe them, it may only be in the short-term to address possible mood or anxiety issues.
By seeking out effective, evidence-based treatments as soon as symptoms arise, a person can significantly improve the prognosis for either OCPD or OCD. One study of Exposure and Response Prevention shows that treatment can reduce OCD symptoms by between 65 and 50 percent after only 14 therapy sessions. The benefits of talk therapy and counseling usually continue for months after treatment ends.
Like with other personality disorders, the outcome of OCPD treatments are less predictable. Although therapy can help a person reduce their need for perfectionism and control, the change takes time. In many cases, it takes an ultimatum from a boss or spouse for a person to accept the need for treatment and engage in the process.
Key Points: OCPD vs. OCD
Learning the difference between the two disorders is challenging. Remember these key OCPD vs. OCD points:
- OCPD is a personality disorder marked by perfectionism and a need for control
- OCD is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that take up a lot of time
- People with OCD are usually self-aware, but people with OCPD typically are not
- The prognosis is generally better for OCD than OCPD, but both conditions improve with treatment
- Treatment for both OCPD and OCD can involve psychotherapy:
- Exposure and Response Prevention helps OCD
- Talk therapy aimed at decreasing perfectionism and aiding relationships helps OCPD
With either OCPD or OCD, the presence of co-occurring conditions like depression, anxiety and substance use disorders can complicate treatment, resulting in a poorer prognosis. To find treatment for substance use and co-occurring mental health issues, contact The Recovery Village today.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” Published in 2013. Accessed March 2019. International OCD Foundation. “Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).” (n.d.) Accessed March 2, 2019. Jones, Mairwen K. et. al. “The Efficacy of Exposure and Response Prevention for Geriatric Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Clinical Case Illustration.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, published in 2012. Accessed March 2, 2019. National Institute of Mental Health. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Published in January 2016. Accessed on March 2, 2019. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedLine Plus. “Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.” November 18, 2016. Accessed on March 2, 2019. Van Noppen, Barbara. “Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).” International OCD Foundation, 2010. Accessed on March 2, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” Published in 2013. Accessed March 2019.
International OCD Foundation. “Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).” (n.d.) Accessed March 2, 2019.
Jones, Mairwen K. et. al. “The Efficacy of Exposure and Response Prevention for Geriatric Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Clinical Case Illustration.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, published in 2012. Accessed March 2, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Published in January 2016. Accessed on March 2, 2019.
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedLine Plus. “Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.” November 18, 2016. Accessed on March 2, 2019.
Van Noppen, Barbara. “Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).” International OCD Foundation, 2010. Accessed on March 2, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.