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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Personality DisorderThe name Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) often gets confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but it is definitely not the same.  It is however the same in that there are obsessive and compulsive traits, thoughts, and actions.

For instance, OCDs are obsessed with being clean and therefore do compulsive behaviors such as excessive hand washing.  Generally speaking the OCD is limited to a few areas or environments.  In contrast, OCPD is not. As a personality disorder, it is pervasive in nearly every environment.

So what is OCPD?  Here is the technical DSM-V definition:

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
  • Shows significant rigidity and stubbornness

The practical definition looks more like this:

  • Self-identity comes from work or a hobby to which they are wholly committed
  • Doesn’t throw things away, even useless items
  • No flexibility in opinions, tendency to be rigid or legalistic
  • Limited generosity, money is hoarded for emergencies
  • Doesn’t like to delegate to others because they won’t do it right
  • Affection or intimate tends to be one sided, is not as important as work/hobby
  • They expect to be heard more than they listen
  • Obsess over things that have happened with no new conclusions or insights
  • Repetitive speech to the point of exhausting those around them
  • Loves details, rules, and lists even for enjoyable activities
  • Perfectionist tendency, everything must be flawless, perfect or without errors
  • Gets stuck: so willful that they won’t change their behavior despite repeated failures
  • Insists there is only one right way to do things
  • Is obstinate, inflexible, and tenacious

Do you remember the hit TV show “Friends”?  Courteney Cox who played Monica on the show is a perfect example of OCPD.  Not only did she possess some OCD habits but she also demonstrated OCPD at home, work, and with her friends.  The combination of the two disorders made for many funny scenes. It also brought awareness to the rigidity and consistency of OCPDs and the impact on the people around them.

So how do you deal with a person who might have OCPD?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • When they are right, say the words, “You are right”. They love that, it feeds them.
  • They have a tendency to repeat the same point over and over, don’t change opinions. Give them a limit on repetition. They can only repeat the same thing twice and then refuse to respond further.
  • They are hyper-logical so use logical not emotional arguments, even when they are emotional.
  • Avoid the temptation to “one up them.” Often they make mountains out of mole hills and it can be tempting to try to put things in perspective. This is not beneficial in the moment. Instead, let them vent and come back later to the issue with a different perspective.
  • When possible, ask for their opinion and don’t assume their answer. They love to feel valued.
  • Anticipate that conversations will take much longer than needed. Plan for it or set a pre-determined time limit at the start of the discussion.
  • Use the phrase, “Let me think about that” to get a break from the conversation. Make sure the point is re-addressed within 24 hours or this phrase will not work in the future.
  • Resist the temptation to join them in an anxious obsessive moment. Don’t allow their anxiety to spill over onto others.

The good part about having this disorder is that OCPDs will be excellent employees, volunteers, or workers in whatever environment that excites them.  The hard part is getting accustomed to rigid scheduling, over preparation, and lack of compassion for those who don’t perform at their level.  Try learning some new communication skills or brushing up on logic skills before engaging in your next discussion with an OCPD.


Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2017). Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from