Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Friends cast in first season. Front: Cox, Anis...

Friends cast in first season. Front: Cox, Aniston. Back: LeBlanc, Kudrow, Schwimmer, Perry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The 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.  OCPD is not and as a personality disorder it is pervasive in nearly every environment.


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


  • Identity:  Sense of self derived from work or productivity
  • Self-direction:  Rigid, unreasonably high, and inflexible internal standards of behavior
  • Empathy:  Difficulty understanding the ideas, feelings, or behaviors of others
  • Intimacy:  Relationships seen as secondary to work and productivity
  • Rigid perfectionism:  Insistence on everything being flawless, perfect, without errors; believing there is only one right way to do things; difficulty changing ideas or viewpoints; preoccupation with details, organization, and order
  • Perseveration:  Continuance of the same behavior despite repeated failures


The practical definition looks more like this:


  • Over-devotion to work or hobby
  • Not able to throw things away, even when the objects have no value
  • Lack of flexibility in opinions
  • Lack of generosity, money is hoarded for catastrophes
  • Doesn’t like to delegate to others because they won’t do it right
  • Not very affectionate
  • Preoccupation with details, rules, and lists even for enjoyable activities
  • Perfectionist standards interfering with task completion
  • Overly conscientious
  • Stubborn


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 as it helps to bring awareness to the rigidity and consistency of OCPDs and how it impacts 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.
  • They have a tendency to repeat the same point over and over, don’t change your opinion.
  • They are hyper-logical so use logical not emotional arguments.
  • Always ask for their opinion and don’t assume you already know the answer.
  • Your time with them will go long because they talk so much, anticipate it.
  • Use the phrase, “Let me think about that” when you don’t want to keep talking about the subject.
  • Resist the temptation to join them in an anxious obsessive moment.


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 you engage in your next discussion with an OCPD.




Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.


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