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.


When Small Spaces Equal Big Fears

Have you ever found yourself in a small tight space like a storage closet, a closed MRI, or an elevator and out of nowhere you felt like you were going to lose it?  Suddenly your breath seems lost, your palms and underarms sweat, your heart races, you feel light-headed and your stomach does flips.  The next thing you know, you are looking for a way out and analyzing how fast you can escape.  Then you become angry because you have not escaped yet and the desire to run away fast is so overwhelming that you could scream.  If so, you might have experienced an anxiety attack.

The problem with anxiety attacks is they happen when you least expect it or worse, when you really don’t have the time to properly deal with it.  But it cannot be ignored.  If you chose to ignore the anxiety attack and deny its’ existence, it will come back again and again with a vengeance.  The best plan for action is to revisit your last attack in your mind and look for the following clues as to the cause.

Check your environment.  Many people do not handle small tight spaces well and have a fear that the space is closing in on them.  If this sounds like you then analyze the other times when you have experienced an anxiety attack in the past.  Is it only in small spaces?  Does the size or location of the exit have an effect?  Look for patterns in your anxiety as a clue to what maybe causing the anxiety in the first place.

Check your thoughts.  Once you have identified a pattern ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”  Were you thinking that you could not escape?  Were you thinking that the space was getting smaller and smaller?  Were you thinking that you could be attacked?  Once you know your thoughts and now that you are no longer in that same environment, ask yourself, “How realistic was my fear?”  Even mild fears tend to be irrational at times but when mixed with anxiety, they can grow into a larger than life fear that becomes hard to overcome.

Check your emotions.  Now that you know your pattern and have identified your thoughts, ask yourself, “How was I feeling?”  Your feelings in that moment are likely to be intense.  If you experienced anger or a form of it such as frustration, tension, irritation, hurt, hostile or rage then the event most likely triggered something from your past.  Ask, “What does this remind me of” to uncover the real anxiety producing event.

Anxiety attacks do not happen in a vacuum, they occur for a reason and sometimes that reason is rational but it manifests itself in irrational ways.  By spending some time analyzing you last event, you can prevent future events and learn to keep small spaces equaling small fears.

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.