Have you ever called yourself a perfectionist? Do you always follow tasks through to completion even if they became irrelevant? Are you obsessed with goals and standards, and get annoyed when you or others fail to meet them? And, finally, have people started commenting about it? If any of these sound familiar to you, or perhaps, you recognize these characteristics in a loved one or colleague, it could mean that you, or that friend or colleague, has Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
OCPD is a personality disorder defined by specific OCPD traits, such as an obsession with order, strict adherence to “rules,” an unwillingness to give up responsibility or ownership, and a preoccupation about the “correct way things should be done.” While to some degree these can be characteristics of very successful, detail-oriented people, on the other hand, they can be warning signs for something a little more sinister.
But, right now, don’t despair, take a deep breath, grab a relaxing cup of tea, and keep reading to learn more about what OCPD is and what you can do about it, if you are affected in any capacity.
If you feel deeply affected by OCPD, please contact your doctor or psychiatrist immediately, they will be able to design a personalized treatment plan for you and work through your issues. This article is not a replacement for medical advice.
OCPD and OCD – what’s the difference?
You’ve probably heard the abbreviations OCD and OCPD before, you might even know what they are and their key differences. If so, feel free to skip ahead a little. But for those just arriving at the topic for the first time, let’s take a run through the two and find out more.
OCD is short for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it’s a disorder that causes people to have obsessive and recurring thoughts, and behaviors. For example, there are germs everywhere, and I need to wash my hands every half an hour to avoid them.
Someone experiencing OCD will:
- Feel out of control of their thoughts and behaviors
- Think about it and act on it for a significant amount of time (usually more than 1 hour a day)
- Won’t experience relief after completing the action
- Feel a disruption to their everyday lives.
Unlike OCD, which is an anxiety disorder, OCPD is a little different. It is classed as a personality disorder, meaning those affected have unhealthy and strict patterns of thought, functioning, and behavior. Additionally, those with OCPD often remain unaware of how their actions are affecting others and may believe that how they behave is entirely reasonable.
OCPD affects between 2-8% of the population, and while perfectionism is a positive characteristic to an extent, when it starts to interfere with your life, productivity and relationships, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate.
Those with OCPD will often remain blissfully unaware of the impact they are having on the world around them. But if you’ve ever been told your behavior is a little obsessive or you have a co-worker or family member who exhibits some unusual traits, pay attention to the following symptoms.
Those with OCPD may:
- Experience difficulty empathizing with others. For example, not understanding when a colleague needs to take time off for family issues, disregarding the ideas of others constantly because “they don’t make sense,” or even being unable to compromise with a partner on where to eat dinner.
- Perceive productivity as an identity. For example, believing that your job title is who you are, not who you work as, and expecting the same level of perfectionism from everyone around you.
- Trouble organizing work effectively. For example, focusing on ensuring every single detail of a task is perfect despite jeopardizing the overall project, or becoming inflexible with a deadline even if it is impossible to meet.
- Focusing unnecessarily on conscientiousness and moralistic attitudes. For example, getting too involved in workplace culture and how people should behave, or taking the approach “I am just being a perfectionist” when people fail to live up to the standards set.
- Issues managing the work-life balance. For example, concentrating solely on work and letting everything else fall by the wayside – hobbies, relationships, everything.
Noticing OCPD traits in yourself
It might seem obvious that if you had OCPD that you’d know about it, but like many personality disorders, it can be hard to recognize these traits in yourself. We are blind to our own actions and behaviors.
That obsessiveness for the right results isn’t just a drive for success, expecting 100% error-free work isn’t just being a good employee, and putting your job first isn’t just being a good provider. At least not when you do it all the time.
It’s ok to take pride in your work and activities, but if people have started to mention that your attitude seems unhealthy, it might be time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
We know it’s difficult to admit our faults and even more so to make changes, but taking a minute to ponder is always a good idea.
One general marker for establishing that something is amiss is looking at your relationships with others. Do you seem to have problems with a lot of people? Do you seem to rub them the wrong way? Or do you tend to believe everyone around you is “incompetent”?
Now, take your hand and point your index finger away from you. What do you see aside from your trigger finger? Three little digits pointing right back at you. This simple action should help simulate the idea that if you are finding fault in so many others, then the problem may lie a little closer to home.
If this is the case, it might be time to seek some additional assistance to form more harmonious relationships with others and give yourself a healthier life on the whole.
Someone in your life with OCPD
Let’s say that you’re pretty sure you don’t have OCPD after all – your work-life balance is normal, aside from those very occasional late stays at the office, and you’ve had no real conflicts that you can recall. But you work with someone or are in a relationship with someone who meets these criteria to a tee.
What should you do?
Firstly, recognize that you are not to blame and are not responsible for their behavior or actions. While you may find their conduct stressful and frustrating, the best thing you can do for your own mental health is to let it wash over you and don’t become entangled in that web of negativity.
We know it can be tough, but you are not alone. You are probably not the only one affected by their actions.
Next, remember you are not a psychiatrist, and it is not your job to help them or diagnose them. Even if you suspect OCPD, this isn’t your patient, this isn’t your job. But that doesn’t mean such behavior is acceptable.
If you feel the need to react, try to do so calmly letting them know their behavior isn’t acceptable and that you find it hurtful. If you are in the workplace, consider engaging with your HR if their actions are impacting you in your work life and beyond.
Diagnosis and treatment for obsessive compulsive personality disorder
Like almost all psychiatric disorders, there is no singular blood test or scan that can tell you for certain whether or not you have obsessive compulsive personality disorder.
Diagnosis is generally performed by a qualified psychiatrist (or sometimes a psychologist or GP before referral) who will talk with you about what you are experiencing and compare your symptoms with the criteria for the disorder.
Avoid self-diagnosis through online OCPD symptoms tests as these can be highly inaccurate.
Unfortunately, many people with OCPD do not seek help and are only referred when issues are highlighted by a family member or they experience external effects that directly impact their lives. For example, disciplinary action at work, a pending divorce, or similar.
Just like there is no blood test to detect OCPD, the cure isn’t so straightforward either, but don’t be deterred, things can get better.
Generally, treatment for OCPD will be carried out under the supervision of a psychiatrist who is experienced in dealing with such issues.
Treatment options usually include:
- This can be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which aims to address behaviors and thought patterns.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been known to reduce obsessive thoughts and rigid thought patterns.
- Relaxation and meditation therapy. Allowing those with OCPD to develop better coping skills for managing stress and obsessive thinking.
It’s likely your therapist will recommend a combination of the above techniques to help you target the issues in a complex way. With dedication, such approaches can show great results. So, whether you are encouraging someone to attend an appointment or need to go yourself, now is the time for honesty, truth, and commitment. Start there and you will make a change in your life for the better.