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Simone Hoermann, Ph.D.Simone Hoermann, Ph.D.
A blog about the personality disorders (borderline, narcissistic, etc.) with a focus on research and therapy

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Simone Hoermann, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 21st 2010

abstract illustration of a paragraph symbolLast week, I wrote about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. There is a close relative of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder amongst the Personality Disorders, namely, as you may have guessed by now, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). So, what is OCPD and how does it relate to OCD?

People with OCPD are perfectionists to the extreme. Now, a lot of people have perfectionist tendencies that may occasionally get in their way, but for someone with OCPD, perfectionism really interferes with completing important tasks.  Things have to be just so, and just right.  Therefore, instead of delegating tasks to other people, someone with OCPD will often end up doing everything themselves, because they feel that others just won’t do things correctly.  

Perfectionism alone, however, is not enough to indicate that someone has OCPD.  People with OCPD tend to be very thorough and detail oriented, so much so that they sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees and get lost in those details.  Another characteristic of OCPD is difficulty in throwing out worthless or useless things, and a miserly spending style.  Someone with OCPD tends to be preoccupied with rules, regulations, order and schedules, and so they get caught up in details, and can get quite stuck on questions of morals and ethics.  Hence, they are very rigid and inflexible.  They are often scrupulous and overly conscientious, feeling way too responsible for anything that may go wrong.  Not surprisingly, they can be so devoted to their job and spend so much time at work, that they neglect their friendships and relationships.  

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, if a person has four of the above characteristics to a degree that it interferes with their lives, they meet the criteria for OCPD.  Research on prevalence of OCPD shows that roughly 1% of people in the general population can be diagnosed with OCPD.

            The basic idea in terms of a distinction between OCD and OCPD is that typically a person with OCD will feel that the obsessions and compulsions are symptoms that are unreasonable and bothersome.  In contrast, OCPD is about longstanding personality characteristics, which the person with OCPD themselves does not experience as unreasonable. 

Of note, I say this is a rough distinction, because there has been much debate about the relation between OCD and OCPD.  Some experts believe that OCPD might be a precursor, or less severe form, of OCD, although research results on this topic remain mixed.  Similarly, research findings on the prevalence of OCPD in people who have OCD shows a very wide range in different studies, from as low as 3% up to 60%.

            As an aside, Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, wrote about OCPD already in the early 1900s and referred to it as “anal retentive” character, defined by a preoccupation with orderliness and cleanliness, and a tendency to be frugal, defiant and angy.  His idea was that children go through different developmental stages, and a conflict during the stage of toilet training, when children are supposed to learn to control bodily functions, results in the development of the anal personality.  Freud’s theory about where OCPD comes from is nowadays controversial, and many experts would disagree with it. However, you can see remnants of his idea in today’s colloquial use of the word “anal’ for people who are overly thorough and uptight.



Simone Hoermann, Ph.D.Simone Hoermann, Ph.D., is a Psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in providing psychotherapy for Personality Disorders, Anxiety, and Depression. She is a faculty member of Columbia University, and facilitates psychotherapy and skills training groups at the Columbia East 60th Street Day Treatment Program.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

ocpd - - Jan 8th 2012

It's amazing to find out how this personality disorder is so real and that I was not the only one experiencing such tremendous agony over what is wrong in my marriage. I finally left but feel so bad because our issues were never resolved and I do truly love this man. Unfortunately very difficult to live with... I have experienced the very same things as the others wrote about. It becomes so draining.

spouse has ocpd - cat - Feb 13th 2011

need some help dealing with a spouse who has ocpd

So tired - Theresa - Oct 2nd 2010

I am so thankful to find this website, because I have fighting this battle alone. We dated for 3 years and when I look back, yes, there were signs of not normal. I really didn't take it that seriously. We have been married for 5 years going on 6 and it has been literally hell. Everything has to be his way. He complains about every little detail. My daughter has been affected because of the cool, no interest feeling that is in the air. She was 16 when we married and she has been to a year of drug rehab, due to the ugly atmosphere she has been exposed to. I have not left yet because I have been masrried only 5 years. I do not feel I have much energy left to stay. there is nothing genuine regarding his feelings. He is either angry or depressed. Everything I have read on this site pertains to him. I really do hate this man for misleading me into a marriage that is so full of false behavior. He should get an accadomy award for his performance on the outside. He is the most miserable person to live with. I am called the most abusive names and my daughter he has nothing good to say about. Every day he walks in after work to say something is wrong , does not meet his expectation. He is perfect and the world is all wrong. I am looking for support and need input.

coping with a spouse with OCPD - gypsyjj - Aug 17th 2010

Thank you for your comments...they really help to know that there are others out there struggling with the same type of issues, and that there are others that understand what I am going through as well.

My husband of 11 years was just diagnosed with OCPD this year, and to find out there is a name for it, brings some hope in the efforts to figure out how to deal with these difficult interactions that happen daily.

We had a breakthrough though, he read an article by Steven Phillipson, Ph.D. named The Right Stuff, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: A Defect of Philosophy not Anxiety.  The article was eye opening to him, and allowed him to know that someone understands what he has thought and felt for as long as he can remember.  It also allowed him to read and see, in a pretty blunt way, what his behaviors do to us, his family.  For the first time, he genuinely felt bad for hurting us with his outbursts, which he always thought were justified due to his thought process. 

I don't know what is to come for us, but, I read for a long-term significant relationship to survive with this diagnosis, it is almost essential for the partner to have great depths of resilience or dependency. I am pretty dependent on him, but more than that...I am very resilient.  I will take that as a compliment.

Good Luck to all of you on this same journey as me, maybe we will see each other in passing in our quest for clarity, inner-peace, and knowledge about spouses with OCPD.

Coping with a spouse who has OCPD - rosebud340 - May 8th 2010

I agree.  I have felt the same way and cannot find any supportive materials for spouses with OCPD.  I am a very laid back person and easy going.  I thought my husband was just a little uptight about things when we were first married.  However, the longer we were together, the more and more I saw this ugly controlling side to him.  After a while, I really began to believe I was worthless and incompetent because I would occassionally forget to do this or that.  We would have major arguments, screaming and yelling because he was angry that I forgot to put something away properly.  He had something to criticize about my driving, my parking, my cooking, or anything.  He would make me feel guilty that he had to do "everything" since he couldn't rely on me because I might forget.  Now I feel trapped in a marriage with someone that is almost impossible to reason with and at times abusive with his language when he is angry.  He wasn't always like this.  He wasn't always this bad and I am going to try to seek therapy at least for myself to cope.

Coping with life and parenting with an OCPD - Skater - Apr 2nd 2010

After 8 years of marriage i realize that my husband is OCPD. We have had problems for all this time and i never could understand why and how we keep disagreeing and more importantly why does he explode at me and our 2 girls (ages 6 and 3) for things that I wouldn't think are so important. He insists on various things mainly neatness and cleaness of the house, eating manners for the girls, modest clothes, hygine, safety, noise level, lights etc. If things are not the way he wants he complains and then explodes. Very often gets verbally abusive (he's said to our oldest she disgusts him, he told me he wished i was dead, these are just a couple of examples).

While there is a lot of information on the description of PD I almost cannot find any inofmation and support for spouses of people with OCPD. How do you live with such a person without losing yourself and yor own sanity, which is what happened to me until I realized this. I started to believe that I was not ok, i wasn't able to keep the house tidy enough, couldn't have a salad ready for him every day, couldn't do this and that. I am sure our older girl feels very inapropriate every time he demands she eats with her mouth closed.

I would really like to read a book/s and articles on this. How to raise children with an OCPD spouse and not lose yourself.




OCPD - kate - Mar 14th 2010

I am seeking clarity regarding an extremely confusing romantic relationship I've been in for approximately 16 months. We dated casually in High School, and reconnected after 25 years when he became a widower and I divorced my husband of 18 years. Between the two of us we have 5 children. We are both in education: he is a professor at a university overseas, on sabbatical for 14 months near our hometown in the Midwest. I went back to school after my divorce and am now a h.s. foreign language teacher. It became evident early on in our relationship that he struggled with being a 'germaphobe' as he defined it. Much of his work is centered around infectious diseases and by his own admission, his anxiety grows when working on such projects. Our lives and the lives of our families were very intertwined for several months until he abruptly ended the relationship 3 weeks ago. He is wonderful in many ways, but all along, he struggled with not having full control of various situations. For example, if he was unable to reach me by phone, or if I fell asleep without a phone call to say goodnight, or if I was mildly annoyed with something he had done, he would emotionally shut down. His children are under severe scrutiny and criticism almost constantly. He rants and raves at them, even to the point of swearing at them for the mildest infraction. They are pre-teens and I wonder what effect this will have on them. It has been suggested by my psychologist that his symptoms resemble those of someone diagnosed with OCPD. I am struggling to accept all of this and move on, but am wondering what to expect, if anything, from him. We've spent over one year in constant communication, and now  he won't even respond to an email, or give me a reason as to why he ended the relationship. I don't want to be naive, but I don't know if he's had a mental breakdown, or what in the world is going on. I suspect I'm better off, but it would help if I could make sense of it all. What should one expect in an interpersonal relationship with someone with OCPD, if in fact that is what he suffers from?

ocd, pers. disorder, ptss, hoarding - rmd - Jan 23rd 2010

my daughter, now 50 years of age and living out of state, has served me with a Temp Restraining Order stating among many allegations that over 2 years ago I pushed, shoved, kicked, etc.  A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 9th.  Her therapist has said she is suicidal. 

I have not seen my daughter for 4 years.  This was verified by her second psychiatrist who treated her for three years until 2005. 

I am 73 years old and have been unable to find a lawyer who can advise me as to how to answer the TRO.  If you have any suggestions I would appreciate your input.

If my daughter has not had any suicidal tendancies throughout her adulthood, and her second therapist in his declaration, had not mentioned suicide, and my daughter has had over 18 years of therapy with no hint of suicide, how could this double board certified therapist, who might possibly have her on improper medication, accuse me of traumatizing my daughter now and causing a suicidal attempt that was "near fatal"?

Also, does hoarding come under the definition of OCD?  My daughter, about 20 years ago, was so fanatical about her apartment, that she would not let me keep my sheets in her closet for use when I visited as they did not match her own sheets. 

She then adopted two cats and her apartment because so cluttered and dirty that it was impossible to clean.

thank you for any opinion you may have. rmd


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