Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

What are personality disorders?

We all have unique personalities that have developed as a result of both genetics and environment. As we grow our personalities are constantly shaped by our experiences and behaviour choices.

Those with a personality disorder have developed rigid or extreme thoughts and behaviours that they cannot control. They have trouble relating to others and are often limited in their ability to deal with daily life. Personalities normally continue to develop through teenage years so disorders are generally not diagnosed until adulthood.

There are 3 main groups or clusters of personality disorders.

Cluster A – odd or eccentric behaviour

  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder

Cluster B – Dramatic or erratic behaviour

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Cluster C – Anxious or fearful behaviour

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependant Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder


What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)?

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a condition where sufferers become pre-occupied with rituals, routines and perfectionism to the point where it has a negative impact on their daily life. OCPD is more common in men and is believed to affect around 1% of the Australian population.

The condition is not to be confused with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which is a mental illness associated with anxiety. People with OCD may also have excessive behaviours but are driven more by the need to avert catastrophe than to always do the right thing.


What causes Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

OCPD has no singular cause. It is believed to be caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors.

Genetics does play a part as cases can be more prominent in some families; however this may also be due to family members sharing similar upbringings and cultural backgrounds.

Our personalities are in a constant state of growth until around 18 years of age so personality disorders are normally not diagnosed until early adulthood. They are often triggered by traumatic events in childhood such as abuse, physical or emotional neglect or the death of a family member.

Parenting style can have a major influence on a child’s personality development. When parents are overly controlling or distant the child may believe they need to always be perfect or obedient. Also a child growing up in an environment requiring a strict adherence to rules and regulations – such as a religious group – might not learn how to be flexible or open to other ideas.


What are the most common symptoms?

People with OCPD tend to display very distinctive characteristics which include:

  • Being obsessed with rules, procedures and details often at the expense of innovation and flexibility.
  • Always being meticulous and not accepting anything less than perfection in themselves and others.
  • Being unable to delegate or trust others to do tasks correctly.
  • Feeling frustrated and angry when they cannot control events or surroundings and expressing this frustration with a sense of indignation.
  • Being obsessed with productivity and economy; especially at work – sometimes at the expense of relationships or leisure.
  • Being conscientious and ambitious yet often unproductive and inefficient due to the inability to make the ‘right’ decision.
  • Having difficulty prioritising tasks as they agonise over the best way to perform each one. This often results in them not making much progress at all.
  • Struggling to develop meaningful relationships as they appear cold and reserved.
  • Speaking only when they feel what they have to say is perfect. For example they may only be able to express affection in a formal manner.
  • Feeling uncomfortable around people who are emotionally expressive, creative or spontaneous.
  • Being rigid, stubborn and inflexible – especially regarding moral or ethical issues.
  • Needing to hang onto their money and sometimes objects as security for the future.


What are the main treatment options?

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder has no cure. It affects people for life with little change in the nature of the symptoms. However counselling and psychotherapy have been proven to help most sufferers learn to accept that they don’t have to always be perfect and in control.

Sufferers of OCPD are unlikely to seek treatment for the condition itself. Mostly they need help for related issues such as depression, stress or relationship problems unaware that their own behaviour is the main cause.

The most common treatments for OCPD are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Psychodynamic Therapy. A professional counsellor or therapist will understand that the person will need to feel in control and may have trouble showing trust and emotions. The counsellor will conduct the sessions at a pace that allows the person to adjust to new information and change gradually.

CBT is based on the concept that thoughts and beliefs determine behaviour. By carefully examining the underlying causes of their behavioural patterns, the counsellor can help the person to understand them and develop new strategies to handle everyday situations.

Group Therapy and Family Therapy are often incorporated at a later stage to help the person learn to communicate with others more effectively.

Medication is occasionally used but only as a way to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Why seek professional help?

Mental illness can be frightening and isolating, especially if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. Talking to friends and family may help but having the support and guidance of a professional counsellor is usually more beneficial. Therapy sessions are confidential and non-judgemental. Seeking help early gives you a greater chance of overcoming your condition and getting your life back to normal.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.

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