What is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is about rules, control, perfectionistic behaviors. Learn about OCPD, and OCPD causes and effects.

People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) have a long-term, consistent preoccupation with rules, order, and control. They follow rules and procedures rigidly and exhibit perfectionist behaviors and have a need to maintain strict control over people and circumstances in their lives. (See: Famous People with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder)

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Defined

The answer to the question - "What is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder"? - is best answered by understanding what it is not. Since the names sound similar, people tend to think it's the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), when, in fact, they are quite different conditions.

The two disorders do share some symptoms and people with either condition are typically high achievers with a keen sense of urgency about their behaviors. However, people with OCD experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts. They feel compelled to perform ritualistic actions like excessive hand-washing or repeatedly checking the locks on windows and doors. Those with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder don't typically feel a need to perform repeated ritualistic actions.

Unlike those with OCD, people with OCPD believe their thoughts are correct and that their way is the only way. Individuals with OCPD have no idea that their thought patterns cause problems for themselves and others. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder treatment can help with that. Most people with OCD do not have obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Effects of OCPD

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder causes interpersonal problems with family members, friends, and coworkers. For example, when you have an obsessive-compulsive personality, you may work very hard, but your preoccupation with perfectionism and rigid rule conformity makes you inefficient. You might not finish projects and likely miss important deadlines due to your perfectionism and excessive orderliness, causing others to view you as incompetent or unfit for your job responsibilities.

Obsessive-compulsive personality relationships suffer because people with the disorder have trouble expressing their feelings, even when it comes to romantic partners and children. Additionally, they have few moral gray areas. Actions and beliefs are either completely right, or totally wrong. This black and white way of thinking often causes them to act out with righteous indignation and anger in response to a "wrong" behavior or belief. This makes it difficult to form and maintain close relationships with others. The resulting social isolation can cause anxiety and depression.

Causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Researchers remain unclear as to the exact causes of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Since the disorder tends to run in families, most experts believe genetics play a role in its development along with a person's childhood upbringing and environment. Risk factors for OCPD:

  • Family history of OCPD or OCD
  • Upbringing with harsh, rigid discipline
  • Being the oldest child
  • Being male

People who develop OCPD grow up in an environment characterized by intimacy avoidance, restricted expression of emotion, and inflexible perfectionism. This setting, coupled with a genetic predisposition, may trigger a complex biophysical process that leads to the illness. A person who has only a genetic predisposition, or only the rigid childhood and upbringing, probably won't develop the condition.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Statistics

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder statistics from the International OCD Foundation indicate that about one in 100 people in the United States has OCPD. While it occurs in both men and women, about twice as many men have obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

A psychologist or psychiatrist with experience working with people with personality disorders can diagnose OCPD. The doctor will compare the individual's symptoms and mental health history to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder DSM diagnostic criteria to make the diagnosis. Then he or she can begin to develop a treatment strategy that fits the patient's individual mental health needs.

article references

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2021, December 17). What is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Last Updated: January 28, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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