What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) reported that Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is one of the most common personality disorders.  In fact, it is common for us to spot some of our relatives or friends being extremely perfectionistic, overly controlling, and cognitively rigid.  These traits could contribute for these people’s interpersonal difficulties and reduced quality of life.  According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition Text Revision (DSM-V TR), OCPD is “a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of context”.

One of the prominent personality traits of OCPD is perfectionism.  Some clients of mine with OCPD features are constantly preoccupied with details, rules, order, and organization.  One client of mine spent more than two hours to refine a sentence in her essay because she was preoccupied with finding the perfect wordings and phrases to express her points.  As a result, people with OCPD have difficulty to completing their tasks on time due to their perfectionism.  This just mentioned client extended the deadline for handing in her essay for more than four times.  This also prevented her from spending time in leisure and social activities.  Because of this, she suffered from depression and anxiety in relation to her difficulties in meeting deadlines.

Many people with OCPD are workaholics.  They devote excessive time to their work and give up leisure and social activities.  Sometimes, they even ignore their health and spend no time in physical exercising and healthy eating.  As a result, their health is compromised and social life is restricted.  One of my clients devoted most of her time for work in the past ten years.  He was overweighted and had been detached from his friends and relatives.  Due to increased workload in recent two years, he felt overwhelmed by the work stress and had difficulty in delegating his work to his subordinates.  He gradually developed persistent depressive mood and reduced motivation.  In fact, when he came to see me, he still had no insight about his workaholism and unbalanced lifestyle.  He had no clues why he developed depression and some physical problems.

Another prominent feature of OCPD clients is rigidity.  They are inflexible in matters of morality, ethics or values.  For instance, they might refuse to tell white lies even this was beneficial to the other party’s mental well-being.  Their inflexibility cause them to have significant impairment in interpersonal relationships at work or in social life.  A client of mine bluntly replied to her staff that she needed to take no pay leave for prolonged quarantine for Covid-19 after a business trip abroad, without the sensitivity that she might consider to give this staff discretion if the staff could work remotely in the hotel.  This caused her staff to complain about her formally and to gossip her rigidity with other colleagues. 

People with OCPD also exhibit stubbornness and rigidity in many areas of life.  They are unable to be flexible to discard worn-out or worthless items at home.  They are also preoccupied with miserliness towards oneself and other people.  At work, they are reluctant to delegate tasks to others unless they submit to their ways of doing the tasks.

It is common that we might notice some of the above features in our relatives or friends.  In fact, not all people with some of these features are diagnosed with OCPD.  In order to be diagnosed, a person needed to have significant impairment in personality functioning, including identity, self-direction, empathy and intimacy.  If you or your relatives or friends have some of the above features, a professional consultation with a clinical psychologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment may be warranted.

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