Obsessive compulsive personality disorder

At first glance, you may have thought this week's column was the same as my last one. This week, however, I want to discuss obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), which is distinct from the more severe disorder of last week's column.

Just as in obsessive-compulsive disorder, people with OCPD tend to appear pre-occupied with orderliness, neatness and cleanliness. However, with this personality type the issue is not escape from intrusive anxieties, it is an issue of control.

Generally, people with OCPD are perfectionists, constricted and extremely disciplined. They can be aggressive, competitive and impatient and are usually controlling of themselves, others and situations. Individuals with OCPD tend to respect authority and usually follow rules and regulations to the letter - regardless of the consequences.

In their work lives, people with this personality disorder are driven by a chronic sense of time pressure and often seem unable to relax. While they may be indirect in their expression of anger, hostility is noticed lurking beneath the surface.

Along with the drive for perfection, comes a tendency to be very self-critical. People with OCPD are always afraid they will not live up to their own expectations.

When involved in relationships, the person with OCPD is usually inflexible and stubborn and often tends to be disrespectful and domineering. Although he or she is not necessarily attempting to be this way, a negative pattern of discipline and orderliness is usually noticed by others. This behaviour sets the stage for power struggles and unpleasantness with others in the family.

For obvious reasons, this inability to relinquish control can make maintaining relationships a difficult task for the individual with OCPD.

These individuals are prone to developing depression and anxiety disorders as they age. This is partially because they are sharply aware of their declining abilities and productivity as they age and they fear they will not achieve all the goals they set for themselves. Fear of making mistakes and the inability to reach perfection also causes anxiety for someone with an obsessive-compulsive personality.

While OCPD may involve some insistent and unwelcome thoughts or impulses as there are in OCD, these are not usually of the same severity as in OCD and are not the primary cause of problems in daily life.

Effective treatment for OCPD often involves individual and group therapy, but the disorder does not generally respond to any medications. The key to good therapy for OCPD is to assist the individual in addressing issues of control.

It is important for the OCPD patient to develop tolerance for his or her own emotional vulnerability, lack of control over other people and situations as well as the presence of chance and impermanence in life.

Most importantly, therapy goals have to allow for acceptance of the individual's personality style and temperament. Although personality traits can be tempered in treatment, the basic style is rarely transformed.

Some of the non-disordered aspects to the OCPD personality type include positive attributes such as being hard working, orderly, practical, prudent, and inclined to accumulate and save possessions. These individuals also tend to have strong moral principles, desire to do things the 'right' way, have a love of detail and excellent self discipline.

Generally, people with OCPD are reserved in character. They enjoy being around people, but intimacy does not come easily and they tend to maintain an emotional distance. They are capable of being devoted, emotionally steady and reliable.

What is important is for people with this personality style to learn to become an adaptive version of themselves - focusing on the strengths inherent in their personality and learning to avoid the pitfalls.


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