What Is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder that causes an intense preoccupation with control, perfectionism and organization. People with OCPD have rigid beliefs and have a dire need to have control of themselves, others and situations.

People with OCPD have rigid beliefs and are deeply concerned with rules, systems, and details. They have specific ways of doing different tasks and are unable to allow flexibility or compromise with other people.

You may have difficulty completing projects if you suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) because you tend to get caught up in completing all details perfectly. A person with OCPD may achieve high levels of success and excel at detailed and complex tasks. 

They are, however, often incapable of handling deviations from their own guidelines, timelines, or schedules.

Even though they sound similar, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is not the same as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder, and a person with OCD has recurring and unwanted consistent thoughts and fears that make them carry out repetitive behaviours or actions. Such an individual knows that there is a problem and is willing to accept professional help. 

In the case of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), the person with the condition is completely preoccupied with control and perfectionism, but doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with their behaviour or actions. They instead think everyone else is wrong and they are correct.

In this article, you will get to know more about Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), including its causes, signs and management.


Causes of obsessive compulsive personality disorder

There is no definitive cause of OCPD, but researchers think it may be due to genetic factors and childhood experiences.

A family history of personality disorders, depression or anxiety may make one more susceptible. 

Adults that were held to very high standards of perfection and good behaviour as children may also find themselves exhibiting signs and symptoms of OCPD. Child abuse and trauma also have a link to the development of personality disorders.1

Signs and symptoms of obsessive compulsive personality disorder

Symptoms of OCPD usually start in early adulthood. They include:

  • perfectionism that prevents you from completing a task
  • an inability to share or delegate work for fear it won’t be done right
  • extreme irritation or anger when a schedule or routine is changed
  • an obsession with work or tasks to be completed
  • an inability to throw away useless or worn items
  • being overly frugal with money
  • having difficulty coping with criticism
  • a preoccupation with rules, details, order, organisation and systems
  • an overwhelming need to be punctual
  • excessive commitment to one's job at the detriment of family or social relationships
  • inability to see any other way to perform a task or behave except for your way
  • being extremely rigid, judgemental, and stringent when it comes to morals or judgement

Management and treatment for obsessive compulsive personality disorder

Since people with OCPD are not aware that something is wrong with their beliefs, developing this awareness is the first step. Treatment options focus on assisting the person to become aware of the way their thought patterns influence their emotions and behaviours, which will in turn improve their quality of life.

Approaches include:

  • Psychodynamic therapy

Here, a therapist helps the person with OCPD identify their perceptions of certain situations and examine why not having control over these situations causes so much worry. The goal is to help the client develop a stronger sense of self-awareness through self-reflection and self-examination.

In CBT, a therapist or psychologist helps the person with OCPD take a close look at their thoughts and emotions. They'll learn to recognize how their thoughts influence their behaviour. The therapist then teaches the patient new skills and techniques for modifying the thoughts that lead to negative behaviours and emotions. A person with OCPD can gradually learn to unlearn negative thought patterns and behaviours and adopt healthier ones.

  • Medication

A person with OCPD has obsessive-compulsions, which heighten anxiety and can cause depression. There’s currently no medication that can treat personality disorders, but treating anxiety and depression will make it easier to manage OCPD.

  • Relaxation and meditation exercises

This involves specific breathing and relaxation techniques that can help decrease your sense of stress and urgency which are common in OCPD. Some of the recommended ones are yoga, Pilates and tai chi.


How is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder diagnosed?

As most persons with personality disorders don't believe there is an issue with their behaviour or way of thinking, it can be challenging to diagnose OCPD.

Mental health experts frequently collaborate with the person's relatives and friends to gather more information about their habits and background because a person suspected of having OCPD may lack understanding of their behaviours.

If a mental health expert, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, suspects someone may have obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, they frequently pose open-ended, generic questions that won't trigger a hostile or defensive atmosphere. The questions they ask help to know more about the person’s relationships, work history, reality testing and impulse control.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association contains criteria for the disorder that mental health professionals use to diagnose OCPD.3

For a person to be diagnosed with OCPD, the person must have a persistent pattern of intense preoccupation with:

  • Order
  • Perfectionism
  • Control of themselves, others and situations

At least four of the behaviours listed in the section on symptoms fit this pattern.

Can obsessive compulsive personality disorder be prevented?

OCPD cannot be prevented, since the exact causes are unknown. However, getting to understand the symptoms of this disorder and seeking help will prevent it from escalating into problems with day-to-day life.

What is the difference between OCPD and OCD?4

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are two distinct disorders, despite how similar they may sound.

OCD is an anxiety disorder in which you have frequent unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that cause you to perform repetitive behaviours (compulsions). An example is repeatedly washing your hands till they're sore and dry,

People with OCD usually are aware that the condition is causing their behaviour and accept that they need professional help to treat it. 

People with OCPD are completely preoccupied with perfectionism and control, but don’t think there’s anything wrong with their behaviour or actions. They have little, if any, self-awareness of their behaviours. They believe they are right and everyone else is wrong.

Who is at risk of obsessive compulsive personality disorder?

Usually, OCPD begins in a person’s late teens or early 20s, and is more likely to affect the following set of people:

  • People with a family history of personality disorders, anxiety, or depression
  • Adults that experienced childhood trauma, including child abuse that left them feeling like perfection is the only way to do things
  • Having a preexisting mental health condition, like anxiety disorder, mood disorders, or mild to moderate substance use disorders (12% to 25%)

How common is obsessive compulsive personality disorder?

OCPD is the most common type of personality disorder in comparison to all other types. The condition affects 2–7% of the population, which amounts to approximately 1 in 100 people. OCPD also tends to be more common in people assigned male at birth (AMAB)than those assigned female at birth (AFAB).

When should I see a doctor?

We’ve established that a person with OCPD usually doesn’t know or think something is wrong with their beliefs or behaviours, so you might be able to help as a colleague, friend or family member.

The following will make you know when you should see a doctor:

  • You have been told several times or by multiple people that you’re rigid, stubborn or an extreme perfectionist
  • You are  constantly saying or having thoughts that “Only my way is correct, nobody can do it right”
  • If someone questions your routines or standards, you feel furious or in turmoil
  • Because you believe others are not carrying out tasks properly, you  frequently engage in arguments or problems with coworkers

When left untreated, OCPD may result in problems with relationships, inability to achieve anything at work, and impaired interaction with others Thus, it is important to seek help as soon as you notice.


Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a mental health condition. Since people with OCPD usually are not aware that their behaviours and beliefs are problematic, as a friend, colleague or family member, it would take some convincing to get them to seek help.

If you have realised that you have OCPD, it is always advisable to get care as soon as you become aware. This will help lessen the interruptions to your life, and will help you better manage your thought patterns and behaviours, thereby improving your quality of life.


  1. Grover KE, Carpenter LL, Price LH, Gagne GG, Mello AF, Mello MF, et al. The relationship between childhood abuse and adult personality disorder symptoms. J Pers Disord [Internet]. 2007 Aug [cited 2023 Feb 18];21(4):442–7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4467781/ 
  2. Nakao M, Shirotsuki K, Sugaya N. Cognitive–behavioral therapy for management of mental health and stress-related disorders: Recent advances in techniques and technologies. BioPsychoSocial Medicine [Internet]. 2021 Oct 3 [cited 2023 Feb 18];15(1):16. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13030-021-00219-w 
  3. Diedrich, Alice, and Ulrich Voderholzer. “Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: a current review.” Current psychiatry reports vol. 17,2 (2015): 2. doi:10.1007/s11920-014-0547-8 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25617042/
  4. Starcevic, Vladan, and Vlasios Brakoulias. “New diagnostic perspectives on obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and its links with other conditions.” Current opinion in psychiatry vol. 27,1 (2014): 62-7. doi:10.1097/YCO.0000000000000030 Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24257122/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Godswill Samson

BSc, Pharmacology, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Godswill is a budding health writer with a passion for health and wellness. She combines this with her writing skill to educate the public on ways to live fuller and healthier lives.

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