Heartland Human Services

Clarification on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

By Jenny Mosier, Psychotherapist, LCPC

Many don’t understand the difference between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).  Often many don’t even know there is a difference. 
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It's also possible to have only obsessions or only compulsions and still have OCD. 
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder that’s characterized by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness. People with OCPD will also feel a severe need to impose their own standards on their outside environment.  OCPD is commonly mistaken for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but the two are not the same.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
With OCD, you may or may not realize that your obsessions aren't reasonable, and you may try to ignore them or stop them. But that only increases your distress and anxiety. Ultimately, you feel driven to perform compulsive acts in an effort to ease your stressful feelings.
OCD often centers around themes, such as a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease your contamination fears, you may compulsively wash your hands until they're sore and chapped. Despite efforts to ignore or get rid of bothersome thoughts, the thoughts or urges keep coming back. This leads to more ritualistic behavior — and a vicious cycle that's characteristic of OCD.
Obsession symptoms
OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted urges or images that cause distress or anxiety. You might try to get rid of them by performing a compulsion or ritual. These obsessions typically intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.
Obsessions often have themes to them, such as:
•Fear of contamination or dirt
•Having things orderly and symmetrical
•Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others
•Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects
Examples of obsession signs and symptoms include:
•Fear of being contaminated by shaking hands or by touching objects others have touched
•Doubts that you've locked the door or turned off the stove
•Intense stress when objects aren't orderly or facing a certain way
•Images of hurting yourself or someone else
•Thoughts about shouting obscenities or acting inappropriately
•Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions, such as shaking hands
•Distress about unpleasant sexual images repeating in your mind
Compulsion symptoms
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. These repetitive behaviors are meant to prevent or reduce anxiety related to your obsessions or prevent something bad from happening. However, engaging in the compulsions brings no pleasure and may offer only a temporary relief from anxiety.
As with obsessions, compulsions typically have themes, such as:
•Washing and cleaning
•Demanding reassurances
•Following a strict routine
Examples of compulsion signs and symptoms include:
•Hand-washing until your skin becomes raw
•Checking doors repeatedly to make sure they're locked
•Checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it's off
•Counting in certain patterns
•Silently repeating a prayer, word or phrase
•Arranging your canned goods to face the same way
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD):
OCPD consists of specific characteristics and criteria.  OCPD is diagnosed when symptoms impair your ability to function and interact with others.
People with OCPD have the following characteristics:
•They find it hard to express their feelings.
•They have difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships with others.
•They’re hard working, but their obsession with perfection can make them inefficient.
•They often feel righteous, indignant, and angry.
•They often face social isolation.
•They can experience anxiety that occurs with depression.
Symptoms of OCPD
•perfectionism to the point that it impairs the ability to finish tasks
•stiff, formal, or rigid mannerisms
•being extremely frugal with money
•an overwhelming need to be punctual
•extreme attention to detail
•excessive devotion to work at the expense of family or social relationships
•hoarding worn or useless items
•an inability to share or delegate work because of a fear it won’t be done right
•a fixation with lists
•a rigid adherence to rules and regulations
•an overwhelming need for order
•a sense of righteousness about the way things should be done
•a rigid adherence to moral and ethical codes

If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179