A personality disorder is a pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that last for a long time and causes some sort of problem or distress.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or OCPD is about control. People with OCPD have very inflexible thinking and expect everything to be ordered, perfect, and done their "correct" way. This happens at the expense of other important things in life, including relationships with others. Work can take priority over every other part of life, too, and people with OCPD may seem excessively dedicated, but may be unable to complete tasks due to perfectionism. They may struggle to delegate and may distrust other people’s contributions. People with OCPD may not tolerate uncertainty and may have a very rigid understanding of the world—something is either right or wrong. They may also have a hard time spending money on themselves or others, and they may experience hoarding, the inability to throw away items from their homes. The conflict between the desire for neatness or order and the inability to throw things out may cause a lot of anxiety.
While obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have a similar name, they are not the same illness. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder usually understand that their obsessions and compulsions are illogical and usually experience a lot of distress, even though they may not be able to stop obsessions or compulsions. Compulsions are an attempt to reduce anxiety, not to find pleasure. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may view their thoughts as part of who they are, see their thoughts as logical, and may find pleasure or benefit in completing compulsive tasks. They may experience a lot of distress when they can’t achieve control or the perfectionism they want.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is one of the most common personality disorders. Treatment may include some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and self-help strategies. To find help for OCPD, talk to your family doctor, find a psychologist through the BC Psychological Association, or call 811 to talk to a HealthLink BC navigator.
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About the author
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.
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