Obsessive compulsive personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by having a persistent concern with perfectionism, orderliness, excessive attention to details, control over one’s environment, relationships, as well as their own thoughts. Such a pursuit for perfection does not come without a price. Besides being very anxious, they will also likely be very inflexible and narrow minded as it relates to the way they do things.

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder is a cluster C (anxious) personality disorder. Other personality disorders also in the cluster C are avoidant personality disorder and dependent personality disorder. However, unlike the other illnesses in the cluster C, people suffering with obsessive compulsive personality disorder are considered to be workaholics who find it very difficult to relax and enjoy leisure time.

Though they may be very productive, they will often overwork themselves and experience burnout. This may cause them to feel guilt or self pity which may only reassure them of their obsessive need for orderliness and perfection. Also, as their stress increases, their symptoms of obsessive compulsive personality disorder may become exacerbated as well.

This personality disorder should not be confused with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Though these two mental illnesses sound alike, they are not the same. The obsessions and compulsions that are experienced within people with OCD are likely to be very irrational with little to no correlation in reality.

For example, someone with OCD may believe that if they hold the steering wheel in their car a certain way, then this may mean that something catastrophic will surely occur. So, they will hold the wheel in a specified way to “ensure” that nothing bad happens.

This is not to say that people with this disorder are not irrational, because their over-the-top pursuit for perfection can oftentimes be deemed irrational. However, their focus is more on production and orderliness, as opposed to performing odd rituals in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety brought on about by their obsession.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

Spending countless hours working on projects even after they are technically completed and being hard on oneself is a very common symptom of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. They will experience a “it’s never good enough” attitude toward endeavors they pursue. Though they may get a lot done, they will often waste hours upon hours of perfecting details that really don’t matter or affect their project.

For example, someone suffering from this personality disorder raking leaves outside in their yard may finish the project in about an hour. However, they may then become immensely obsessed with the orderliness of their lawn and may spend many more hours raking up even the smallest broken up leaf they can find to ensure that their yard is “perfect”.

Their need for consistent, structured routines, as well as their deep desire to achieve perfection in even the most nonsensical of tasks may also make it very challenging for them to develop and maintain healthy relationships with other people. Below, you will see some more common symptoms of obsessive compulsive personality disorder:

  • Excessive pursuit for perfection and orderliness
  • Maintaining a “It’s never good enough” attitude
  • Being very inflexible and close-minded
  • Highly stressed and anxious when “perfecting” things
  • Workaholic behavior
  • Deep desire to control themselves and their environment
  • May find it very difficult to relax

Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

There is no known cause of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. Nevertheless, genetics and one’s environment may both play very significant roles in the development of this cluster C personality disorder. Someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially with personality disorders may have a higher chance of developing obsessive compulsive personality disorder. This may be due to them also having a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness.

If someone were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown obsessive compulsive personality disorder. Everyone has a different perception of trauma, so what one person deems to be horrific, someone else may deem it to be merely a slight annoyance. So, this is important to take into consideration when looking at what may or may not be a credible traumatic experience for someone to develop obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

There is a consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and one’s environment play a significant role in the development of virtually any given mental illness. With that being said, these two parameters are likely to be the most relevant factors for concluding as to why someone may or may not develop mental illness.

Diagnosis according to the DSM-5

Symptoms must appear by early adulthood and in multiple contexts. At least four of the following should be present:

  1. Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  2. Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).
  3. Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
  4. Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification).
  5. Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
  6. Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.
  7. Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
  8. Shows rigidity and stubbornness.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder Treatment

There is no treatment specifically designed for this disorder. Nevertheless, talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be very beneficial for someone suffering with this condition. In addition to talk therapy, they may also benefit from medication, such as an SSRI. However, this is something that should be first discussed with your doctor.

If you think you may have obsessive compulsive personality disorder or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms associated with this illness, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated for your symptoms. Upon seeing your doctor, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further treatment.