Difference between Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC


It is amazing the difference one word can make. Add the word “Personality” to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and it changes the definition and classification. There are some similarities such as obsessive and compulsive traits, thoughts and actions. However the underlying disorder is extremely different.

Here is the DSM-V definition of both:


Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is classified as a type of personality disorder:
  • A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
    • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
    • 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)
    • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
    • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
    • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
    • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
    • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
    • Shows significant rigidity and stubbornness

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is classified as a type of obsessive compulsive related disorder:
  • Presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both:
    • Obsessions are defined by:
      • Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
      • The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.
    • Compulsions are defined by:
      • Repetitive behaviors (hand washing) or mental acts (counting) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
      • The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.
  • The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The similarities are:
  • Both can create significant relational issues and make it difficult to interact with others.
  • Both have intense, obsessive, and racing thoughts that are difficult to manage or prevent.
  • Both develop internal rules to be strictly followed in an effort to reduce stress or anxiety.
  • Both do compulsive behaviors to self-sooth such as hording or excessive cleaning.
  • Both have extremely high expectations of self to the point of requiring perfectionism.
  • Both can have “meltdowns” if a compulsion is not followed or their image is tarnished.
The big differences are:
  • OCPD can be seen in every environment and is pervasive whereas OCD is usually isolated to a few specific things or locations.
  • OCD is a learned behavior usually done as a way of coping with extreme stress whereas OCPD is part biological and part environmental beginning in early childhood and continuing through out adulthood.
  • A person may change OCD behaviors as they age whereas OCPD behaviors cannot be changed without significant effort and therapy.
  • OCD behaviors can cause significant impairment at work whereas OCPD behaviors are usually praised at work because of their strong devotion to it.
  • OCD behaviors are frequently done out of fear to avoid an undesirable outcome whereas OCPD behaviors are done out of fear of not living up to internal perfectionist expectations.
  • By outward appearance alone, it is difficult to identify an OCD person whereas OCPD persons are usually extremely well groomed, dress impeccably, and are very aware of the perfectionist image they portray.
  • OCD people know their behaviors or fears tend to be irrational whereas OCPD people believe their thinking is more correct than others and have a difficult time accepting the idea that their reasoning might be inaccurate.

The good news about both disorders is that they tend to do very well with therapy and the prognosis can be quite good.

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