What comes to mind when you hear the term obsessive-compulsive? Perhaps you think about a person who is driven or extremely preoccupied with order, or someone who engages in repetitive, senseless behaviors. It is true that these behaviors are often characterized as obsessive and compulsive, but did you know that the term “obsessive-compulsive” is used to describe 2 very different emotional conditions?
OCD is an anxiety disorder (an unrealistic, irrational fear or anxiety of disabling intensity), whereas OCPD is a
(a chronic pattern of inflexible and distorted personality and behavioral patterns). Let’s take a closer look at these disorders.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience repetitive thoughts and behaviors that make no sense.
They are usually not
relevant to real-life concerns. Their obsessive thoughts may include:
Persistent fears of harm coming to themselves or a loved one
Unreasonable concern with being contaminated
Intrusive and unacceptable religious, violent, or sexual thoughts
Excessive need to do things correctly or perfectly
Their compulsive behaviors may include:
Excessive checking of door locks, stoves, water faucets, light switches, etc.
Repeatedly making lists, counting, arranging, or aligning things
Collecting and hoarding useless objects
Repeating routine actions a certain number of times until it feels just right
Unnecessary rereading and rewriting
Mentally repeating phrases
Excessive washing, sometimes for hours every day
These obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are extremely difficult for the person to overcome. If severe and untreated, OCD may seriously impact a person’s ability to function at work, at school, or at home.
OCD may also increase the risk of
having suicidal thoughts
and attempting suicide.
OCD is commonly treated with behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications called
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
(SSRIs). Risk of suicide should be assessed and monitored in all persons diagnosed with and treated for this disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)
Someone with OCPD has very high expectations and a need to control their environment. The person strives for perfection and does not view themself as in need of treatment. But, this personality disorder can greatly impact the person's relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers. These interpersonal problems can occur because the person may:
Be extremely fixated on rules
Be overly committed to his job
Refuse to reassign duties to others
Have unrealistic expectations for others and is very critical
Follow very strict moral and ethical standards
Create extensive lists and rules
Be very stingy with money, and may hoard money or other items
OCPD is usually treated with individual psychotherapy or counseling that focuses on helping people accept themselves, change inflexible thinking, and get more in touch with their feelings. Unlike OCD, medication is not usually prescribed for people with OCPD, although certain antidepressants, such as SSRIs, may be helpful for some. Hospitalization is rarely needed for people with OCPD, unless extreme stress results in compulsive behaviors that cause harm or lead to immobility.
Although both OCD and OCPD involve obsessive and compulsive behaviors, OCD is often a more severe and disabling condition. Many people with either OCD and OCPD can improve their mental health through treatment and lead fulfilling lives.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 19, 2015. Accessed March 25, 2016.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/conditions/ocd. Accessed March 25, 2016.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: https://iocdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/OCPD-Fact-Sheet.pdf. March 25, 2016.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/personality-disorders/obsessive-compulsive-personality-disorder-(ocpd). Updated January 2016. Accessed March 25, 2016.
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