Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: They’re Not the Same
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 two very different emotional conditions?
OCD and OCPD: Counting the Ways They Differ
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) are often mistaken for the same condition, but they are really quite different. They differ not only in symptoms, but also in severity and psychiatric category.
OCD is an anxiety disorder (an unrealistic, irrational fear or anxiety of disabling intensity), whereas OCPD is a personality disorder (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. Their obsessive thoughts may include:
Their compulsive behaviors may include:
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 behavior therapy and antidepressant medicines 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 his environment. The person strives for perfection and does not view himself 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:
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, medicine 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.
Mental Health America
Obsessive Compulsive Foundation
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated April 23, 2012. Accessed June 29, 2012.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/go/ocd. Accessed June 29, 2012.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated April 8, 2012. Accessed July 9, 2012.
Obsessive compulsive personality disorder. International OCD Foundation website. Available at: http://www.ocfound.... Accessed July 9, 2012.
Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian Randall, MD