Are OCPD and hypochondriasis just two forms of the same disorder? The answer may surprise you. Researchers are currently unclear as to exactly how the two are related, but they have some guesses.
Definitions of OCPD and Hypochondriasis
How are OCPD and Hypochondriasis similar? People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) have obsessions with rules, order, and the need to meet perfectionistic standards. This often manifests itself in detailed lists, frustration with any imperfection, and the need for excessively neat surroundings. OCPD differs from OCD in that people with OCD usually have illogical rituals to deal with the obsessive thoughts that they have, and they feel ashamed of both their obsessions and their compulsive rituals. People with OCPD, on the other hand, feel simply compelled to fix the object of their obsessions (such as the "dirty" kitchen), and they feel completely vindicated in wanting to do so.
Hypochondriasis, on the other hand, is an extreme anxiety related to illnesses. People with hypochondriasis may believe themselves to be seriously ill, even when doctor after doctor assures them that they are completely healthy. Some people with hypochondriasis constantly visit doctors to complain about various ailments, whereas others suffer in silence, knowing that no one will validate their fears. They may be afraid to take risks and wary of germs, due to the danger of getting hurt or sick.
Similarities Between OCPD and Hypochondriasis
So what are the similarities between OCPD and hypochondriasis? Both OCPD sufferers and hypochondriacs have high levels of anxiety. They also lack trust in both themselves and in others (such as doctors), and have an increased need to be in control of their environment as completely as possible. Their cognitive styles reflect this need for control as well.
For example, hypochondriacs may feel a slight pain in their stomachs. People without hypochondraisis would ignore this feeling, but people with hypochondriasis would feel that something beyond their control was happening in their bodies. They would begin to think of ways that they could heal themselves, or avoid getting sick in the first place, and they will begin to obsess over every possible "symptom" as proof that they are truly sick.
The Same Continuum?
Some researchers believe that hypochondriasis and OCPD are on the same continuum, with hypochondriasis as just a more severe form of OCPD. In fact, according to an article published in the American Journal of Psychotherapy, OCPD and hypochondriasis have the same basis, but differ only in their "levels of intrapsychic integration." In other words, they differ in the degree to which they feel that they are separate from their body and need to control it.
Although this hypothesis has not been universally accepted, it could have a major impact on the way that these two disorders are treated. For example, researchers are looking at whether SSRIs, the main medicinal treatment method for OCD and OCPD, are helpful in treating hypochondriasis as well. The relationship between OCPD and hypochondriasis has not yet been determined conclusively, but researchers continue to look into the link between them.