The Causes of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder - Understanding the Origin of OCPD

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What is OCPD?

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder or OCPD is a type of personality disorder in which the individual exhibits rigidity, control, orderliness, and perfectionism. There is also an over-concern with work and a neglect of close interpersonal relationships. Although they are quite similar, OCPD should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Let’s take a brief look at how OCPD is different from OCD before we go onto the causes of obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

OCPD versus OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent intrusive thoughts followed by compulsive acts, whereas OCPD is a personality disorder characterized by perfectionism and obsession for rules, order, and work. People with OCD recognize that their obsessions are normal, whereas people with OCPD consider their need for strict order as perfectly normal. Another important difference is that OCD interferes in the social and work life of the individual. However, people with OCPD have difficulties with close relationships but the disorder does not interfere in their performance in the work environment.

Causes of OCPD

Researchers have not been able to identify any specific causes of OCPD. However, there are few studies that attempt to explain the causes of the development of obsessive compulsive personality disorder symptoms. These include faulty parenting, cultural influences, genetic causes, and biopsychosocial causes.

Faulty parenting

Early life experiences are considered to be important reasons behind the development of obsessive compulsive personality disorders. Recent studies have indicated that there are two important factors for the healthy emotional development of the child. The first factor is how warm the parents are towards the child and the second is how responsive they are towards the needs of the child. These two are considered to be essential factors in making the child feel secure and appreciated.

Individuals with obsessive compulsive personality disorder often report that their parents were not emotionally warm towards them. They were emotionally withholding. They were also perceived as either too over-protective or too over-controlling. Being punished for minor neglect of rules and receiving no rewards for accomplishments have been found to be hallmarks of the childhoods of individuals with OCPD. Children tend to develop OCPD symptoms as a way of avoiding punishment.

Children with overly strict and emotionally cold parents have also been found to suppress their anger towards them. And although they follow authority figures with much obedience, they can act very harshly towards those who are younger or inferior to them.

Cultural causes of OCPD

Highly authoritarian and rule-driven cultures are believed to be contributory causes of OCPD. Excessive devotion to work, limited expression of emotions in relationships, and rigorous adherence to moral ethics can play an important role in the development of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. However, OCPD is usually diagnosed in such people only when it is clear that the person’s attention to rules, order, and rigidity is excessive in compared to other people belonging to the same culture.

Genetic causes of OCPD

There isn’t a great deal of data available on the genetic basis of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. However, it has been found that the disorder runs in families and an individual with OCPD is more likely to pass down the disorder to his or her children than a person who does not have the condition.

Biopsychosocial causes of OCPD

Most experts are of the opinion that there is no single factor responsible for the development of the symptoms of OCPD. In fact, it is a combination of biological, genetic, social and psychological factors.

Although a lot more evidence is required to ascertain the causes of obsessive compulsive personality disorder, it is generally believed that genetics and parental behavior towards the growing child play important roles in the development of OCPD symptoms.


Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders: Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Medline Plus: Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Psychcentral: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder