What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Definition of OCPD

So someone you know has just been diagnosed with OCPD. But what is obsessive compulsive personality disorder exactly? This disorder revolves around a preoccupation with having everything perfect, in the right order, and done in precisely the correct way. These "needs" of a person with OCPD often compromise other beneficial traits, such as flexibility, efficiency, and their ability to maintain interpersonal (e.g., marriage) relationships.

There are estimates that OCPD occurs in 1% of the population, and in anywhere between 3% and 10% of psychiatric outpatients. Twice as many males as females present with the disorder, and it is usually diagnosed in the teenage or young adult years.

Obsessions with Rules

One of the most blatant symptoms that people with OCPD display is their obsession with rules, lists, and direct instructions. They feel very strongly about "the right way" to do everything from cutting the grass to writing a research paper, and may insist that others follow their exact method. They also have a hard time recognizing exceptions for legitimate reasons and being flexible when needed. For example, they might stick to their routine even on a day when they are sick or have another pressing need that should be taken care of first.

Perfectionism and Decision Making

Their need for rules usually stems from perfectionist tendencies. Therefore, people with OCPD can have a difficult time making decisions, especially if the choice is not black and white. This usually reduces their efficiency, as they will spend hours agonizing over a seemingly trivial decision that they need to make, such as which task to start first. They will deliberate for so long that they will not start on anything at all.


People with OCPD may exhibit signs of stinginess or hoarding behaviors. They may refuse to throw out possessions even after they are worn out or useless, and they may buy only the basics, becoming incensed if a family member spends more than they believe is necessary. If their hoarding tendencies begin to overwhelm the home, they should look into hoarding treatments to help the situation.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder? Attitude Towards Hierarchy

At home, people with OCD may have difficult expressing their affection for family members. This is usually because they want each thing that they say to other people to come out "perfectly," and will hold back until they are sure it will be. They may seem preoccupied and unable to empathize with family members.

In the workplace, people with OCPD may go to one of two extremes. If they respect their superiors, they may treat them with an excessive amount of respect, and if they do not respect their superiors, they may be extremely rude toward them and insubordinate. They often treat those lower down the hierarchy in a way that makes them feel disrespected. They may have difficulty delegating and communicating with them


Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, https://www.minddisorders.com/Ob-Ps/Obsessive-compulsive-personality-disorder.html

PsychCentral, https://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx26.htm

MedlinePlus, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000942.htm

This post is part of the series: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)

Many people confuse Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This series discusses the differences between the two, and discusses various aspects of OCPD.
  1. A Qualitative Definition of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?
  2. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder vs OCD
  3. OCPD and Anger – Do They Go Together?
  4. How to Help Children who Have OCPD
  5. The Symptoms of OCPD in Marriage Partners