OCD vs Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD): What’s The Difference?

They might have similar names, but OCD and OCPD are completely different. It's time you understood the differences.

OCD vs Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD): What’s The Difference?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are mental disorders that can have a dramatic effect on the lives of the people it affects. However, both terms – OCD especially – have made their way into everyday vernacular to the point that many of us claim OCD is the reason for the way we behave.

For example, someone who likes their t-shirts or towels to be folded perfectly neatly may say “it’s because of my OCD.” But, in the majority of cases, this person won’t actually have OCD, nor would have been diagnosed with it. It may, however, fall into the OCPD camp. Or, it could be neither, and the person just likes things to be neat.

While OCD and OCPD share similar names, there is much to separate them. They are common disorders and so there is a good chance there are many people in the world living with these disorders who haven’t yet been clinically diagnosed.

So, what is OCD, what is OCPD and what is the difference between the two? Allow us to explain.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Now, we’re not going to sit here and say we’re experts in the field of OCD, so we will use information taken from various authoritative sources to explain what OCD, what OCPD is and the differences between the two.

OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is as its name suggests, ruled by obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (actions). As Stanford professor Andrew Huberman says on his Huberman Lab podcast, “the obsessions and compulsions are often linked so that the compulsion, or behaviour, is designed to offer relief from the obsession.”

The key point with OCD that many people fail to understand (and which makes it unnecessary to claim you have it if you like to have your towels folded nicely) is that the obsessions are intrusive, to the point the person experiencing doesn’t want to have them.

OCD can almost be likened to a vicious cycle, though, as when an obsession or intrusive thought, enters the mind and the compulsion occurs to relieve it, in doing so, the compulsion reinforces the idea that the obsession is bad news.

Obsessions and compulsions are often linked, but they can operate individually. Ultimately, however, both will have a drastic effect on the person’s quality of life.

What you may be surprised to learn is that OCD is incredibly common, with experts estimating anywhere between 2.5% to 3 or 4% of the world’s population, suffer from OCD. To put this into context, there are currently around 7.75 billion people on the planet, so 4% of this would be 310,120,000. A huge number of people, we think you’ll agree.

Moreover, OCD is listed in the top 10 of the most debilitating illnesses in the world, alongside the likes of cancer, which should reinforce the notion of just how much of an effect it can have on someone’s life.

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)?

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is the one that refers to perfectionism, order and neatness. However, it is more extreme than simply liking things to be neat and tidy.

This is because, as Healthline states, one of the symptoms of OCPD is “perfectionism to the point that it impairs the ability to finish tasks.” Other symptoms can include:

  • Excessive devotion to work at the expense of family or social relationships
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • A fixation with lists
  • A sense of righteousness about the way things should be done

These are just a selection of the symptoms relevant to OCPD. A fuller list can be found at Healthline. But, going off the symptoms mentioned, OCPD can dramatically affect one’s working life. This is because with any task that needs to be completed, someone with OCPD will fixate on every single little detail, to the point where the task may not even get finished on time.

People with OCPD are also unaware of how their actions affect colleagues and co-workers, and in many ways, don’t care, because they believe the way they do things is the right way and the only way to do them. They also, therefore, struggle to delegate tasks to anyone else, believing that the task won’t get completed properly.

For someone to be clinically diagnosed with OCPD, the symptoms will “impair your ability to function and interact with others.”

MSD Manual says “about 2.1 to 7.9% of the general population are estimated to have an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder; it is more common among men.”

OCD vs OCPD: What’s The Difference?

Hopefully, the information above paints a clear picture of the differences between OCD and OCPD.

The main difference is that people with OCD don’t want to have intrusive thoughts, or obsessions whereas people with OCPD don’t necessarily mind experiencing their obsessions. In some cases, they even welcome the obsession.

To make it even clearer, OCD is deemed to be an anxiety disorder. OCPD is a personality disorder.

OCD vs OCPD: Treatment

While their not similar in terms of symptoms, OCD and OCPD are treated in similar ways, with the most common being talk therapy. At the moment, medication such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to offer positive effects when prescribed to people with OCD.

For those with OCPD, Verywell Health says there is “no specification medications, although the same medications that help treat OCD can also help with OCPD.”

Psychotherapy styles including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) – a type of CBT – are also recommended as treatment options for both OCD and OCPD.

CBT examines thoughts and how they can influence or dictate one’s behaviour. By understanding where the obsessions come from and why the compulsions occur as a relief, psychotherapists can begin to help patients overcome their condition.

Exposure therapy sees the person with OCD being exposed to the triggers that cause their obsessions. While it may seem like a rather harsh form of treatment, exposure therapy has been shown to help cure OCD. It does so through a process called habituation, according to Verywell Mind. Habituation refers to the natural process “when a person stops responding or paying attention to a stimulus, such as a thought, object, place, person or action, with repeated exposure.”

This helps with OCD because by continually exposing someone to the triggers of their obsessions, the person should begin to learn that no consequences will occur as a result of their obsessive thoughts.

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