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OCD vs OCPD


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the anxiety related disorders that tends to get minimised the most.

It is common to hear comments like “Ugh, I have to fold my towels three ways because I am SO OCD!”or “don’t mind me, that’s just my OCD!”. However, there is a huge difference between these comments and genuine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and in fact, they don’t really reflect genuine OCD at all.Comments like these are more reflective of OCD’s lesser-known cousin – Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (or OCPD for short). But what is the difference I hear you ask? I am so glad you asked.


To put it simply, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder first of all requires obsessions. These are intrusive and unwanted thoughts (with the emphasis being on “unwanted”). There are also compulsions – time-consuming acts that are performed in order to neutralise the obsession (that is, prevent something bad from happening), or reduce the distress caused by them. The anxiety in this case is called “egodystonic” – that is, the person does not want or enjoy it. For example, a client with intrusive and unwanted thoughts about harming her parent may be compelled to repeatedly tell that parent about the thoughts in order to prevent the act from actually happening. In this case, the client has no desire to ever harm their parent, but nonetheless the thoughts continue to present with an intensity that is hard for them to ignore and are understandably highly distressing.


Now, when it comes to OCPD, this is a slightly different story. Whereas OCD revolves around intrusive and unwanted thoughts, OCPD revolves around preoccupations – often with perfectionism; orderliness; attention to detail; or work ethic. With this comes a severe inflexibility, either with rules, beliefs, morals or values. Someone with OCPD will usually have unrelenting standards and unapologetically hold themselves and/or others to these standards. Finally, perhaps the biggest difference between OCD and OCPD is the level of distress. Whereas the anxiety experienced with OCD is egodystonic (unenjoyable), people with OCPD are defined as “egosyntonic” – that is, the beliefs and behaviours are part of the person’s personality – they find them acceptable and do not view them as detrimental or problematic. Egosyntonic anxiety by nature can be difficult to support because often the person has little insight or motivation to change. That being said, with the right professional support, those with OCPD can be supported in developing insight and establishing more workable beliefs and behaviours.


As always, if this has raised concerns for you or someone you know, call us on 37160445 to discuss how we can help to support you.


If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to admin@youmatterpsychologists.com.au and we will answer any questions you may have.

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