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OCD vs. OCPD: 5 Differences

Are OCD and OCPD variations of the same disorder? Or are they different mental health issues? Savvy Psychologist explains the 5 important differences between Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

By
Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
organizing office supplies

A few weeks ago on the Savvy Psychologist podcast, we tackled the most common personality disorder: OCPD.  

Listener Amanda M. of St. Louis, who requested the episode, rightly notes that OCPD often gets confused with a very different disorder that has a very similar name: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD

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So today, let’s look at 5 important differences between OCPD and OCD:

Difference #1: Insight

Folks with OCD usually know that their thoughts are not exactly reasonable (“Did I turn off the stove?  I’d better check,” or “If I wear unmatched socks, something bad will happen to my brother.”)

By contrast, individuals with OCPD believe their sky-high standards and work ethic are not only reasonable, but the only way to get things done.          

Difference #2: Distress

In OCD, the obsessions and compulsions are stressful and unpleasant. For instance, feeling convinced you just drove over someone and circling back dozens of times to check for a body turns one’s stomach into knots. By contrast, for those with OCPD, the rigid schedules and rules of the condition are often comforting and feel right.  

Difference #3: Guilt

In OCD, individuals can, but not always, feel guilty about asking others to conform to their rituals (for example, “I know it’s a hassle to put on shoe covers whenever you come inside, but I really, really need you to do that.  I’m so sorry.”)  On the flip side, those with OCPD think others should conform to their methods and firmly believe they’d be better off for it.

Difference #4: Anxiety

With OCD, compulsions - the actions someone with OCD can’t resist doing, like checking, counting, or washing - are performed to reduce anxiety.  For instance, an individual with OCD might review her schedule for the day over and over again because she’s  terrified she’s forgotten to include all her appointments.  

By contrast, someone with OCPD might make and review a detailed schedule in order to be comprehensive and efficient.  Anxiety isn’t part of the picture.

Difference #5: Time

By definition, OCD takes more than an hour a day.  That’s right - part of an OCD diagnosis can be the fact that the obsessions, plus the compulsions to neutralize the obsessions, suck up a lot of time. OCPD, on the other hand, is more tightly interwoven to one’s personality. Rather than being an activity unto itself, the perfectionism and control of OCPD is more of a trait, not a time suck.

Quick Tip: Think of the one-letter difference between the two acronyms: OCPD has a “p” in it, which you can pretend stands for “perfectionism,” the defining feature of the disorder.  

Any way you slice it, these disorders are tough to live with.  The good news?  They’re also treatable, particularly OCD.  With work and practice, the only difference you’ll think about is what a difference good treatment makes.

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About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
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