Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) carry traits that overlap, and as a result, both disorders are often used interchangeably. OCD is a different illness from OCPD, with its own set of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Below we explain the differences between the two disorders.
What is OCD?
OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent, recurrent urges, thoughts, and behavior causing distress to the patient. These thoughts or urges transmute into compulsions that occur to try and minimize the distress.
In patients with OCD, compulsions manifest as psychological and physical symptoms. In mental traits, patients experience unwanted, negative thought patterns, which may trigger insomnia and sudden onset anxiety, or panic attacks. In traits that are physical, the compulsions may result in repetitive behavior such as checking locks, hand washing, moving objects in specific orders, and compulsive hoarding.
Before diagnosing OCD, other medical conditions and the use of certain substances must be ruled out. And if one is diagnosed, comorbidity with affective or psychotic disorders are common.
What is OCPD?
Now, with OCPD, some of the traits, most notably the unwanted thoughts and repetitive behavior, are present. However, OCPD can be viewed as a severe form of OCD, and therefore is more difficult to treat.
OCPD is a personality disorder characterized by an extreme preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, interpersonal control, and attention to rules or details. There may be signs of rigidity, stubbornness, and compulsive hoarding. In regards to rules, distress might occur if things are not in their particular way.
OCD vs OCPD: Explained
While the symptoms of both disorders are fairly similar, they can be distinguished by the patient’s awareness of their condition.
Patients with OCD, for instance, exhibit behavior that is ego-dystonic. Ego-dystonia exists when a patient is aware of their abnormal behavior and acknowledges that it’s the reason for their distress and self-defeating outcomes. OCPD patients, on the other end, are fixated on the belief that their behavior is appropriate and a core part of their personality; this is known as ego-syntonic behavior.
Moreover, in OCD, patients feel distressed following abnormal behavior. While in OCPD, a temporary sense of pleasure and relief occurs after their compulsive behavior.
OCPD & Splitting
Splitting, or black-and-white thinking, is a defense mechanism commonly seen in personality disorders, including OCPD, borderline-PD, and narcissistic-PD. The defense mechanism causes distorted thinking, resulting in extremes of either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad.’
The presence of splitting, a sign of ego-syntonic behavior, occurs only in OCPD. This diagnostic marker can be utilized to establish if a patient is suffering from OCPD rather than OCD.
Both OCD and OCPD could impair daily functioning in areas of life such as social, occupational, and other areas as well. Additionally, both disorders might cause instability in interpersonal relationships and increase the risk of social isolation, substance abuse, and suicide.
If you or someone you know may be suffering from OCD or OCPD, speak to a mental health professional. There are effective treatments to help alleviate symptoms: cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic medications.