Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder marked by a chronic need for rules and order. While the causes of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are not entirely clear, the condition is likely caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

OCPD should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCPD causes intense fear and anxiety when the person with the disorder loses control of a situation and is a Cluster C personality disorder, grouped with other personality disorders also characterized by fear and anxiety, such as avoidant personality disorder and dependent personality disorder.

Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

A person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder thinks that his behavior is perfectly normal, and it’s usually much easier for an outsider to recognize the symptoms of OCPD. First, people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder unrelentingly follow the rules, even when other people might follow common sense instead of an arbitrary rule. Second, they tend to be perfectionists, often missing the point of a project or activity because they either get bogged down in details or are held back by their own astronomical standards. Unlike OCD, OCPD does not involve intrusive thoughts and the compulsions practiced to manage those disturbing thoughts (such as compulsive hand washing because of an irrational fear of germs).

Some cultures thrive on authoritarian parenting styles, which could lead to symptoms of OCPD in people who experience that kind of upbringing. In addition, some religions or organizations–the military, for example–demand that their members follow exact procedures and instill a strong sense of orderliness. However, a diagnosis of OCPD is not appropriate if the symptoms are the result of adhering to religious or cultural norms.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Causes

The exact cause of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is unknown. As is the case with most mental disorders, a combination of biology and environmental factors likely leads to the development of OCPD. A possible genetic cause of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder has been suggested, as the condition often runs in families. However, cultural influences or learned behaviors may also play a role.

Family dynamics and parenting styles could also explain the frequency of the disorder in some families. One theory suggests that as children, people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder were consistently punished for negative behavior, failure and rule-breaking, while receiving no praise for success and compliance. Children exposed to this type of upbringing tend to develop symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder as a way to cope with their families’ disciplinary styles. They never learn to associate independent thinking with happiness or satisfaction, and they modify their behavior solely to avoid punishment.


Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. (2010). Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://www.minddisorders.com/Ob-Ps/Obsessive-compulsive-personality-disorder.html

Grohol, J.D. (2010). Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx26.htm

Vorvick, L. (2008). Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000942.htm

 Posted on : June 23, 2014