PTypes - Personality Types
PTypes Personality Disorders Avoidant

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder


Personality disorder is a matter of false judgments of value. Listed below are the false value judgments that are at the root of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

False Good

False Bad

Personality Disorder

achievement lack of achievement excessive devotion to work and productivity
respect, approval, being beyond reproach, a just reward for rectitude lack of respect, lack of approval, reproach, lack of a just reward for rectitude overconscientiousness, scrupulosity, inflexibility
interpersonal control, things being done 'right', correctness lack of interpersonal control, things not being done 'right', incorrectness can't delegate responsibility
perfect performance mistakes, errors, flaws perfectionism
to be right, to be certain being wrong, being uncertain rigidity, stubbornness
order and organization (rules) lack of order and organization (rules) preoccupied with lists, rules, details, order and organization
to save money spending money, poverty parsimony, miserly spending style
to accumulate things discarding things, being without things hoarding worn out or worthless objects

Perspectives q.v.

The Disease Perspective

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, pp. 672-673) describes Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense or flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
  • is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost;

  • shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met);

  • is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity);

  • is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification);

  • is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value;

  • is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way or doing things ;

  • adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes;

  • shows rigidity and stubbornness.

The Dimensional Perspective

Here is a hypothetical profile, in terms of the five-factor model of personality, for Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (speculatively constructed from McCrae, 1994, pg. 306):

High Neuroticism
Chronic negative affects, including anxiety, fearfulness, tension, irritability, anger, dejection, hopelessness, guilt, shame; difficulty in inhibiting impulses: for example, to eat, drink, or spend money; irrational beliefs: for example, unrealistic expectations, perfectionistic demands on self, unwarranted pessimism; unfounded somatic concerns; helplessness and dependence on others for emotional support and decision making.

High Extraversion
Excessive talking, leading to inappropriate self-disclosure and social friction; inability to spend time alone; attention seeking and overly dramatic expression of emotions; reckless excitement seeking; inappropriate attempts to dominate and control others.

High Openness
Preoccupation with fantasy and daydreaming; lack of practicality; eccentric thinking (e.g., belief in ghosts, reincarnation, UFOs); diffuse identity and changing goals: for example, joining religious cult; susceptibility to nightmares and states of altered consciousness; social rebelliousness and nonconformity that can interfere with social or vocational advancement.

High Agreeableness
Gullibility: indiscriminate trust of others; excessive candor and generosity, to detriment of self-interest; inability to stand up to others and fight back; easily taken advantage of.

High Conscientiousness
Overachievement: workaholic absorption in job or cause to the exclusion of family, social, and personal interests; compulsiveness, including excessive cleanliness, tidiness, and attention to detail; rigid self-discipline and an inability to set tasks aside and relax; lack of spontaneity; overscrupulousness in moral behavior.

The Behavior Perspective

  • Preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules.

  • Perfectionism that interferes with task completion.

  • Excessive devotion to work and productivity.

  • Overconscientiousness, scrupulosity, and inflexibility about matters of morality, ethics, or values.

  • Hoarding

  • Excessive interpersonal control.

  • Miserliness toward both self and others.

  • Rigidity and stubbornness.

The Life Story Perspective


"Very often, people who develop the disorder by adulthood have had parents who are rigid, overbearing, and faultfinding. The parents put pressure on these children to get control of themselves and to behave like little adults (or even like good little robots) rather than as independent, individual human beings. In order to be good and to gain their parents approval, the vulnerable children became trapped in an internal struggle to get control of the own "bad" or "dangerous" impulses, desires, and feelings. They develop into adults who are inwardly, perhaps unconsciously, angry, and outwardly very driven to achieve respect and approval" (Oldham & Morris, pg. 83).

Cognitive Effects

Basic Belief: Errors are bad. I must not err. [Strategy]: Perfectionism (Beck, Freeman & associates, pg. 26).

The "idealized self is made up of beliefs about how we should feel, think, or act" (Tamney, pg. 32).

In Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, Aaron T. Beck, Arthur Freeman, and associates (1990) list typical beliefs associated with each specific personality disorder. According to my view, the beliefs and attitudes rationalize and reinforce the idealized image and the compulsive attachments and aversions. They are analogous to Karen Horney's "shoulds" and "neurotic claims." Here are the typical beliefs that they have listed (pg. 361) for Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder:

  • I am fully responsible for myself and others.
  • I have to depend on myself to see that things get done.
  • Others tend to be too casual, often irresponsible, self-indulgent, or incompetent.
  • It is important to do a perfect job on everything.
  • I need order, systems, and rules in order to get the job done properly.
  • If I don't have systems, everything will fall apart.
  • Any flaw or defect of performance may lead to a catastrophe.
  • It is necessary to stick to the highest standards at all times, or things will fall apart.
  • I need to be in complete control of my emotions.
  • People should do things my way.
  • If I don't perform at the highest level, I will fail.
  • Flaws, defects, or mistakes are intolerable.
  • Details are extremely important.
  • My way of doing things is generally the best way (361).

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. 4th ed. Washington: Author.

Beck, Aaron T. and Freeman, Arthur M. and Associates (1990). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders. New York : Guilford Press.

Beck, Aaron T. and Freeman, Arthur M. and Associates (2003). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, 2nd ed. New York : Guilford Press.

Cooper, Terry D. (2003). Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

McCrae, Robert R. (1994). "A Reformulation of Axis II: Personality and Personality-Related Problems." Costa, Paul T., Jr., Widiger, Thomas A., editors. Personality Disorders and the Five-Factor Model of Personality. Washington, D.C.: The American Psychological Association.

John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris (1995). The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love and Act the Way You Do. New York: Bantam.

(1989). Personality Disorders: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders, Vol. 3. American Psychiatric Association. Task Force on Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. Washington, DC : American Psychiatric Association.

Stone, Michael H. (1993). Abnormalities of personality: within and beyond the realm of treatment. New York: W.W. Norton.

Tamney, Joseph B. (2002). The Resilience of Conservative Religion. New York: Cambridge UP.




Summary - Personality Disorders
Copyright © 2012 Dave Kelly

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