First, we must distinguish between an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They are not the same although they may have commonalities, and an individual could have both.
For individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the compulsive behavior is an effort to resolve obsessive doubt. In a classic example, the individual checks to see if they locked the door despite knowing that it is locked. They felt the door lock. They heard the door lock. Yet they doubt their own senses. Individuals with OCD are often anxious. There may be some ways, some situations, or some relationships in which they feel insecure, struggle with self-confidence, or lack a sense of agency. They often seek much reassurance from others and find temporary relief from tension with compulsive behaviors.
Individuals with OCD and those with OCPD may both struggle with anxiety and with self-doubt, but while those with OCD may struggle with a wide range of specific obsessions, individuals with OCPD are pervasively preoccupied with order, control, and perfection. These are the folks for whom there is always only one right way to do something. They are often frugal and miserly. They can be difficult, demanding, inflexible. They have rigid expectations of both themselves and others and are often workaholics.
Here are some tips on how to care for yourself if you are in a relationship with someone who may have OCPD:
- Accept the behavior that does not affect you without criticizing them.
- Do not give into their demands or take part in their rituals when they would adversely impact your own well-being.
- Empathize with them, understand their feelings, and then offer an alternative perspective.
- Let them know when you are feeling disregarded or criticized.
- Appreciate the benefits when they are conscientious, hard-working, careful, well-organized, and helpful.
- If you are concerned that your partner may have OCPD, consider couple’s therapy. While an individual with OCPD may not see any need for or benefit in individual therapy, they may agree to couple’s therapy. In couple’s therapy, partners may be successful in learning new ways for being more empathic, considerate, and supportive of one another.
Children, teens, and adults may present with OCD or behaviors associated with OCPD. Inference-Based Therapy, Exposure-Response Prevention Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other treatment modalities are effective in helping to reduce anxiety, advance self-confidence, and improve relationship skills.