Hi Sharon et al,
I don't know if Sharon's gotten any PMs from any OCPDers yet, but I'm going to bump this post to the top of the message list for a couple of weeks so she might get some more bites. It helps to know the names of the OCPD members are green
(except for me), with the "SO"s (significant others) the default color. Most of the involvement in the forum is by the SOs, maybe 90-95% of the posts. OCPDers rarely seek help for OCPD, and when they join here, they rarely stay for very long or participate much. Most of the situations discussed here are not based on a formal diagnosis of OCPD; most are self-diagnosed, or diagnosed by an SO. Maybe 20-30% are based on a formal diagnosis.
OCPDers, I encourage you to consider PMing or emailing Sharon to broach the possibility of some kind of interview about your OCPD. It can be therapeutic to talk about it, or just to learn how someone else sees it. I'd be careful about choosing to reveal personal identifying information, such as your real name.
There is I believe so much misunderstanding and ignorance of what OCPD is, and maybe I shouldn't, but I'm going to try to clear up some of that up now. Some of what I'm saying here are my opinions, although opinions I've held for many years now, based on years of thought, research, and experience.
OCPD is not some form of OCD. It's not OCD-lite. It's not on the O-C spectrum. It's not the personality version of OCD. Despite the name, those with OCPD generally don't suffer from obsessions and compulsions. I find its similarity to the acronym OCD not only unhelpful and misleading, but downright damaging to those with OCPD and their loved ones looking for help not only because of the resulting diagnostic confusion but also because the acronym OCPD is itself a misnomer.
To state it simply, having an overly harsh conscience is both necessary and sufficient for a diagnosis of OCPD. That is, if you have an overly harsh conscience, then you have OCPD. If you don't, then you don't. More specifically, the personality of the OCPDer, from an early age and at a fundamental level, is so constructed that the feeling of guilt is intolerable to him. The feeling of guilt to an OCPDer is like the sun to Dracula, milk to someone lactose-intolerant, or sprinting up the stairs to someone with a lung or heart condition. The feeling of guilt makes him sick. Therefor, he constructs his life to avoid feeling guilt as much as he possibly can. He does this by using techniques such as planning ahead, telling the truth, following the law, following rules, taking on obligations if he feels he must in order to do the job right, lacking spontaneity, flexibility, and initiative, avoiding the unknown or poorly-defined situations, and delaying decisions and/or placing decision-making and responsibility onto others.
Another way to understand it is that personality is like a house. Different houses are constructed differently to withstand different stressors. Some can withstand fire but not an earthquake; a flood but not a fire; an earthquake but not straight-line winds. The house of the personality of an OCPDer can't stand the feeling of guilt. It will make his house collapse, so he avoids it as much as he can. He has other strengths.
To read standard descriptions of OCPD there's little mention of what I've written above. There might be a note about conscience and a passing mention of guilt. The DSM-IV definition begins
"[OCPD is characterized by a] pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency".
What a convoluted mess that is. Other writers consider OCPD as a collection of traits that aren't necessarily related, without a hallmark feature. Though last year, finally, the diagnostic expert Stephen Hertler wrote an article on OCPD where he writes:
Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Reviewing the Specificity and Sensitivity of DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria
Steven C. Hertler
Published 7 August 2013"[I]t seems that conscientiousness is, not surprisingly, a potential hallmark symptom."
Here's a good, one page article on the differences between OCD and OCPD:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: They’re Not the Same
by Amy Scholten, MPHhttp://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=24697
It is for a book I am doing for Simon & Schuster on compulsive behaviors (all kinds, from textbook OCD to anything else), so I am particularly interested in things like the need to follow 'crazy' rules, perfectionism, rituals--any behavior driven by anxiety which you feel compelled to execute.
I wonder if OCPDers do compulsive behaviors
. I don't believe they suffer from compulsions. A go-to person for OCD and to a lesser extent OCPD, Naomi Fineberg in the UK gave an interview this year where she addresses this issue, around minute 7:
Expert Interviews: Naomi Fineberg on Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0za3oKruzZs
Eric Hollander: Do people with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, do they have obsessions, or compulsions?
Naomi Fineberg: Well, not strictly defined if you require the obsessions and compulsions as I said to have this ego-dystonic, this alien quality, but they have intrusive doubts, they have intrusive thoughts, they have repetitive checking, repeating behaviors, needing to get things absolutely correct. So if you broaden the concepts of compulsions and obsessions, they do have disabling repetitive thinking, and behavior patterns, that are disabling.
(I don't see repetitive checking in OCPD, beyond the point of checking that it's right. There may be repetitive thinking, but on a very high level. It's more of a philosophical rut than intrusive thoughts.)Rituals
-- not heard of OCPDers having rituals.'crazy rules'
-- OCPDers may like to do things a certain, set, way, but they feel it's best. I mean, you load the dishwasher too, and do laundry ... do you do it a different way each time, or the same? Consider the jet fighter pilot. On entering the cockpit, he goes through the same steps, in the exact same order, every time. If something odd happens in the sequence, then he starts over again. Is he disordered? He takes a known situation, then uses his mind to apply a set pattern of dozens of actions to the situation, to get to another known situation. Then he's confident in the state of his world as it relates to the state of his mind. It works for him, so what's the problem?Perfectionism
-- Is perfectionism compulsive behavior? Feeling one must, should, ought to do it right, to the highest standard ... is that the kind of compulsivity you're talking about? OCPDers are often perfectionists, that things have to be done "just so". That's to avoid the guilt of doing it wrong. When you're wired to avoid guilt, to avoid doing anything wrong, then feelings and emotions become unimportant. The focus is on the doing, or not doing. It's funny what happens then. In the absence of a feeling or emotion about something, there's no guiding light to know what's important and what isn't. Major issues and minor details are given the same level of importance. Then, the OCPDer will typically take three times longer to do something than someone else. He spends more time than he needs on the minor details, details that others would slough off, and consider "sweating the small stuff". If you ask him if it bothers him how much time he spends on inconsequential details, he'll tell you he doesn't know what's an inconsequential detail, and what's vital. He doesn't feel "compelled" to execute the details, he just doesn't know what's important.Behavior driven by anxiety which you feel compelled to execute
-- OCPDers aren't driven by anxiety, but by a need to avoid doing something that will generate the feeling of guilt. The prospect of feeling guilt may make them anxious, but the guilt is the driving factor. Guilt and conscience are agencies at the very highest levels of the mind, compared to anxiety. They touch on morality and personal values. There's a popular internet article on OCPD by Phillipson:
The RIGHT Stuff
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: A Defect of Philosophy, not Anxiety
by Steven Phillipson, Ph.D.http://www.ocdonline.com/#!the-right-stuff/c1hdb
I mention it because of the title -- OCPD is not an anxiety disorder, but a disorder of a philosophy that says making mistakes is catastrophic -- that the resulting guilt is unacceptable.
The best way to get the world to understand that one can't 'just stop' (as many in the grip of a compulsion are told) is to hear from people themselves about what it's like.
Told to 'just stop'
-- I don't know there's anything an OCPDer does that they want to stop. They do what they think is right. They don't think there's something wrong with it. For the few aware OCPDers, they may have a vague understanding that their attitude is wrong -- that good material outcomes shouldn't be prized over human kindness, for example. Several OCPDers express the belief, even after getting educated about OCPD, that there's nothing wrong with it. Among several other blogs on OCPD, one blogger considers OCPD a "gift".
If there is something an OCPDer might regret doing, it's being angry with his wife, or nitpicking her, or not appreciating her for who she is, instead imagining who she might be if she only shaped up. But again, those aren't what one would call compulsions or compulsive behaviors.
It's true OCPDers are at the far compulsive end of the "compulsive-impulsive" spectrum. The far impulsive end would be the psychopath. The compulsive personality (OCPD) is all conscience, all brakes on his personality, while the psychopath is no conscience, no brakes. But again, "compulsive personality" doesn't mean compulsions, or even compulsive behaviors. It means a personality that needs to do what they think is right and good, that they should do, ought to do. They carry around a feeling of obligation on their shoulders which is palpable.
If you want to listen to a good interview of an OCPDer, Anthony Pinto did one last year on a podcast, with his patient with OCPD, "John". I put up a transcript here:viewtopic.php?p=50843#p50843
It's between the minutes 14:00 to 24:00. I particularly like this comment:
"[I]t's funny because up until when I was doing treatment I would often find that any time I would be asked how I'm feeling or what my emotions were like I wouldn't know, I would just say "I'm not sure what I'm feeling", or I always had a hard time expressing them."
OCPDers don't know how they feel in the moment. They don't cultivate it, so they don't experience it. If you ask them how they feel, they have no idea. They might take in the words you say, process them, and then the next day be able to say something about how they felt at the time. I never understood how normal people interact emotionally with other people in real time.
So I wonder what will be your experience interviewing someone with OCPD. I don't believe they'll tell you they have any compulsions that they wish to stop. You might have trouble reaching the person inside. They're more likely to operate on the "data" level, listening to your words, and then matching them to patterns in their mind. Like a human version of Google.