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Living with obsessive compulsive personality disorder

Main Line Health March 23, 2018 Behavioral Health By Paula Durlofsky, PhD

Living with obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is challenging. The anxiety disorder, which affects an estimated 7.9 percent of Americans, can take a toll on your health and your relationships.

While OCPD is the most common personality disorder, it is often confused with obsessive compulsive disorder. The two disorders do have similar names, but are actually quite different.

Is it OCD or OCPD?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which a person has uncontrollable recurring thoughts and behaviors which he or she feels they need to constantly repeat, like repeatedly turning a light switch on and off or counting the number of times they tap their finger on a table.

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, however, is characterized by the need for order, perfection, an excessive attention to detail, a need to control one’s surrounding environment and emotions and an extreme devotion to work or productivity.

People living with OCPD are often so pre-occupied with schedules or tasks that they find themselves unable to adapt to changing schedules, and put pressure on themselves to meet unrealistic expectations. When things don’t go as planned, they are often self-critical.

Changing and managing these behaviors is not easy, but there are steps you can take to ease OCPD:

  1. Cultivate self-compassion – Try not to be self-critical when having obsessive thoughts, as this can make obsessive thoughts more powerful. Instead, work on practicing acceptance to reduce negative emotions.
  2. Meditate – Studies show that regularly meditation helps reduce anxiety and obsessive thoughts.
  3. Identify self-soothing techniques – Anxiety is a major component of OCPD. Learning ways to calm down intense emotions, like anger, frustration, anxiety and sadness, helps reduce emotional reactivity. Listening to music, going for a walk, or watching TV may help.
  4. Seek professional help – OCPD is a complex disorder and being able to make changes may require therapy and/or medication. Exploring the underlying causes of OCPD combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy and proper medications can bring about lasting change.

Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, whose practice focuses on psychological issues affecting individuals, couples and families. She is affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital and Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health.