OCPD Vs OCD: A Guide To The Similarities And Differences

While OCD and OCPD share similar behaviors, symptoms, and patterns, they are different mental disorders. Knowing the distinction can mean the difference between a misdiagnosis and getting proper treatment.

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is OCPD?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a mental condition defined by extreme orderliness, perfectionism, and control. Individuals with OCPD will always insist on being in charge of every little detail of their lives. They will be obsessively focused on achieving perfection in every situation for themselves and others, emphasizing that everything be done in a certain way.

At its core, OCPD is a personality disorder. It consists of unhealthy patterns of thoughts and behaviors built up over a long period. People who have it don’t think anything is wrong with how they behave or think. They believe their way of thinking or acting is the best possible and everyone else is wrong.

What are the symptoms of OCPD?

Because of their perfectionism and constant need to be in control, people with OCPD may display the following symptoms:

  • They stick to rules in a rigid, inflexible manner

  • They’re always creating lists and order for tasks beforehand

  • They constantly need to be in control of their relationships

  • They are highly devoted to their jobs

  • They find it hard to hand over their things to other people

  • They find it hard to delegate tasks because it means giving up some level of control

  • They show extreme attention to detail and perfection

Traits of individuals with OCPD

Due to the behaviors above, people with OCPD might find it especially difficult to relate to others.¹ Consequently, they’ll often find themselves:

  • In and out of relationships 

  • Inefficient in their work (due to their perfectionism)

  • Easily getting indignant or angry

  • Isolated from other social groups

  • Being prone to anxiety and depression

Causes of OCPD 

While it is still unclear what specifically causes OCPD, some theories suggest that OCPD might develop in people who:

  • Had parents or caregivers who were overprotective or overly controlling

  • Had parents or caregivers who were absent or didn’t provide adequate care

  • Didn’t fully connect with their parents or caregivers Were punished often as children and developed OCPD in an attempt to be “the perfect child”

  • Didn’t entirely develop empathy as they grew up

Still, the situation is different for every individual. Studies show that treatment is the best way of gaining insight into how they developed OCPD and how their symptoms affect others.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder² (OCD) can be defined as a chronic mental health disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, OCD falls under a class of mental conditions known as Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

As the name suggests, an individual with OCD uncontrollably experiences unwanted, repetitive thoughts or behaviors (obsessions) or feels an uncontrollable urge to do something over and over (compulsions).

Unlike OCPD, people experiencing OCD are often aware of their obsessions and try to rid themselves of these obsessions. The obsessions may also spark feelings of disgust, fear, doubt, or extreme perfectionism in a certain way of doing things.

Since they spend so much time getting things done just right, it can get in the way of doing their daily activities.

Traits of individuals with OCD

Constituting 1.2%³ of the population in the United States, OCD is experienced far less than OCPD (up to 7.9% of the population). At the same time, around 20% of individuals with OCD also experience OCPD. This makes it difficult to separate the two. 

However, people with OCD have more specific obsessions. They will often indulge in actions or thoughts that:

  • Are beyond their control

  • Take up at least one hour each day

  • They don’t enjoy

  • Interfere with everyday work and social life

Types of OCD

OCD can present itself in many ways. However, there are four main categories:

  • Checking—Constantly confirming the status of locks, alarm systems, light switches, or ovens, and regularly checking for medical conditions like schizophrenia or pregnancy

  • Symmetry and order—Always needing things organized or lined up in a particular order

  • Intrusive thoughts—Being obsessed with a certain line of thought, some of which might be disturbing

  • Contamination—Always fearing that things might have germs and feel compelled to clean

What are the symptoms of OCD?

Most people with OCD are aware of the destructive nature of their habits. However, they can’t help themselves. Even if they do manage to stop, they often fall into depression and start over.

If you have OCD, some obsessive thoughts you might experience include the following:

  • Fearing that you or people around you will get hurt

  • Being especially aware of your body sensation, such as breathing or blinking at all times

  • Suspecting your partner of infidelity without reason

Here are some compulsive behaviors you might be compelled to do repeatedly:

  • Doing things in one order every time

  • Feeling the need to count things like bottle tops or steps

  • Fear of shaking hands, touching door knobs, or using shared toilets

Differentiating OCPD vs OCD diagnosis

Diagnosis of OCPD

There is no one particular test that can prove that a person has OCPD. Usually, your physician will start by asking questions relating to your symptoms and how they affect your life.

For instance, because people with OCPD often find it hard to show affection or empathize, they might ask if you experience difficulty with intimacy or empathy. People with OCPD might come off as aloof or cold to others.

To be diagnosed with OCPD:

  • You have to show a consistent pattern of being a perfectionist or controlling, whether over yourself, others, or the situation around you

  • You must also display at least four of the OCPD symptoms listed above, and the symptoms significantly disrupt your ability to function in the essential aspects of life like work, family, school, and other relationships

Since OCPD closely resembles other mental conditions like autism spectrum disorder and eating disorders, the doctor must rule them out. They will likely suggest you take lab tests or physical exams to rule out other potential conditions.

It is important to note that since people with OCPD don’t realize their behaviors or thoughts are problematic, the condition can be challenging to diagnose.

Due to the lack of awareness, they might resist the diagnosis or the whole evaluation process. So if your loved one is experiencing such symptoms, you’ll need to be more understanding and have more patience to get them through it.

Diagnosis of OCD

Since OCD symptoms revolve around obsessions and compulsions, it is much simpler to observe. The doctor needs to determine if you truly experience obsessions (repetitive irrational ideas) and compulsions (regularly performed irrational behaviors).

Some other questions the doctor might ask include:

  • Whether the obsessions/compulsions come about because you are trying to prevent distress, anxiety, or a potential situation

  • Whether the obsessions/compulsions are too much, taking up a considerable amount of time in your life (exceeding an hour each day)

  •  Whether the obsessions/compulsions prevent you from fully functioning at work or socially

What is the difference between OCPD and OCD?

While OCD and OCPD have unique characteristics, they still share many similarities. However, there are a few ways you can distinguish them:

Consistency of their symptoms 

The symptoms of OCD will, in most cases, vary depending on the anxiety level being experienced. As such, their symptoms might be less pronounced at certain times. 

OCPD, on the other hand, is primarily defined by rigidity. People with OCPD tend to maintain the same behaviors for a long time without being bothered.

Presence of apparent obsessions or compulsions

Obsessions or compulsions are the main traits denoting persons with OCD. Their obsessive or compulsive tendencies will significantly impact their ability to function. 

People with OCPD, however, don’t necessarily experience irrational or uncontrollable, repetitive thoughts or overwhelming compulsions. Instead, they frequently hold rigid behaviors based on certain procedures.

Thoughts/awareness about their thoughts or obsessive habits

While unable to control them, individuals with OCD are still often self-aware about the nature of their thoughts. 

On the other hand, those with OCPD don’t see the need to change. They believe that what they do has a purpose and aim. In fact, they rarely seek professional help.

Treating OCPD and OCD

Being mental disorders, both OCPD and OCD share a similar overall treatment plan. Usually, this involves some form of therapy accompanied by medication. 

According to the International OCD Foundation, some of the popular treatment options include:


Some effective OCPD therapy options include:

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)

The main aim of CBT is to help an individual acknowledge and ultimately start changing the negative patterns induced by mental illness. It can work for people with OCPD and OCD.

Psychodynamic therapy

This therapy aims at helping the individual become aware of their conscious and unconscious emotions and thoughts and see how feelings and thoughts affect their quality of life. By doing so, they can make healthier choices and experience improved mood and well-being.


Medication is mainly intended to help control the symptoms of the condition or other conditions that might arise. 

For instance, your doctor might recommend antidepressants or anxiety medication. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also help persons with OCPD focus less on minor details and lessen their rigidity.


Meditation and breathing and relaxation techniques can also help reduce stress or the intensity of the sense of urgency individuals with OCPD frequently experience.

The lowdown

OCPD is a personality disorder; it consists of personality traits that are atypical, long-held, stable, and unconventional. As a result, people don’t realize they have it and don’t see the need to change. 

Some typical observable traits of OCPD include an overwhelming need to achieve perfection, control, organization, and order. These characteristics might ultimately affect their ability to function normally.

OCD, on the other hand, is a compulsive mental health disorder. Individuals with OCD will have irrational thoughts they can’t help to repetitively think about (obsessions) and do repetitive behaviors they can’t control (compulsions). 

Because of this, people with OCD are more prone to suffer other mental disorders like anxiety when certain things aren’t exactly how they want them to be. That said, people with OCD are conscious of their problems and are more likely to seek treatment themselves. 

On the other hand, OCPD patients might not willingly seek help. It is usually the threat of losing a job or relationship that motivates OCPD patients to seek treatment. 

If you or your loved one is experiencing traits of either OCPD or OCD, it is important to consult a mental health professional. They can help diagnose the condition and come up with a treatment plan.

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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