OCPD Vs. OCD: What's The Difference?

Reviewed by Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Published 06/24/2022

Most people have heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder, frequently abbreviated or referred to as "OCD." Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a diagnosable mental health condition characterized by obsessions, compulsions, or the presence of both concurrently. Most people with OCD experience both obsessions and compulsions that interfere with their daily functioning. OCD is a common mental health disorder or mental illness that impacts approximately 1 out of every 100 of those aged 18 and older. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or OCPD is spoken about less frequently in the media, social circles, and other outlets. As a result, most people either haven't heard of it or struggle to differentiate between obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Despite the similarities in the name, these disorders aren't the same. So, what are the differences, and how do you know if you have OCD or OCPD?

OCD Overview And Treatment

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is diagnosed when a person's obsessive thoughts and compulsions interfere with their life. While people who are unaware of the reality of the condition frequently joke about being "so OCD," obsessive-compulsive disorder isn't a joke at all, nor is it a quirk or trait. Instead, it is a mental health condition that can impact people of any demographic or background. Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD can include but aren't limited to:

  • Rumination
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Repetitive movements, speech, thoughts, or behaviors
  • Rituals
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability
  • Guilt
  • Depressive symptoms as a result of the condition
  • Panic attacks

Treatment options for OCD or practices that may be useful for those with OCD include:

  • Medications
  • Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, which is the leading form of treatment for OCD and many similar or related conditions, such as anxiety disorders
  • Coping skills and tools for self-care, including breathing exercises, identifying and combating cognitive distortions, and mindfulness

There are various subtypes of OCD that a person may suffer from. Someone with OCD might struggle with contamination OCD (the fear of contamination/compulsions surrounding the fear of contamination), "checking" OCD (which includes obsessive checking behaviors so prevalent that they interfere with one's life, such as checking to make sure that the door is locked, checking to make sure that the lights are turned off, and so on), purely obsessive OCD or pure O (a form of OCD that includes obsessions and obsessive thoughts in the absence of compulsions), harm OCD, and OCD that centers around symmetry and organization. While there's no known singular or direct cause for OCD, risk factors may include a family history of OCD or other mental health disorders, personal history of other mental health disorders, and trauma.

OCPD Overview And Treatment

What is OCPD? OCPD is a Cluster C personality disorder characterized by excessive perfectionism and/or rigidity, inflexibility, and the need to control outcomes, tasks, or environments. Personality disorders do not mean that someone has a "bad" personality. Personality disorders encompass a group of disorders, including Cluster A personality disorders, Cluster B personality disorders, and Cluster C personality disorders. Cluster C personality disorders specifically are characterized by anxious, fearful thoughts and behaviors. Potential signs of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or OCPD include:

  • The extreme devotion to work or regulations so severe that it impacts one's life and/or relationships
  • Perfectionism that impacts one's life, relationships, and/or their ability to finish projects or tasks
  • Rigidity concerning rules, practices, actions, and order
  • Difficulty with assigning tasks to others unless one can be sure that the task will be completed properly and without error
  • Frugality
  • An obsession with punctuality
  • An obsession with doing things "the right way."
  • Hoarding behaviors

Note that someone doesn't have to have every sign of OCPD to be diagnosed with the condition. For example, someone may have an obsessive personality and show every sign of OCPD except for hoarding; that individual can still have OCPD. The main measure for the diagnosis of OCPD is that obsessive-compulsive personality disorder symptoms interfere with an individual's life.

The treatment for OCPD is much like the treatment for OCD and may include the following practices:

  • Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medications
  • Self-care

The pursuit of recognizing the way OCPD or OCPD symptoms impact one's life and/or relationships is often an essential part of treating obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or OCPD. For all guidance regarding treatment options, please consult a licensed medical professional.

One of the largest barriers to treatment for those with OCPD is the belief that one doesn't have a problem or failure to recognize how one's symptoms impact their life. Those with obsessive-compulsive personalities may not realize that they are indeed impacting the people around them. Still, their family, friends, and romantic partner or romantic partners will recognize patterns of rigidity and other symptoms, even if they don't recognize this as a diagnosable condition. At this time, there's no known cause for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or OCPD, but there are theories regarding potential risk factors.

Facts And Statistics

Here are some facts about OCD and OCPD:

  • OCD can impact anyone, including children. According to the International OCD Foundation, roughly one out of every 200 children in the United States has OCD.
  • There are many well-known celebrities with OCD, including Howie Mandell and Fiona Apple.
  • OCPD can affect people of any gender, but it's more commonly diagnosed in men.
  • There's no cure for either condition, but both OCD and OCPD are treatable.

What's The Difference Between OCD And OCPD?

The biggest difference between OCD and OCPD is that OCPD is a personality disorder. One of the other most notable differentiating factors, save from the symptoms and categorization of the condition, is that those diagnosed with OCD typically have insight into the condition. In contrast, those with OCPD often believe that they are operating appropriately. While their routines and rigidity may indeed impact those around them, there is nothing wrong with their rigidity, routines, and other symptoms. Both OCD and OCPD impact a person's life and can be disabling, but there's more personal awareness of OCD tendencies and symptoms in those with OCD. Additionally, there's often more distress concerning the symptoms one experiences if they have OCD instead of OCPD. While someone with OCPD experiences distress, it's usually solely due to a lack of the ability to engage in behaviors affiliated with OCPD, things being done "the wrong way" according to rules, regulations, or rituals, or the criticism of those behaviors rather than the symptoms themselves.

Getting Diagnosed

To get diagnosed with OCD or OCPD, you will need to see a professional who can diagnose mental health disorders and conditions. Most often, this will be a psychiatrist. To find a psychiatrist near you, ask your primary care physician or general doctor for a referral, search the web for psychiatrists licensed to practice in your area, or reach out to your insurance company to see who they cover. If you don't have insurance, don't worry. You can see a psychiatrist without insurance, and there are options available for those struggling to pay for both psychiatry and therapy. Getting diagnosed isn't as intimidating of a process as it may sound. It is not an invasive process. You will be evaluated based on the criteria in the most recently updated version of the DSM.

Finding Support

If you have OCD or OCPD, or if you expect that you may have either condition, you may benefit from seeking the help of a counselor or therapist. You don't need to have a diagnosis to see a counselor or a therapist, though it may help with insurance coverage. Popular therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, are non-invasive. While the disorders have stark differences, CBT is known to help those with OCPD and OCD. Like with seeing a psychiatrist, it is possible to get therapy or counseling without insurance. Some therapists who work in private practice settings offer sliding scale rates. Another option is online therapy or counseling. Therapy or counseling through online counseling companies such as BetterHelp is generally more affordable than traditional in-person treatment is in the absence of insurance, and you don't have to commute to sessions, which is a major bonus for many people. You can find a therapist who practices near you or can see a provider online for remote therapy sessions. No matter what route you choose to take, you deserve to live a full life and get the support you need.

Take The OCD Test

If you believe that you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), taking the Mind Diagnostics OCD test might be the first step to getting the help you need. The OCD test is free and confidential, and while it isn't a replacement for diagnosis or individual medical or mental health advice, it can give you insight into what you're going through. Copy and paste the following link into your browser to take the OCD test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/ocd-test.