Personality disorder - obsessive-compulsive

Alternative names
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a condition characterized by a chronic preoccupation with rules, orderliness, and control.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

This disorder tends to occur in families and thus may have a genetic component. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder most often occurs in men. It should not be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is another psychiatric condition that shares some symptoms with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder believe that their preoccupations are appropriate. They tend to be high achievers and have a sense of urgency about their actions. They may become extremely upset if others disturb their rigidly ordered routines.


A person with this personality disorder has symptoms of perfectionism that usually begin in early adulthood. This perfectionism may interfere with the person’s ability to complete a given task because the rigid standards cannot be upheld. People with this disorder may emotionally withdraw when they are not able to control a situation.

Signs and tests

Some of the common signs of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder include:

  • Perfectionism  
  • Inflexibility  
  • Preoccupation with details, rules, and lists  
  • Reluctance to allow others to do things  
  • Excessive devotion to work  
  • Restricted expression of affection  
  • Lack of generosity  
  • Inability to throw things away, even if there is no value in the object


Medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (e.g., Prozac) may help reduce obsessions and compulsions. Cognitive/behavioral therapy may also help, and medications in combination with talk therapy may be more effective than either treatment alone.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook for people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder tends to be better than that of other personality disorders. The self-imposed rigidness and control of people with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may prevent many of the complications - such as drug abuse - that are common to the other personality disorders.

However, the social isolation common with this illness may eventually lead to feelings of Depression later in life.


  • Relationship difficulties  
  • Depression

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if an attitude of perfectionism is interfering with employment or relationships.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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