Obsessive Personality Disorder

Obsessive Personality Disorder

Last update: 15 April, 2018

The truth is that in our world today, or at least in a good part of it, we value and reinforce behavioral styles related to work and productivity and results. Being a perfectionist, meticulous, organized, and competent are highly valued in the workplace. Thus, people with these qualities tend to get promoted to positions of responsibility.

Well, individuals with an obsessive style often fit in very well here. They like to do things not only well, but “the best.” They don’t fraternize with leisure, since their thought processes see rest and fun as a loss of productive time and progress.

Characteristics of obsessive people

People with obsessive personality disorder usually measure how satisfied they are with their behavior based on their schemas and values before looking at their results.

These people rarely let their instincts or their immediate reactions loose. Most of the answers they give are the product of deep reflection. They do not enjoy taking risks and instead plan, order, and classify whatever they can.

You can spend your whole life looking for the perfect flower, and you know why? Because all flowers are perfect. 

A man with obsessive personality disorder trimming grass.

Obsessive people often keep useless stuff, thinking, “who knows if I might need it some day.” They may devote significantly less time to family and other relationships. However, they tend to make sure their loved ones have their basic needs covered and taken care of.

When obsessive personality traits are taken to the extreme, the result will be maladaptive behaviors that make their actions inefficient or ineffective. In addition, they will significantly interfere in a person’s life. If this is the case, we are talking about an obsessive personality disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive personality style: the perfectionist

The difference between the perfectionist personality and obsessive personality disorder lies in the severity of the symptoms. People with an obsessive personality disorder are so meticulous that they have trouble at work and in their personal lives.

When this perfectionism interferes with their daily life, we are referring to an obsessive personality disorder. On the other hand, Western societies value a perfectionist personality style. Individuality, competence, and career advancement are basic values in these cultures.

Developed countries

The obsessive personality style appears to be more common in developed societies, cultures that are generally more organized and disciplined. Characteristics like efficiency, punctuality, perseverance, hard work, and meticulousness are an advantage.

Spending hours of overtime at the office to finish a job is rewarded, and often how people get promoted to high positions. So in general terms, it is understood that the more an employee works, the better for the company. 

A man without defects is a fool or a hypocrite that we should distrust. 

A workaholic with her agenda.

Obsessive personality disorder and self-discipline

A person with an obsessive personality has a lot of self-discipline (a powerful “superego”, if we look at it from a psychoanalytic perspective). The intellect governs this type of person, not emotions. In addition, they are usually reserved and not very bubbly.

They are prone to stress when their behavior fits a type A pattern, making it hard for them to relax and enjoy life. Having free time without planned activities can make them more nervous than a schedule full of deadlines. 

Obsessive personality disorder and relationships

When it comes to relationships, these people are usually good companions. They are faithful, responsible, and take good care of their spouses. However, they do so in an unromantic way and show little emotion. They are fundamentally practical.

Because of how reserved they are, they are good for histrionic people (the most effusive and dramatic of the personality types). Obsessive personalities are attracted to histrionic personalities because the latter makes them feel more active and alive. At the same time, the histrionic personality may find an obsessive personality attractive because they provide stability they need.

The obsessive personality type also usually gets along well with antisocial, avoidant, dependent, and self-destructive types. On the other hand, people with obsessive personalities do not seem to have good relationships with people of the same personality or people who are narcissistic, paranoid, or sadistic.

A couple arguing.

How can you relate to an obsessive type?

When interacting with people diagnosed with obsessive personality disorder, Oldham and Morris (1995) suggest some behaviors to make the relationship flow better. They recommend having a good sense of humor and being tolerant, allowing the obsessive person to do what they do. Be flexible and allow them to act how they do, as long as it doesn’t make you feel resentful.

Do not expect them to change on their own.  Given their reluctance to newness, it must be someone else who proposes the changes. Furthermore, their lack of affection can be discouraging. But remember that it is just that they’re not showing it. In no way does it indicate an absence of feelings.

One is always trying to make things go perfectly in art, because getting perfection in life is really difficult. 

Power struggles are not effective with people who have obsessive personality disorder, since they are very adept at arguing. Experts recommend listening to them and trying to understand them. In a relationship, the obsessive person will tend to take control of the details.

In short, obsessive personality disorder looks like perfectionism, excessive dedication to work, rigidity, and an inability to get rid of useless objects. Relationships with this type of person can be hard unless the couple keeps in mind the aspects we mentioned above.

Works Cited

Feist, J. (2007). Teorías de la Personalidad. Madrid: Mc Graw – Hill.

Schultz, D. (2002). Teorias de la Personalidad. Madrid: Paraninfo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.