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Understanding the Difference Between OCPD and OCD

What's the difference between OCD and OCPD? Read on to learn more.
Within the context of mental health, acronyms like OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and OCPD (Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder) are widely referenced and understood to be distinct disorders with some, but little relation. In the event you have been diagnosed or are seeking diagnosis, it is important to know the difference between these two conditions. This overview will clarify some of these differences, offering insight into the unique nature of each disorder.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are unwanted and recurring thoughts, images, or urges that trigger distress. Attempts to get rid of, ignore, or supress them can work in the short term but lead to a worsening over time. They feel "sticky" and circular.

Compulsions are the behaviors (or thoughts) a person does in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions, to avoid triggering them, or to eliminate the distress caused by them.

Unique characteristics of OCD

  • It can be episodic and acute with flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of remission.

  • Has subtypes based on the specific content of the obsessions and compulsions such as Relationship (ROCD), Contamination ,"Pure O", and Scrupulocity.

  • "OCD and related disorders" is an entire category in the DSM-5 that includes other diagnoses such as Trichotillomania, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and Hoarding.

  • May be triggered or exacerbated by an infection with Group A streptococcal bacteria, the same bacteria that cause strep throat.

  • Is primarily treated with medication and a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

What is OCPD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), on the other hand, is a Personality Disorder. It is characterized by a chronic preoccupation with rules, orderliness, and control. Unlike OCD, which typically involves an onset of symptoms which may resolve completely, go into remission, or periodically flare, the issues for those with OCPD can be harder to spot as they can be more subtle, but are enduring and pervasive, negatively affecting their relationships and overall functioning.

Some Characteristics of OCPD:

  • Paralyzed Perfectionists : They often strive for perfection to the point that they don't get anything done.

  • List Makers: They get lost in the details of planning and scheduling to the extent that they lose the point and often accomplish very little.

  • Workaholics: They are excessively devoted to work at the expense of leisure time even when they don't need the money.

  • Scroogey: They are miserly in their spending and they hoard old things.

  • Judgy: They are inflexible and overly conscientious when it comes to matters of morality and ethics even when accounting for their cultural or religious identification.

  • Control issues: They are reluctant to delegate tasks or work with others if they are not in charge and show rigidity and stubborness.

Differences Between OCD and OCPD

While OCD and OCPD share certain surface-level similarities, such as a focus on orderliness and control, the root causes and core characteristics of these disorders are fundamentally different.

  • Intrusion vs. Ego-syntonic: OCD thoughts and behaviors are unwanted and intrusive, causing significant distress. In contrast, OCPD traits are ego-syntonic; individuals with OCPD believe their actions and attitudes are correct.

  • Anxiety vs. Personality Traits: OCD is characterized by anxiety in which the compulsions are performed to relieve the tension caused by the unwanted obsessions. OCPD, however, is as a personality disorder, involving long-standing patterns of behavior and thought.

  • Insight: Individuals with OCD often recognize that their obsessions are irrational, and may seek help to manage their symptoms. Those with OCPD typically see their way of thinking and behaving as correct and often do not recognize the need for help, instead believing others should change.


Understanding the differences between OCD and OCPD is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment. While both conditions involve patterns of thought and behavior centered around orderliness, control, and perfectionism, the underlying motivations and impacts on an individual's life are distinct. Recognizing these differences helps in providing the appropriate support and interventions for those affected by either condition.

If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of OCD or OCPD, consulting with a mental health professional may be beneficial.

That's where we come in. Contact PSYCHē for more information on our services, learn more about our expert therapists, or schedule a consultation online.

We also offer multiple DBT Skills Groups as well as an RO-DBT Skills Group. Groups are like a class, not therapy. Click the link to enroll in a group today.


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