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What is OCPD?

Updated: Jun 21

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is the most common personality disorder in the world. Around 2-8 % of the world population has the disorder. This means that in the United States, about 7 million to 27 million people have the disorder (2020 population numbers quoted). On the high end, that means around 1 in 12 people!! That’s a lot of people to be walking around with a mental health issue about which no one is addressing.


OCPD is characterized by many of the same issues that characterize general overcontrol:

  • Seeing the thorns and not the roses,

  • Planning for the worst-case scenario,

  • Low excitement around day-to-day pleasures,

  • High attention to details,

  • Trouble relaxing and taking time off,

  • High focus on productivity and perfection, and

  • The ability to tolerate high levels of distress.


These characteristics show up in some of the worlds “top” or highly-paid professions like: lawyers, doctors (especially surgeons), accountants or CPAs, CEOs, engineers, software developers, and professors or academics. While it may be useful for these professions to be able to put in long hours at their jobs, in their personal life, these traits tend to cause problems. Loved-ones may call them workaholics, uptight or hard-to-get-along-with. They may also be considered hyper-competitive or hard-headed, as they tend to want to win (or achieve) at all costs.


Many people with OCPD don’t know they have OCPD, because it is so highly functional in society. They may achieve great success financially, academically or in the work place, so letting go some of the personality behaviors that got them where they are, may sound distressing.


Usually people finally come to therapy when:

  • their loved one’s issue an ultimatum (change your rigidity or else),

  • they burn out from working too hard,

  • their boss suggests they need to change or they will lose their job, or

  • they realize how lonely their life has become as it centers around work.

Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT) considers OCPD the quintessential disorder of overcontrol. RO DBT is specifically designed to help these individuals choose the behaviors they want to keep, that are within their value system, and get rid of the behaviors that are no longer serving them. Many behaviors may have developed in childhood as a result of environmental or care-giver upbringing, thus an individual may have poor insight into how to choose a different path. An RO therapist can help OCPD clients focus on their value goals to lead a fulfilling and socially rewarding life.

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