What Is a Compulsive Personality?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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A compulsive personality is generally considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). This type of personality disorder is often considered similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), because many of its manifestations are the same. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, however, is said to differ from obsessive-compulsive disorder in that people with OCD typically experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts and ideas, which can cause a great deal of anxiety. Persons with OCD generally realize that these fearful thoughts are irrational, and therefore they typically understand that they are in need of psychological help. Persons with OCPD, on the other hand, generally feel a desperate need to maintain control over their lives by adhering strictly to a set of personal beliefs, which they normally believe to be correct and justifiable.

People with OCPD generally begin to manifest the symptoms of a compulsive personality as young adults. They are often perfectionistic in nature, and may hold themselves and others to impossibly high standards. People with this type of personality often live their lives according to inflexibly ordered routines, and may become frustrated or upset if those routines are broken. Those suffering from OCPD may have trouble making decisions and completing tasks, because they feel a strong need for perfection in everything they do, and yet find themselves unable to achieve that perfection. They often have trouble expressing affection or coping with strong emotions, like anger, and may therefore find interpersonal relationships unstable and difficult to maintain.


Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder generally contributes to a set of often ritualized, compulsive behaviors similar to those that typically accompany obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition to an often extreme and debilitating devotion to perfectionism, the person with OCPD may exhibit extreme ordering and hoarding behaviors. Many persons suffering from OCPD seem excessively concerned about the positioning of objects in the home. Objects in cabinets, cupboards, closets and elsewhere are generally arranged in a neat, geometrically aligned fashion, where the even distribution of space between objects may be taken into account. Sufferers of this personality disorder may spend excessive amounts of time arranging their possessions into the "right" position.

The tendency to hoard items, particularly items that have no further use, may be another symptom of a compulsive personality. People who engage in obsessive hoarding behaviors often have a strong belief that nothing should be wasted, or they may sincerely feel that the hoarded items will again be useful one day.

This type of personality disorder is generally considered easier to treat than other types of personality disorders, because its sufferers are less likely to indulge in substance abuse and other typical behaviors of disordered personalities. OCPD can, however, be very difficult to treat, because its sufferers generally fail to recognize that their behavior is disordered. For the most part, they think of themselves as behaving correctly.


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