What is the Difference Between OCD and OCPD?

Anxiety Disorder vs. Personality Disorder

Woman in kitchen with OCD. Credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) sound like basically the same thing, and while they do share similarities, there are many differences.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD consists of two components: obsessive thinking, which is thinking too much about things, and compulsive actions, something you do to stop the obsessive thinking. 

The textbook example is someone who compulsively washes their hands.

This person may obsess about germs or dirt. In order to stop these thoughts, they wash their hands. When the thoughts return, they wash their hands again. These compulsive actions can become ritualized. For example, some people with OCD may believe that they must turn the light switch off exactly seven times in order to be certain that it is really off.

Treatment for OCD

OCD is treated with antidepressants and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, often both. Exposure therapy has been found to be especially helpful in treating OCD.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder looks entirely different from OCD at first glance. Typical symptoms include:

  • Being excessively fixated with lists, rules and details
  • Being inflexible when it comes to rules, morals or ethical codes
  • Having a sense of perfectionism that is so great, it interferes with completing tasks
  • Being obsessed with work and working so much that it interferes with relationships and social activities
  • An inability to be generous
  • Hoarding

Like all personality disorders, OCPD can be thought of as an extreme exaggeration of a certain personality style. Many of us likely know someone who is somewhat like this.

It's only a personality disorder when it is so extreme that it interferes with daily life.

Treatment for OCPD

Treatment for OCPD is similar to the treatment for OCD and may include antidepressants, psychotherapy and relaxation exercises.

Comparing OCD and OCPD

If you look hard, you can see why OCD and OCPD have similar names. Both involve the tendency to obsess and to act compulsively. OCD is an illness that can develop at different points in life. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder must have begun by early adulthood. It refers to a deeply embedded personality style, rather than to a set of acute symptoms that get in the way.

OCPD Has Some Positive Aspects

Having some obsessive-compulsive personality traits can pay off. Students and employees who are "excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships" can be very productive. This productivity is rewarded by good grades, pay raises and advancement at work. Other aspects of life can suffer, however, if things are not in balance.

The Differences Between OCD and OCPD

Perhaps the biggest difference between OCD and OCPD is that while people with OCD do not want to have the troubling thoughts they have and realize that those thoughts are irrational and unreasonable, those with OCPD believe their thinking and behavior is perfectly rational. This shows a lack of insight into the severity of the problem.

Other differences include:

  • While the thoughts, fears and behaviors that people with OCD typically deal with don't have much to do with reality, those with OCPD are fixated on everyday rules, functions and order
  • OCD affects everything in the sufferer's life, including work/school, relationships and functioning, while OCPD tends to only affect interpersonal relationships
  • Many people with OCPD don't think they need treatment, whereas people with OCD often realize they need help to deal with the overwhelming thoughts and disrupting compulsions


"Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder." International OCD Foundation (2010).

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