OCD Versus OCPD: What's The Difference?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a commonly recognized illness, though many people may not be quite clear on the disorder's symptoms and presentations (per the American Psychiatric Association). When most people mention the term OCD, it's likely that images of obsessive hand washing, light flickering, counting, and other seemingly pointless repetitive behaviors being acted out are what come to mind. However, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a complex disorder, which often leaves its patients with difficulties navigating through normal, daily, functions in the same manner as their neurotypical counterparts.

Moreover, the sensationalization and dramatization of disorders, like OCD, in popular television series and movies often creates further confusion or misinformation about how the illness manifests or presents itself. For example, many individuals may misuse the term OCD as a way to categorize a singular, obsessive tendency, such as needing to double-check the front-door lock prior to bed or preferring organized closets by size, color, and season (via Chicago Counseling Center). OCPD, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, is often confused for OCD as a result. While the two disorders do share traits and elements in their names, they are vastly different issues.

Differences between OCD and OCPD

The first distinguishing difference between OCD and OCPD is how the disorders are classified. OCD is classified as a mental illness, according to WebMD. The illness is characterized by the presence of unwanted obsessions and compulsions. Though the obsessions and compulsions associated with OCD can be challenging, it is often more difficult for the individual to stop engaging in the behaviors or thought patterns. Similarly, individuals with OCD are often aware or suspect that the obsessions and compulsions are not realistic or appropriate for the situation (via BetterHelp).

OCPD, however, is characterized as a personality disorder and most are not aware of their obsessive behaviors (via WebMD). Personality disorders are patterns of behavior and thinking that are exhibited long-term rather than appearing episodic. The symptoms and experiences are associated with elements of personality, such as obsessive fixations towards rules or an inclination to hoard things. Thinking patterns for individuals with OCPD tend to be very inflexible, for example, adhering strictly to rules or schedules and not allowing time for leisurely activities, as explained by PsychCentral.

Some additional difference between the disorders

Another distinguishing factor between these two disorders is the symptoms and how these symptoms present in each disorder. Individuals diagnosed with OCD are likely to have compulsions and obsessions that include upsetting thoughts and images (per PsychCentral). These persistent and unwanted experiences are often brought on or exacerbated by fear, anxiety, or stress. Additionally, the presentation of these symptoms for individuals with OCD often creates distress as they are not desirable. For social relationships, individuals with OCD can struggle to have meaningful relationships as a result of their compulsions and obsessions, as explained by TalkSpace.

For individuals with OCPD, the obsessive behavior most often stems from a desire for perfectionism in all things (via TalkSpace). Being a personality disorder, OCPD is a disorder where an individual's behaviors and thoughts are obsessive regarding their need for control and perfection. As PsychCentral explains, for OCPD, there are no compulsions or obsessions. Moreover, individuals with OCPD are likely to appear as motivated, organized, and diligent workers who are focused and efficient. Yet, they struggle with social interactions, engagement, and relationships due to their need for control, rigid adherence to scheduling and rules, and over-critical analysis of their partners, according to PsychCentral.