Difference between OCD and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder and OCPD, or obsessive compulsive personality disorder are often confused with each other. Some of the symptoms characteristic to each of the disorders are very similar. However, professional psychologists describe differences between the two types of personality disorders. We will explore these differences in this article.


Frequent, repetitive handwashing may be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, belongs to a group of anxiety disorders. It is characterized by an excessive urge to check out certain things.  A person with OCD is excessively worried that the things he just settled may go off-balance again, so he needs to “get things straight” over and over, even if in reality they need not to be straightened out. The routines associated with OCD are rather normal, for example, hand washing or checking up missed calls on one’s mobile phone. What is abnormal is an excessive worry associated with these routines and constant urge to repeat “checking” procedures again and again. It is not necessary to thoroughly wash your hands every 10 minutes, yet people with OCD often do just that. Obsessive compulsive disorder is accompanied by some physical symptoms typical for anxiety disorders, such as increased heart rate and sweating, but otherwise OCD is rarely physically harmful for a person.

People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder may face horrific intrusive thoughts

OCPD, or obsessive compulsive personality disorder, is considered by most professional psychologists to be a mental illness. OCPD is vaguely defined in terms of the symptoms, causes and treatments, yet there are distinct cases and patterns that suggest OCPD. These patterns include excessively controlling behavior, unrealistic perfectionism focused on specific things, the desire to fix minor issues even at the expense of missing bigger issues.  A popular application of OCPD is workaholism. People with OCPD are often called “control freaks” for a good reason. They would rarely delegate an important task to someone else; or any task for that matter. Because of the constant urge to reach perfection, an individual with OPCD rarely can feel at ease. One is always “on edge.” Most infamous dictators and many prominent film and music stars have been subject to OCPD. Symptoms of OCPD are very similar to those of Asperger’s syndrome and include constant rechecking of details; “listomania” and overall rigid adhering to a set of rules, even though the rules most of the time are set by the person himself. Individuals with OCPD often “see” visions of horrible nightmarish things that may happen to them, should they stop close adherence to the object of their obsession.

Comparison chart

Individuals with OCD may feel guilty Individuals with OCPD never feel guilty
OCD causes stress OCPD persons rarely feel stressed
Actions performed in order to overcome anxiety Actions performed in order to reach perfection
Actions associated with OCD take up significant time Actions associated with OCPD are not time-consuming for a person
People with OCD are aware that their compulsions are unreasonable People with OCPD honestly believe that things they are doing are reasonable

OCD vs Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

What is the difference between OCD and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder? Let’s compare them by the feeling of guilt they cause, by the stress they cause, by the relation to anxiety, by the time-consuming factor and by the way they are reflected inside a person’s mind.

  • People with obsessive compulsive disorder are usually aware they are sick, and the actions associated with the disorder make them feel guilty. On the other hand, people with obsessive compulsive personality disorder never feel guilt or shame for their actions. For example, an obsessive-compulsive professor who is always checking time may say to the audience: “I am sorry, but I just need to constantly check the time.” A professor with OCPD would never say that. Instead he thinks that he is the master of time.
  • Individuals experiencing obsessive compulsive disorder find the applications of the disorder stressful. They are not happy about their obsessive habits. Persons with obsessive compulsive personality disorder are never stressed. They think that their obsession is a necessary part of the bigger plan, so there is no need to worry; it pays.
  • OCD is usually compounded with a number of other disorders connected with anxiety. Compulsive actions, in fact, make people with OCD slightly reduce overall anxiety levels. For example, a person with OCD may check and re-check the to-do list for a day every five minutes because she thinks that she has forgotten something important; and checking makes her less anxious. People with OCPD, on the other hand, are not subjected to any excessive worries. Their future is in their hands, and all the obsessive-compulsive things they are doing are only making the future successes more feasible.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder is time-consuming. Obsessions are constantly creating tasks that must be done and it takes time to complete them. One may think of OCD as a “second job” for a person suffering from it. At the end of the day, an individual with OCD regrets that she spent so much time doing useless things she couldn’t help but doing. Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, on the other hand, is more of an integral component of a person suffering from it. It is never time-consuming, since the obsessions and compulsions in OCPD case are related to the whole way of living of a person and, therefore, time spent doing obsessive-compulsive tasks is never an issue.


In this video Dr. Harry Croft explains the difference between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: