Maria is a marketing writer and published author. She writes about topics she is passionate about like mental health, travel and food.
We All Make Decisions Daily, So Why Is It Hard For Some?
Marion (whose husband has OCPD) is a friend of mine. When I saw her recently she was totally out of sorts and frustrated. I asked her what was wrong but in my mind I already knew it had to do with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. She burst into tears and said, "I thought I could handle George's obsessions and indecision but lately he seems to be getting worse, after ten years he still has not made a decision on whether to finally fix our house or sell!"
Marion and George have lived in their semi-renovated home (which George is slowly trying to complete) for over ten years. This was not the first time Marion had worried about her home and whether she would ever have a finished house. Putting my arm around Marion we discussed further why George has never been able to make decisions lightly or quickly, no matter how small.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum (AS), is a series of neurological disorders. Asperger's Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder are both forms of 'high-functioning' Autism. OCPD is part of the spectrum because of the rituals a person with the disorder may demonstrate (usually not as severe as in classic autism). These conditions affect how the brain processes information as well as moulding the emotional and communication skills needed for everyday living. A person with OCPD is obsessed with perfectionism and always wanting to perceive things to be right. Anxieties arise when they see something as wrong, trying to 'fix' it may takes days or even years. They have a preoccupation with rules, lists, details and organisation.
When people are diagnosed with autism traits it is rare to find two people who will be alike and treatment will depend on individual circumstances and behaviour. These traits are not 'curable' and how they manifest in a person's life will depend on the individuals understanding of their particular trait (if they have any understanding at all). High functioning Asperger and OCPD sufferers can lead very interesting and active lives, especially when they are part of a caring family or in an understanding relationship. They may have a tendency of being loners as they prefer their own company or prefer not to socialise due to difficulties in relating to others.
Freud called OCPD 'Anal Retentive Character'
Sigmund Freud first named OCPD in 1908 as "anal retentive character" and described the personality type as a preoccupation with orderliness, being frugal, rigid and stubborn. Since the early 1990s new research keeps emerging with the discovery that this disorder can run in families, so it is a condition that is hereditary.
George's difficulties with making decisions comes from his perfectionism trait that interferes with him completing tasks, ie to him it is never quite right or perfect. This also interferes when another person is required to help him complete a task, his fear will be that the high standards he puts on himself will not be met by the other person's idea of what is perfect.
OCPD sufferers tend to be 'control freaks' and insist on being in charge, which is another reason not to delegate tasks to others. Marion has mentioned many times in the past that George will not allow her to contact tradesmen to help with finishing the house as "she won't do it right. What does she know about renovating and building?"
This statement made Marion feel so angry she was stunned into not replying. A psychologist later informed her that it was George's way of expressing his concerns about the house, not on her actual abilities. Unfortunately OCPD does make sufferers come across as arrogant and they have no idea they are hurting another person's feelings.
"The trick is not to take comments personally," Marion told me, "it has taken me years to understand that George doesn't really mean to hurt people, the way they express their feelings and doubts is different to people without OCPD."
For this reason personal and social relationships become strained when their partners or friends try to 'help' in some way. Their beliefs of how things should be done are either right or wrong, there is no compromise and frustrations may spill over into anger and sometimes violence (although this is rare as most sufferers are passive). People like George tend to be pessimistic and may have a low underlying form of depression which could be helped with medication.
OCPD is sometimes confused with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but they are very different. People who have OCD understand that their behaviour is problematic but find it difficult to stop, however, OCPD is part of a person's personality and hence the reason they are unaware of the problems their behaviour can cause.
Marion is a friendly, generally easy going person and had she not been this type of character her marriage to George would have ended long ago. The rigidity and indecisiveness of George's character needs someone with an even temperament, someone who is able to 'let things go' and be there for the OCPD sufferer if and when needed.
This is not to say that there a times when Marion becomes so frustrated she that cannot let things go but thankfully these times do pass. Many of the decisions George makes are done after consulting Marion, even if he doesn't listen to her opinion, discussing the problem seems to help him to make a final decision. Talking about an issue, even for months on end, does eventually help OCPDers make decisions.
Some Signs To Look Out For When Diagnosing OCPD
Here's a list of traits a person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder may demonstrate -
- Difficulty relaxing.
- Only their way of doing things with no compromise.
- Will always find something wrong with other peoples' work.
- Takes a ridiculous amount of time to make a decision, even with small matters.
- Won't change their mind once a decision has been made.
- Will not answer questions with a simple 'yes' or 'no'.
- Attention to detail is obsessive.
- Their moral code is black and white. Again there is no compromise.
- A hoarder, never throws anything out no matter how old or of no value.
- Prefer to do things by themselves, even if they need help they won't ask.
- Will organise a task meticulously then may not complete the actual task.
- Appearance is usually neat, tidy and conservative.
- May have a robotic, unemotional voice.
- Meetings become stilted as this person will delay decisions until more information is collected.
- Monetary issues border on frugal, even if money is not an issue.
- Control issues cause anxiety and depression.
Cognitive therapy, some medications and a lot of understanding do help sufferers to cope and a visit to a GP is a good way to start a plan of action.
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
Relationships can be difficult at the best of times, so people like Marion cope a little better by trying to learn all they can about the disorder to help their relationship run a little smoother. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or relationship but when your partner thinks everything they do is right, there are bound to be more problems than usual.
If you find yourself in a situation where you're not coping with what is happening in your relationship contact a support group to help, don't try to solve serious relationship issues on your own.
In Australia you can contact:
- Welcome to Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is the leading provider of autism-specific services in Australia, building partnerships with people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, their families and the community to provide information, services, learning and res
This is how a person with OCPD behaves.
Disclaimer: This article is information only. Consult a mental health practitioner if you are worried about someone who is showing signs of distress with every day life.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Maria Giunta
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on July 06, 2012:
Grace thank you for your comment but it is a story I hear often. I'm sorry your relationship didn't work out but OCPD sufferers are very rigid in their thinking, and yes you may love him, but your life will be so much less stressful without him.
I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Grace on July 04, 2012:
I was in a relationship with an ocpd sufferer for two years... Needless to say, it ended a week ago and I feel as though I need counseling as a result of my relationship with him. He convinced me that his irrational behavior was in our best interest and that every problem we had was my fault, I never did anything right in his eyes. He told me in the beginning that he had ocpd... All of the research in the world could not have prepared me for a life with him... I love him to pieces but he needs help... Hopeless
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on June 04, 2012:
Thanks for your comment andersonliz. Take care of yourself and try not to worry about things too much.
andersonliz from Iowa on June 03, 2012:
Great hub! I have had OCD since I was 5 years old and it was much worse when I was younger. I have a much stronger hold on it now, luckily, but I worry it will get worse. Thanks for spreading awareness.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on February 04, 2011:
Hi again Mrs JB. Marion was indeed selfless throughout her marriage, I witnessed it. Unfortunately late last year she did finally leave George, it all became too much. There is a hub about the split.
Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on February 04, 2011:
Good Morning: I really loved the hub. I was so blown away at our having OCPD can disrupt every life.
As for Marion she is truly a remarkable woman. Many would have as you stated left by now. However Marion is selfless, kind, loving and patient. Which are outstanding qualities in any person. George is a very lucky man.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on February 03, 2011:
I'm not sure whether you mean you loved the content in the hub or the condition? I think it might be the content, right? OCPD is a very limiting condition and for the loved ones who have to live with a person who has it, it can be very trying.
Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on February 03, 2011:
Very informative and so interesting. I loved it
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on November 30, 2010:
Hi SG, it fascinates me as well. Thanks for helping me share the awareness of OCPD and Austism.
Sunnyglitter from Cyberspace on November 29, 2010:
Mental illness fascinates me. Great article on OCPD.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on November 19, 2010:
Thanks for passing by again kathryn. Mental disorders such as OCPD, OCD and autism are very complex and need more clarification from experts.
If anyone suspects their loved one suffers a mental condition they must seek a diagnosis before doing anything else. A trip to your GP would be the first step.
kathryn1000 from London on November 19, 2010:
I read it again and it is very informative and clear.Thank uoi
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on October 27, 2010:
We should all make the most of what we are given but when mental illness is an issue it can impact on your life. OCPD sufferers don't realise they have a problem, it is usually the people close to them who suffer. Thanks for your comment dawnM.
Dawn Michael from THOUSAND OAKS on October 27, 2010:
Great information MPG and such a complex disorder. For me working with people for years with many problems, it is so hard to really define the problem into a diagnosis, because of all of the associate disorder that can go along with ocd just as you stated with autism. Another complex problem to treat is ADHD and OCD because when taking the stimulant medication for ADHD it can make the OCD worse. So what I say is forget what you have and lasts just make through each day and make the next one better than the last......lol
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on October 05, 2010:
Hi Alison, thanks for reading. Yes, OCD is mistaken for OCPD quite often and some of the traits do overlap, the biggest difference is that OCPD is a personality disorder more than an anxiety disorder. The person doesn't acknowledge they have a problem, they believe everyone else is the problem. Can be very frustrating to live with.
Alison Graham from UK on October 05, 2010:
I found this hub fascinating and like Pamela99, recognize some of those traits in myself! I love the way you used the story of George and Marion to illustrate your points. I must admit that I started reading the hub because I did not know that OPCD was different from OCD - I am glad to have learned the difference from reading your hub.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 25, 2010:
Thanks for sharing your story mega1. OCD is often confused with OCPD which is actually similar to Aspergers - confused yet?
Humour does help with anxiety and there is nothing wrong with being eccentric, I know many people who are and they are very interesting. Have a read of my other hubs on Aspergers.
Parenthood, a new show by Ron Howard, has just started her in Australia and it tackles the difficult subject of Aspergers. It's a good show to watch as it tackles other parenting issues as well.
mega1 on August 25, 2010:
This is a great hub, very informative. I have OCD but I know what is going on with me, and though I can't change my habits and the things I do that drive people nuts, I at least know I am doing them and can warn people and let them know what I'm doing. Anxiety is my middle name. The anxiety we OCD's feel gets so intense it is physically disabling. It is also not recognized very often as disabling, so that all my life I have had to take many extra steps to do the simplest things. The good part about it is that I have learned to laugh and have a sense of humor and that is about the only thing that saves me! People often just think I am eccentric, because I can make jokes. I am not familiar with Aspergers, but I am reading about it now. Thanks for opening up this subject.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on July 09, 2010:
There is so much misunderstanding with OCPD and Aspergers as there is with many mental conditions. Glad to hear I'm able to clear things up a little. Thanks 2uesday.
2uesday on July 09, 2010:
I never knew until I read this that two conditions existed with such similar names and the differences. I like the way this is written so that the information in it is easy to understand. Good article.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on April 10, 2010:
Good point, De Greek. Apparently he needed a little push though!
De Greek from UK on April 06, 2010:
But if he chose Marion as his wife, he actually made a decision and perhaps Marion should look at it as great compliment since presumably she also wanted to marry him. Some sacrifice against a life changing decision? :-)
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on March 17, 2010:
People with OCPD do not like change at all so it would be futile for Marion to even try. As with all marriages there are good and bad parts to their relationship and Marion now knows how to handle George's quirky behaviour which does make her life much easier. Thanks for your thoughts CMHypno.
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on March 17, 2010:
Interesting Hub on OCPD, MPG Narratives. Your friend Marion must be very patient and it must be really stressful for her at times as she knows that she cannot change George, so it is something she will always have to deal with. Fascinating Hub.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on March 05, 2010:
People with OCPD are born with the condition but OCD can develop later in life. Both conditions have low self esteem issues. Thanks for the comment marco.
marcofratelli from Australia on March 05, 2010:
I know someone who is a little bit OCD. She keeps a diary with a list of tasks she needs to do, she feels lost without it. I think part of that is that she has a fear she will forget to do something and has anxieties related to that. She developed it after a failed long term relationship but I can't remember the exact details. I suppose things like that can impact your life. Great hub.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on March 04, 2010:
Pamela and Sage, thanks for your comments. 'character flaws'... maybe just 'character differences', but relaxation is always good Pamela. I find George a lovely person but a little rigid at times and I guess living with him Marion knows what to do (or not) as well.
Sage Williams on March 04, 2010:
I once had a client who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, you pretty much describe him to a tee.
He was a really wonderful person, although he could be challenging at time I always enjoyed his company. We had a lot of fun and worked well together. Somehow, I instinctively knew what to do and what not to do.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2010:
Very interesting hub. I relate to some of those character flaws and I guess a few more relaxation times would be in order.