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The Perfectionist Personality Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder



Pamela Kulbarsh, RN, BSW | Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Micromanagers exist in all professions. In law enforcement, a micromanaging supervisor is in some ways ideal considering the elements of the job. He or she will make sure you have done everything by the book, and will be there to cover you in many ways. However, the excessive control freak can cause undue stress for subordinates and may actually hinder their and everyone else's productivity, efficiency, and safety. Many micromanagers suffer from an obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). A better name for this order would be the perfectionist personality disorder. Almost 8%, or 16 million adult Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for obsessive compulsive personality disorder. OCPD occurs twice as often in men as in women

It is easy for anyone to spot a person who has OCPD, except for the person who has it. This individual relentlessly spends excessive time and energy micromanaging, compiling lists, makes rules, agendas, schematic plans, and checking for errors. They are rigidly ordered, organized, and desperately need to be in control. They demand perfection not only from themselves but also from anyone associated with them. Right and wrong is their operational motto, specifically, they are right, others are wrong. If they deem another person wrong, they often become angry, hostile, and frequently hold a grudge. They scrutinize anything and everything, paying an inordinate attention to the most minute detail. Schedules and rules become more important than the task or project. There simply is no gray in the world to someone with OCPD, only black and white. They are convinced that they are the only one to get the job done correctly, and want sole credit for the same. However, individuals with OCPD are fundamentally unable to see the trees through the forest. If you work with or for this type of perfectionist, you are probably not happy about it.

Obsessive Compulsive (Perfectionist Personality) Disorder

Getting things done correctly is paramount to people with OCPD. The driving force behind the disorder is to avoid being wrong. Perfectionists have a hard time making decisions; any bad choice could jeopardize their final project. Maintaining control is essential. They have a hard time delegating responsibilities to others, because no one can do the job as perfectly as they can. They are very demanding and controlling of insubordinates. They insist there is only one way to write a report, clean your patrol car, dry clean your uniform, mow a lawn, shop for discounts, etc. They will not allow exceptions, no matter how legitimate they may be. The term "anal retentive," as Freud first coined for people with OCPD, fits them to a T. They become very anxious in situations without clearly defined rules; these situations intensify their fears of making a mistake and consequently being punished for it. Unfortunately, people with OCPD frequently climb the supervisory ladder. They are polite to their authorities. Their supreme devotion to their career and compliance with rules is noticed by their supervisors. The chain of command either reinforces or ignores the perfectionist's style, as it appears that the individual is just being vigilant as well as reinforcing the department's or organization's commitment to excellence.

People with OCPD see the world and others as at best erratic and at worst threatening. Their view of others frequently leads to isolation, as few friends can withstand the perfectionist scrutiny. Conversations are strained because the person with OCPD clings to their own fixed beliefs related to morals, values and ethics. They are simply intolerant of beliefs that are different than their own. They see others as being incompetent, too casual, irresponsible, self-indulgent, and impulsive. They consider emotionally driven behavior immature, irresponsible, and frivolous.

OCPD should not be confused with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is an anxiety disorder that leads to preoccupations and repetitive behaviors. Obsessive compulsive personality disorder does not involve specific obsessions or compulsions. People with OCPD may engage in obsessive behaviors, but this is due to the individual's need for perfectionism and an inability to be flexible. People with OCD realize that their behaviors and thoughts are not normal. However, people with obsessive compulsive personality disorder are sure that their way of life is the correct and only way.

Symptoms and Characteristics of OCPD

A person with this personality disorder has symptoms of perfectionism that usually begin in early adulthood or late adolescence. Some of the common signs of OCPD include:

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