According to statistics, three percent of humankind suffer from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. There is eight percent of the population diagnosed with this disorder in the United States. Some symptoms of this neuropsychiatric problem are visible, others remain hidden for everybody except an individual. The reason for an ample variety of symptoms is that the manifestation of OCPD is determined by the psychological structure of each particular person. In most cases, the disorder causes repetitive actions that don’t have any real purpose. Some people with OCPD wash hands every ten minutes, others are constantly counting in their minds. Many patients become perfectionists, trying to fix everything around them and sorting all objects in a certain order. This paper focuses on the etiology of OCPD and its common symptoms. It provides the most important information about the disorder and addresses challenges that patients have to overcome in their everyday lives. Due to their attention to details and constant checking, people with OCPD often have problems with interpersonal relationships.
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How Does OCPD Relate to Over-Attention?
The behavior of an individual is affected by various neuropsychiatric factors. Over-attention ― a disorder that is associated with attention to unnecessary details, was classified as a part of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder at the beginning of the 20th century. Today we also call such a behavioral model perfectionism. To describe this disorder in details, we need to look back at the history of researches and analyze its specific characteristics.
People started studying OCPD more than a century ago. Pallanti et al. point out that the multifactorial origin of this disorder was noticed from the very beginning. According to statistics, three percent of the human population are diagnosed with OCPD, while in the US this number equals to 8%. In addition, the number of men and women diagnosed with OCPD is relatively the same in different countries, though women have twice more chances to be diagnosed with it (Samuels and Costa). In contrast, there is no relation between the age and the disorder, since it is found in both adults and children.
First researches on this disorder are dated back in 1908. The legendary psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud noticed that some his patients have similar symptoms and described behavioral patterns of patients with OCPD for the first time. There were three symptoms, such as obstinacy, parsimony, and orderliness (Samuels and Costa). Individuals pay too much attention to details and rules. They create certain limits for their activities and often devote themselves to work, trying to be especially productive. After some time, this data was used by the American Psychiatric Association that managed to classify various symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (Samuels and Costa). The symptoms of OCPD were described as inflexibility and perfectionism. Such a determination includes a wide range of different conditions presented in most cases. On the other hand, individual features of this disorder may vary.
OCPD causes a significant impact on patients’ behavior. Such an influence is often described as standards and strict rules. Patients always follow certain rules and often force others to follow them as well. Obviously, such a behavior prevents patients from the natural process of socialization. These people have their own understanding of what is right or wrong, and it unlikely can be changed. Thus, they may be intolerant towards people who don’t share their views or don’t want to act the way that patients consider the only right way.
People with OCPD are over-conscious, which is why they are very concerned about everything that happens around them. They want to have absolute control over their lives, lives of people around them, and their environment. In turn, this tendency triggers the development of numerous obsessions. These people often try to place all objects in a symmetrical order or put too much effort in their speech, trying to express every thought as clearly as possible (Markarian et al.). Patients often suffer from fears and are obsessed with aggressive or sexual images. Individuals create various obligations for themselves, thus developing systems of repetitive actions. Among the most common rituals, there are grooming procedures, bathing or constant hand washing, regular checking or counting. Many people are afraid of making a mistake which makes them check their work time after time. Other patients are afraid of bacteria so they wash their hands or take shower frequently during a day. Psychiatrists have noticed that the expression of the disorder in behavior is determined by a type of obsession.
Sometimes it’s hard to find any relation between such rituals and obsession. For example, 25% of patients don’t demonstrate extreme forms of their rituals (Markian et al.). On the other hand, some people without OCPD may have the same deviations in their behavior due to their religious beliefs or traditions and culture of their society (Pallant et al.). This fact pushes us to a conclusion that we need to use a complex approach to diagnose this disorder.
People with this kind of personality disorder often try to be the most productive in their work, which is why they are very concerned about their job, trying to be as useful as possible, all the time. To stay productive, they may give themselves not enough rest, limiting moments of pleasure and contacts with other people. Despite the fact that many people with OCPD are workaholics, their performance may be far from perfect because of their constant need for re-checking and re-doing all their work. They may pay too much attention to unnecessary details, which affects their real productivity in a bad way.
The important role of productivity in lives of people with OCPD is the reason why many psychologists studied how this disorder affects the process of education. According to Grant et al., there is a reverse relationship between the educating ability and symptoms of OCPD. People diagnosed with it spend much more time on their assignments because of their need for re-doing what has been done before and controlling each detail. They often want to do their work even better than they were asked. They spend too much time editing their papers and even miss classes. On the other hand, Samuels and Costa note that people with OCPD still can become wealthy in terms of an income, social status, etc.
OCPD is a chronic disorder yet having especially active periods that are characterized by the worsening of symptoms. People with OCPD are more exposed to stresses because they try to control their emotions. In turn, the increased level of stress leads to new neurological disorders. OCPD is often observed along with narcissistic, paranoid, and avoidant disorders of personality (Samuels and Colta). At the same time, patients rarely develop alcohol or drug addiction, though they may use both alcohol and drugs trying to cope with mood disorders. Thus, one of the most important tasks for psychiatrists and psychologists is mood stabilization.
There is a relationship between OCPD and other disorders, such as anxiety and depressive disorders. The Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorder Study revealed that patients with OCPD develop various social phobias more often. They also are prone to the major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (Samuels and Costa). Many researchers also note that the same situation is often observed with other personality disorders that are associated with the worsening of social area of life. Thus, it’s hard to determine what disorder is a cause and what is an effect. Depression may lead to OCPD as well as it can be caused by it.
The OCPD etiology includes many factors that determine the development of over-attentional behavior of an individual. According to Markarian et al, several studies proved that the corticobasal-thalamocortical loop of patients with OCPD demonstrates the increased activity. This zone of the human brain includes numerous important memory and emotional centers. At the same time, there is a decrease in activity of other parts of the brain that are responsible for problem-solving as well as for the ability to organize and plan. However, there is a need for further researches in this field.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is also associated with certain distinctive molecular processes. By looking at the molecular processes, we can see if a person suffers from over-attention. People with OCD demonstrate the increased activity of excitatory glutamatergic neurons. These neurons are located in the orbitofrontal cortex. To work with such patients, therapists often use serotonin. This hormone suppresses corresponding types of neurons and so decreases symptoms of OCPD.
Thus, the main symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are over-attention to minor details, perfectionism, and significant preoccupation. In turn, over-attention causes various additional problems ― obsessions that form distinctive patterns of behavior. People with OCPD often suffer from depression and anxiety. Analyzing results of numerous researches, we can conclude that over-attention is one of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and it is caused by molecular processes as well as by neurophysiological factors. Over-attention also increases other symptoms and worsens the overall condition of a patient. Due to unusual patterns of behavior, people with OCPD often have difficulties with their private lives and career development.