OCD vs OCPD: Restoring Our Imagination and Heart

One of the most frustrating things about having extremely high standards is feeling like nothing is ever done as well as it could be. It is exactly this frustration that I experienced when I first looked for information on OCPD after I was diagnosed with it. No matter how much I researched, I found nothing that could fully satisfy my longing to understand and better myself. I decided to take matters into my own hands.

For an entire year now, I have been filling in the missing pieces of this highly misunderstood and overpathologized personality type. In a year’s time, my unconventional way of looking at this condition has attracted many loyal readers, encouraged people to give their marriage another chance, and saved people from committing suicide. This blog is now the #1 online self-help resource for OCPD and it appears as one of the first search results for “OCPD” on Google.

As a lover of psychology who studies this subject for fun, I also happen to come across other “disorders” and “illnesses.” Like the information out there on OCPD, I cannot help but think that so much is missing. My mind then begins to question and wrestle with conflicting theories until I find the one that makes the most sense. After much questioning and wrestling, I now feel ready to share my own personal (and very different) theory about the real difference between OCD and OCPD.

People with OCD are gifted with a huge imagination. People with OCPD are gifted with a huge heart.

OCD vs OCPD
First things first – there is nothing wrong with you and there is nothing missing in your brain!

SHARED CAUSE

Anxiety
Most of the information out there will emphasize that OCD is an anxiety disorder while OCPD is a personality disorder. I do not think such distinction really matters. I believe it is quite simple: both OCD and OCPD are caused by the anxiety that comes with being highly sensitive.

Thinking/Learning Style
Both OCD and OCPD come from being extremely “left-brained.” This “auditory-sequential” linear thinking/learning style draws many people with OCD and OCPD toward facts, details, rules, routines, efficiency, order, cleanliness, organization, linear processing, logic, etc.

DIFFERENTIATING FACTOR

Dominant Overexcitability
Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas of “overexcitabilities:” psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. OCD happens as a result of a dominant imaginational overexcitability while OCPD happens as a result of a dominant emotional overexcitability. In other words, people with OCD have a HUGE imagination and people with OCPD have a HUGE heart.

GIFT VS CURSE

Possessing extreme sensitivity in one area can be both a gift and a curse. When a person with OCD is not overwhelmed, his or her imagination can greatly enrich his or her own life, the lives of others, and assist in problem-solving. The same goes for people with OCPD and their emotions. Unfortunately, it is exactly these areas of extreme sensitivity that also betray them the most. People with OCD can imagine extremely disturbing events and consequences that most people cannot imagine with the same intensity. People with OCPD can feel extremely disturbing emotions that most people cannot feel with the same intensity. I am in no way suggesting that OCDers and OCPDers “make up” what they imagine and feel. They do not conveniently choose the thoughts/emotions that enter their imagination/heart.

WRONG LESSON LEARNED

The very first thought that enters the mind of people with OCD and OCPD upon feeling overwhelmed by their dominant overexcitability is “I feel very uncomfortable. This thought/feeling cannot be right. How do I get rid of this immediately?” Without the right kind of parenting and counselling from childhood, people with OCD and OCPD teach themselves from a very early age the wrong lesson that they must get rid of their imagination/emotions altogether. After seeing the positive results of their self-taught strategies, they repeat those strategies over and over again until those strategies become compulsions and addictions.

OCD COPING STRATEGIES

Fear of the unknown can come with having such a huge imagination. One way people with OCD attempt to eliminate this fear is by turning the unknown into the known through checking. Another way people with OCD attempt to eliminate this fear is by working hard at doing everything possible to prevent the unknown from ever happening. Lastly, many people with OCD distract themselves from their fear of the unknown through hyper-focusing on an activity (quite often one that requires extreme attention to detail) that takes their mind off of their imagination.

OCPD COPING STRATEGIES

Fear of emotions can come with being so emotionally sensitive. Most of the coping strategies of people with OCPD are aimed at removing emotions altogether. Whenever negative emotions are present, people with OCPD do whatever they can to avoid feeling them. They often think their way out of their emotions and exercise all kinds of psychological strategies in their head to comfort themselves. A great deal of energy is also invested into the prevention of future negative emotions. Lastly, many people with OCPD participate in distracting activities that drown their difficult emotions.

WHEN THE CURSE WINS…

When the curse wins, both groups live with a high level of anxiety for the majority of their existence. Both groups never experience a minute of peace in their respective areas of sensitivity. When their anxiety gets really bad, neither group can get through the day, no matter how much time and energy they spend on their coping strategies. Even if both groups find a way to get through the day, most of them are left with their dominant overexcitability so dulled that they never reach their potential in creativity or empathy. The inability to imagine also affects relationships differently than the inability to feel. While relationships can get by without imagination, not many relationships can function without emotions. Consequently, many people with OCPD still have extreme difficulty in their interpersonal relationships.

WHEN THE GIFT WINS…

You most definitely can turn both OCD and OCPD into gifts! When you do, life becomes so exciting. You no longer are pushed to do things out of fear, but you are pulled to do things out of joy. Your sensitivity adds to your life. Your dreams, imagination, and emotions inspire you. People with OCPD who have their gift for empathy restored can experience intimacy in relationships like no one else can. People with OCPD can experience compassion for entire nations of the world and be selfless enough to give up their life for the benefit of others.

You are going to be just fine! Now go ahead and experience your imagination and emotions. :)

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30 thoughts on “OCD vs OCPD: Restoring Our Imagination and Heart

  1. I am really happy I get to read your writings Dan. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. I am very happy for you :) Also envious : >

  3. Joel Smith says:

    My wife has both ocd and ocpd , she has so many cleaning rituals and everything must be done her way . My son and I are living pure HELL !!! She refuses to get any help because she says the things she does have to be done . We can’t stand how she is always says how much smarter she is than us . Our lives SUCK !!!!

    • Daniel Kim says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Joel. I hope your wife can get over her anxieties.

      • ruined life says:

        Daniel – OCPD is not a gift. It is not admirable. You are trying to justify your condition with this blog. Please get some professional help.

      • Daniel Kim says:

        Am I “trying to justify” the condition by encouraging those with it to remain as they are? or do I provide realistic examples of how the condition hurts people with OCPD as well as their loved ones, draw a picture of what it looks like when they overcome all of their anxieties, and then encourage people with OCPD to change? Maybe it works for you, but I have found that pointing out people’s weaknesses and telling them that something is wrong with them is not a very effective way to motivate people, especially people who are sensitive to criticism.
        And yes, I love getting help, including “professional” help. I’ve been getting professional help for quite some time now. You should open your mind and try it out some time too :) Looking at your name, looks like you might need it more than I do.

    • Xareth says:

      Hi Joel. Omg you poor things I can really relate to what you must be going through. I have to work with someone like this and it is driving me insane so I can’t imagine what torture it would be living with someone like this. Xareth

  4. Rhiannon says:

    Finally! A place where I can feel at home! Bless you Dan! (!!! so much excitement)

  5. Chris K says:

    How do I make things easier with a close relative who is making my life hell? She is obsessed with cleaning and routines and wants me to adhere to her rules. I try to be nice but end up with not being able to talk to her and I am accused of being paranoid. It’s a no win situation.

    • Daniel Kim says:

      Openly communicate with her in a sensitive manner (so that she does not get defensive and focus on protecting herself but rather hear your heart) about how bad you feel when she does _______. She may then give you all kinds of reasons. Tell her that it still hurts you, despite all those reasons. If she really cares about you, she will realize that her ways are hurting the people around her and she may be moved to make a change. Whatever she may accuse you of, your hurt is still valid. Keep on sharing how it hurts.

  6. Christy says:

    My son was just diagnosed with OCPD and so far you are the only person who has helped me understand how he is feeling. I feel that with this knowledge both of us can help him more.
    Thanks ^_^

  7. Doha Mohamed says:

    Great……….. Really

  8. Hamad says:

    Thank you Kim for these supportive idea you are giving from a OCPD guy.
    It’s 3 years now since I have been diagnosed with OCPD but still struggling to palliative the negative feeling and anxiety attack.

    Reading your blogs relief some stress, but still looking for become OCPD free.

    I believe that OCPD is a gift, but most of the time it affect my happiness and push me to the Frustration and depression.

  9. gracie says:

    Daniel,

    I am fascinated by your analysis of OCPD, I had a boy friend of two and half years. He never came to a point in his life to propose to a woman due to fear of making mistakes and fear of the unknown. I broke up for we would not have future in marriage. However, I realized that I still love him even if we never get married. I initiated reconciliation process, but he is very hesitant to get back with me. He says he still loves me and thinks about me daily. He is in “inaction” mode and I don’t know what else to do. Oh, he does not know he has OCPD. I also would like to help him face his fear and be liberated from anxiety, fear and control if we ever get back together. Your advice is greatly appreciated!

    • Oksana says:

      I am exactly in the same situation! what have you done?

    • Janet says:

      I read the book Too Perfect when being in control gets out of control. I am in a similar situation. We broke up and he will call me when it doesn’t hurt so much. I left him the book and hopeful he will read it. He is 49 and I cant believe nobody has realized something deep is going on with him. I wish you all the best * HOPE * FAITH * LOVE LOVE LOVE *

  10. Cailyn says:

    I’m 14 and I have OCD. The whole time reading this I was thinking “I know what that’s like” and I don’t really think many people understand the thoughts we get and experience. So thank you for writing this I’m certain it will help a lot of people. P.S could you follow me back on twitter (@LCailyn)

  11. Wow…I found you by “accident” from a link on LA Music Blog that writer John Flanagan posted (with your 2012 Pop Danthology video…which was so brilliantly pieced together I had to find out more about the man who put it together…you!). As I read your blog, it made me smile. I’ve had severely supressed OCD for most of my life (I’m 51 now). My adoptive mom was very organized and structured, and we pretty much did things her way, with the appearance of being quite “functional.” Inside I was dying. I yearned to be creative with visual arts, music, performing, but my creativity was so pushed down because I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t perfect, and I couldn’t make it perfect so I didn’t do it…which led me to believe that I actually was not creative, because I wasn’t creating, so I must not be creative! Ha Cruel circular thinking. It led to never finishing anything that was of my own volition (be it getting my college degree, my website, my artwork, my…you name it) and only finishing things for others because “I had to!” I couldn’t let anyone else down, but it became my expectation to never complete things of my own (of course, I’d never find them perfect enough to consider them finished! LOL).

    I get so perfectionistic about how things need to be clean, and frustrated that they can’t be with my scattered husband & kids (crazy how we are all this way…right?), that I gave up completely on even trying to clean and have a nice home to enjoy. If it can’t be perfect, then it’s going to be a “perfect mess!” Consequently, a whole lot of depression comes with it.

    It’s been 50 years of frustration, with glimmers of my “gift” coming out for short times, only to run for cover at the first sign of “see, you should have known you couldn’t do it” thoughts. I’m going to read through more of your posts & blogs. I actually feel hopeful, and somewhat understood. I can never explain how I feel in a way that “normal” people understand, although I still believe that people like us ARE normal, as are people with all of the other so-called disorders. The tag of “disorder” should be removed from all of them. It’s mean and it’s wrong. Or else we need to give that small group of self-proclaimed normal people (who get to do all of the labeling) their own label…something like Typically Uninteresting Disorder. TUD!!! I like that!! :)

    I don’t believe I found you by accident. I was meant to find you. I owe a thank you to John Flanagan…an excellent writer & incredibly talented singer in his own right, by the way. I’m looking forward to pouring through your work & links, probable rather obsessively! :)

    Bless you for researching, sharing and being so incredibly kind to even the people who are leaving unkind comments (because of your gift of empathy and compassion, no doubt)!

  12. Martin says:

    All my life i have had to deal with anxiety, depression, social phobia/anxiety etc etc… Recently i was referred for an Aspergers assessment which i don’t think is my issue… It did turn out that i have Autistic/Aspergers tendencies and OCD traits… I have also been recently referred to a psychiatrist after walking out of about my 60 job… In our first session during our discussion he mentioned the word Anankastic and also in a session a few weeks later… I started to do my own research as at this point in time my demons are winning and i want to start and take control… I came across Anankastic Personality Disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) The more research i did the more convinced i became that this is what i am dealing with… People often say if i had a super power it would be empathy, i seem to see and feel things that others miss… At one point i even started studying for an MA in Movement Psychotherapy, but my thoughts and feelings even made that impossible for me…

    I’m not listing all the symptoms of OCPD, but from what i have researched so far i seem to tick every box… I have another appointment with my psychiatrist and psychologist soon and really would like to discuss this further with them… I have written to my psychiatrist about my thoughts as i am so convinced that after many many years of being pushed around the system then just being left to cope alone with no real answers that now i have seen the light… I’m a little scared of coming across as an attention seeker and feel a little uncomfortable about discussing it with my psychiatrist…

    Below i have written a short history of what i go through…

    Hi my name is martin i am 42 years old i was born on Christmas eve 1970. I was always a quiet and shy child i didn’t have many friends and didn’t do too well at school. School wasn’t a good place for me especially high school i spent most of my day just trying to fade into the background… I finished high school with just a few poor cse grades and a CPVE after attending the 6th form. I always wanted to be an actor so i went on to do a pre foundation drama course at Rotherham college it turned out to be one of the best years of my life. There i met Jo, Wendy and Jonathan friends that are still a part of my life today. While at Rotherham college i took up contemporary dance as a GCSE it soon took over my life, i guess as a shy individual the chance to express myself without having to talk was perfect. During my time at Rotherham college i secretly went and auditioned for The Northern School Of Contemporary Dance. Well i thought it was a secret, but half way through the audition Johnathan turned up to support me. By this time in a kind of way i knew that i had got in then when i finally got the good news i just cried.

    I started my professional dance training quiet late at the age of 18 training at The Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. I studied various dance techniques including Graham, Cunningham and Classical Ballet. I graduated from the NSCD in 1992 leaving in 1993 after completing a 4th year. My time at Northern was undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences of my life. While at Northern i started to suffer constant depression and anxiety which would later have a major effect on my life. After my training I went on to work with various dance companies and dance artists including – Kontack Dance, Moving East Dance Company, Matthew Hawkins and the Fresh Dancers Group, Jannet Smith, Power/Henson and many more…As a professional dancer i also choreographed and performed my own work developing new choreographic ideas many of my ideas came straight out of my feelings of depression and anxiety. I became injured early in my career then eventually i had to stop dancing.

    I started to suffer more and more from depression etc it even ended a relationship and i have never been in a formal relationship since 1995. I was finally diagnosed with a sever mixed neurotic disorder with elements of social phobia/anxiety, depression, OCD and mild elements of eating disorder which led me to being hospitalised on various occasions on one occasion i was in hospital for nearly two months. After being in hospital on this occasion i was due to move into supported living, but in the end i couldn’t face it.

    I now teach dance classes to all ages and abilities currently working freelance. I run my own dance group – Dance DONANCE constantly developing new dance ideas through technique classes and creative sessions. My vision for the group is to make it accessible to dancers of all ages and abilities, working with adults who have learning disabilities and mental health needs and producing dance work of an exceptional standard.

    I am currently studying an MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy at the University of Derby.
    On completion of the MA I will be accredited by ADMP (Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy). I will then be licenced to work in a variety of fields including education, health, forensic and private practice.

    I am no longer teaching or on the MA after walking out of both…

    All my life since i can remember i have suffered from anxiety/depression and in the mid 90s i was diagnosed with a mixed severe neurotic disorder which includes the above, OCD, elements of eating disorder etc… I am currently taking Citalopram and Diazepam, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be working. I have had between 40-60 jobs in my life and i have walked out of every one due to my problems. The length of time i am able to function in a job is getting less and less and is now at the point were i get a job either walk out in the first week or so or not even turn up. I find it very difficult being around people and people are the main source of my anxiety. I have had treatment in the past in many forms even been on sickness benefit about 4 years ago. People around me feel that i have been misdiagnosed and may suffer from bi polar disorder or some kind of personality disorder. I have recently been diagnosed both dyslexic and dyspraxic which dose answerer some questions about my thinking and processing patterns. I feel that i am an intelligent person, but i cant go through life walking out of jobs and being anxious and paranoid around people. I even have moments were i feel suicidal. My local council are aware that i am having problems and I have been getting support from there safeguarding lead. On one occasion they were so worried that they visited my flat escorted by police as they thought I may be neglecting myself and in danger of self harm or something. I am only now picking myself up a little. I feel that i am unable to work and want some answers as to what is going on with me. I feel that health professionals have failed me and not supported me to get a proper diagnosis and the right support and as a result i just can’t seem to cope with life. If it wasn’t for my dog I’m sure that i would have ended my life by now. I just want answers and support. I feel that it is obvious that work isn’t right for me at the moment and hasn’t been for many years as i have walked out of every job that i have ever had from the age of 16. If i didn’t want to work i wouldn’t have had and applied for so many jobs. I think i have been miss diagnosed and need and want answers as to what is going on with me.

    I could say so much about what effects me and how I feel, but it always seems to come down to being affected by everyone around me. I seem to see and feel everything people do. I am affected by the smallest gesture or comment which ultimately always ends up with me walking out of my job or away from a situation due to not being able to cope. I feel there needs to be an order to things and things need to have an immediate resolve. Anything unexpected causes anxiety even unscheduled activities. I don’t use public transport due to feeling anxious and when I am out and about I feel different from everyone around me as if I am living in a different world. When I pass someone and they look at me I automatically think they are thinking negative things about me. Outwardly I feel that I appear quiet normal and well adjusted, but there is always so much going on in my head a constant monologue narrating my life. I don’t hear voices, but sometimes when I am sat watching TV or something I hear someone shout my name or say hay which startles me and there is no one there. Things do need to change I can’t go through life the way that I am hopefully when I see the psychiatrist I will get answers.

    I apologise for the long rant, but i would appreciate your feedback…

    I will beat this…

  13. Samuel says:

    Hi Dan thanks for the good work.mine is typically a difficult one.was raised by a very critical father who was an alcoholic and very abusive.He abused my mother both physically and mentally and also verbally abused us.as for me was kind of more sensitive to this treatment and i grew up with a lot of resentment and bitterness towards him.i have being having all this obsessive thoughts from one topic to another,i get paranoid on almost all issues from fear maybe my wife is cheating on me or even my boss is conspiring to fire me.
    this thoughts seems to flip from no where,time very strong lustful thoughts that push my moral defenses to the limit.the reason i know you have this issues pinned the right way is your explanations that ocpd could be a gift.true im very empathetic and caring,im also very prayerful and concerned about others.please try to explore the possibility that Satan deceptive strategy is at work to rob us of our God given gifts.

  14. Teri Sweaney says:

    Great article!

  15. Jane P says:

    This topic and this article are so fascinating and revealing! What I thought was a very close friend suddenly threw me out of her picture perfect, overstocked with things Condo. She is on the Condo Assn Board and is a self-defined enforcer. She is critical of everyone in her family and work. Her husband has been through Rehab 11 times (they are in their 60′s). She divorced him twice, remarried him twice. He is so gentle and actually dull.

    My “crime” which ended the friendship (I was stunned) was to suggest that she and I approach the new renter in the Complex that her dog must be in a leash because ALL dogs must be leashed.Her appraoch is to aggressively approach them, then go home and tattle to the Property Mgr who will then write them a reprimand letter. She has been doing this for years (I didn’t know that). So when I suggested an open conversation and give the person a chance to know the rules before the reprimand letter…. well her face said it all, I had gently, unknowingly crossed a sacred line. Wow.

    She now acts like a bratty teen, avoiding me with childish body language. I am grateful I began this research. I know I am no Dr, I have no idea if she really is OCPD, but I have some behavioral information to help explain this bizarre behavior. I must admit I always though it a bit odd that a homemaker of over 40 years does not prepare anything without a cookbook (or single recipe) to which she constantly refers.

    This is so helpful! Of course there was a little “what did I do?!?!” but it didn’t last long. I later approached the woman with the dog and talked about how the rule is in place because not all dogs like other dogs, and some parents don’t want free roaming dogs approaching their children. She thanked me and told me she appreciated my openness.

    I am trying to move out of state, so my firendship loss is heal-able for me. But I feel for her family. And yes, she DOES have a good heart trapped in there, that was the draw of the friendship.

  16. Maggz says:

    great article..I suspect my husband and son are both affected. My son went down the anorexic route, he has recovered but still a strict vegan. I think most anorexia nervosa sufferers have OCPD but get very angry at the thought of something being wrong with their black and white way of thinking. I’m also wondering if there is a connection between personality disorders and assisted births..my husband was a c section and my son an induced birth..Daniel I would be interested to know if you were an assisted birth? I also think one is born with OCPD but OPD is acquired after birth..

  17. Khairuddin says:

    hello Mr Daniel Kim.
    I just google and search more about ocd an this is a very good link, thank you very much for sharing. Since young, all I ask is why I am I acting or behaving like this, like hand or nose or eye or legs repeatedly moving until I get tired and other kid making fun of me. My parent keep reminding me not to do that but I cant help myself.
    Obviously there is no knowledge about this unusual behaviour until I meet 1 guys who keep on shaking his head while he is eating. I asked him why & told him I am having the same uncontrolled movements, not only physical but mental. He told me even himself is tired with that and sometimes he cried because his neck is injured. But at least I am not alone. But hes condition is worst than me.
    As I grow & get married (luckily my wife accept me as I am), I am 38 years with 8 kids and I just manage to discover myself as OCD or OCPD (I am not sure).
    This is good awareness to me and my wife and I keep showing her OCD information from youtube. As myself having childhood military education background and then in space and oil & gas industry, which working with extreme technical systems, critical, analytical of thinking. I enjoy the job and those systems as good as way I am thinking too & taught me how to think in order by system, to minimise my fear/worry.
    After left job, focusing to my family, I am facing a little bit problem with my wife & kids, especially in house hygiene, germs, safety, system & stuff… my physical movement getting to minimum but sometimes I just go in the room and do it, and get out. My “ritual” is still practised (clean the house, etc..) and another way for me to minimise my fear/worry is knowing, learning & praying to God.
    Anyway, keep posting & God bless you.

    din

  18. Ares says:

    I’m currently undergoing psycho therapy for the same problem. and he(the Dr.) is one of the best in my state. and he in 78 years old. ( which means he is well experienced ). and this is what he told. ” no matter how hard you try you will NEVER be satisfied” . so that’s exactly what I saw in you from your website “this website may help you revel your views but will never satisfy you. Which means its not enough to answer the questions your mind keeps on asking you”.
    OH ! And additional info. I also have
    Npd-(I think,because I have all the symptoms that I saw online
    And I love myself ! Like
    I wanna “make love” with myself <3 ).
    BUT. My doc. Is not telling me the name of any of the problems that I have (he is int specifying that atoll ) he tells it'll make you even worse.
    But I managed to fin them out
    AFTER ALL " WE ARE WHO WE ARE "
    And in still getting mindfucked about that. And thy why I'm online
    And I have
    ADD. &
    Dyslexia
    I'm a heck of a mess "aynt I" ????????

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