Over the last several posts, we’ve been exploring common mental health issues that can cause direct problems in a marriage. We’ve looked at depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, and in today’s final entry of the series, we’re looking at a mental illness that is less well-known, but no less troublesome for relationships.
Often confused with a disease of a very similar name, obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is different than obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – which many people are more familiar with. While OCD has its own set of difficulties, of course, today we’re looking at OCPD. Where OCD is characterized by rituals and repetition, OCPD comes with an obsession with perfection.
This form of mental illness, sometimes referred to as Anankastic Personality Disorder, can manifest in different ways. Each individual will have their own unique habits and obsessions, of course, but they will most commonly center on order, cleanliness, and perfectionism.
Some tell tale symptoms include:
- Focusing so much on details, organization, and order that the overall goal or point of a project is lost
- Excessive devotion to productivity and accomplishment (at the expense of relationships, family, and leisure)
- Compulsive hoarding of money, objects with no use or sentimental value – sometimes with the compulsion organize hoarded objects
- General pessimism and assumption that every situation will unfold to “worst case scenario”
- High standards that make completing tasks impossible
- Reluctance to count on others or delegate work for fear something will be done improperly
- Rigid adherence to rules, schedules, regulations, etc.
These, and other similar behaviors, are also accompanied by a sense of rightness and righteousness. People suffering from OCPD often do not see their preoccupations as a problem. Instead, they feel that their way of doing things is truly the best way – which can have serious consequences for a marriage.
OCPD and Marriage
Because of the almost domineering nature of this disorder, couples are affected not only by behaviors themselves, but also by the “power imbalance” that accompanies one person’s fixation on order and control.
A person suffering from OCPD will likely see their spouse’s efforts around the house as below their standard – the dishes aren’t clean enough, things aren’t put in the right place, and so on. This may lead to constant criticism, housework being redone time and time again, and even the affected spouse making demands and imposing unrealistic expectations.
Similarly, the preoccupation with maintaining schedules and following rules can make it extremely difficult for a couple to enjoy quality time together. Concerns about making it to a place on time, making sure reservations or other arrangements are in place, fretting about the house when you’re away – all of these (and more) could hinder the ability for the two of you to truly enjoy each other’s company.
These barriers to building a connection don’t just keep couples from growing together. They can actually lead to resentment, troubles with sex (especially if the mentally ill spouse is fixated on their partner’s flaws), difficulty raising kids, and for the person without OCPD, feelings of being trapped in a constant cycle.
None of those qualities make for a happy, healthy marriage. So, what can be done?
OCPD is primarily treated through therapy, though medications are sometimes prescribed for co-occurring mental health problems or to treat specific symptoms.
Through therapy, the initial focus is often for the affected person to gain awareness of their emotions. The point is to help the OCPD affected person explore why they feel so much worry related to their triggers, and to help them accept that mistakes and imperfections are perfectly normal – even expected.
Common approaches include psychodynamic therapy, talk therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, each of which takes a slightly different approach to helping the individual recognize and understand their own thought patterns and develop tools to reduce such rigid thinking.
Therapy may also include self-help skills like meditation, relaxation, and “letting go.”
Over time, treatment can help reduce symptoms and minimize episodes, as well as offer insight into the sources and worst triggers of the disease.
For spouses, joint therapy sessions may be a possibility (if approved by the therapist), and both online and “in person” support groups may offer some relief. Through support groups, you can learn ways that others have dealt with their OCPD spouses, share your own experiences, and tap into resources that others have used for help.
Obsessive compulsive personality disorder can be extremely difficult to navigate in a marriage, and many of the symptoms tend to drive people apart – but don’t give up! If you think your spouse is suffering from OCPD, it is essential that they seek professional help. They may deny the problem or be accusatory when you bring it up, but assure them that the two of you are a team, and that you’re acting in their best interest.
It will take patience, but it’s not impossible for people with OCPD – and the other mental illnesses we’ve discussed in this series – to make drastic improvements. Help your spouse get the treatment they need before mental illness tears your marriage apart!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!