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In relation to everyday life

While the people suffering from OPCD may seem to function as normal people, their goal is actually to accomplish things in a careful, orderly manner. In fact, their desire for perfection and insistence on going "by the book" often overrides their ability to complete a task.

For example, one patient with OCPD was so preoccupied with finding a mislaid shopping list that he took much more time searching for it than it would have taken him to rewrite the list from memory. This type of inflexibility typically extends to interpersonal relationships.

People with OCPD are known for being highly controlling and bossy toward other people, especially subordinates. They will often insist that there is one and only one right way (their way) to fold laundry, cut grass, drive a car, or write a report. In addition, they are so insistent on following rules that they cannot allow for what most people would consider legitimate exceptions. Their attitudes toward their own superiors or supervisors depend on whether they respect these authorities. People with OCPD are often unusually courteous to superiors that they respect, but resistant to or contemptuous of those they do not respect.

An additional feature of this personality disorder is stinginess or miserliness, frequently combined with an inability to throw out worn-out or useless items. This characteristic has sometimes been described as "pack rat" behavior. Financially, the OCPD individual tends to be thrifty to the point of miserliness, hoarding money for some imagined future catastrophe. This can create financial arguments in the family, in addition to constant conflicts over personal control and independence.

In relation to work

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder, on the surface at least, often leads to success in work environments. However, while work environments often reward their conscientiousness and attention to detail, people with OCPD do not show much spontaneity or imagination.

They may feel paralyzed when immediate action is necessary; they feel overwhelmed by trying to make decisions without concrete guidelines. They expect colleagues to stick to detailed rules and procedures, and often perform poorly in jobs that require flexibility and the ability to compromise. Even when people with OCPD are behind schedule, they are uncomfortable delegating work to others because the others may not do the job "properly." People with OCPD often get so lost in the finer points of a task that they cannot see the larger picture; they are frequently described as "unable to see the forest for the trees." They require routine and need to know where they stand in the social hierarchy, and nowhere is that hierarchy more obvious than in the workplace. As a result, they are often highly anxious in situations without clearly defined rules because such situations arouse their fears of making a mistake and being punished for it.

In relation to internal strife

People diagnosed with OCPD come across to others as difficult and demanding. Their rigid expectations of others are also applied to themselves, however; they tend to be intolerant of their own shortcomings. Such persons feel bound to present a consistent facade of propriety and control. They feel uncomfortable with expressions of tender feelings and tend to avoid relatives or colleagues who are more emotionally expressive. This strict and ungenerous approach to life limits their ability to relax; they are seldom if ever able to release their needs for control. Even recreational activities frequently become another form of work.

A person with OCPD, for example, may turn a tennis game into an opportunity to perfect his or her backhand rather than simply enjoying the exercise, the weather, or the companionship of the other players. Many OCPD sufferers bring office work along on vacations in order to avoid "wasting time," and feel a sense of relief upon returning to the structure of their work environment. Not surprisingly, this combination of traits strains their interpersonal relationships and can lead to a lonely existence.

From the descriptions given above, one might think that the obsessive compulsive personality disorder individual was entirely in agreement with inflexible compliance about rules and regulations. Evidence suggests, however, that OCPD patients subconsciously want to break free from and rebel against rules and conformity, but their intense fear of social reprisals, punishment, and ridicule is too great. Instead, people with OCPD adopt rigid adherence to rules to avoid punishment, even as their subconscious minds rebel against such restrictions.