Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Anger

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a mental health condition that is estimated to affect about 2–8% of the general population. People with OCPD are preoccupied with rules, orderliness, and control. They tend to exhibit perfectionism, rigidity, and a high focus on details.

Though there are some similarities between OCPD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), they are separate and distinct conditions. People with OCPD have strong, inflexible beliefs surrounding rules and order and believe only their thoughts are correct. People with OCD have recurrent and persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions), which they usually recognize as irrational, and typically perform actions or behaviors to relieve the anxiety caused by these thoughts (compulsions). It is possible for a person to have both conditions.

Read on to learn more about the features of OCPD and how it can lead to feelings of anger.

Upset woman at work

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OCPD Symptoms

The hallmark of OCPD is a preoccupation with rules, order, and control. This fixation can lead to a number of symptoms.

Anger Outbursts

People with OCPD may experience intense frustration or anger. This can occur when someone or something interferes with their rigid, self-imposed routines, rules, schedules, or timelines. Though people with OCPD tend to work hard at containing their emotions so as not to feel vulnerable, anger is often easier for them to express, and outbursts can happen.

A 2015 study of anger associated with personality disorders found that OCPD was second after avoidant personality disorder in terms of the extent of anger and exhibited rates of anger on par with those of borderline personality disorder.


Inflexibility, rigidity, and control are some of the defining characteristics of OCPD. People with OCPD have very strict ideas on the right way of doing things and expect others to follow their lead. They may also have inflexible views on morality and ethics that they expect others to adhere to.

When something is at odds with these rigid beliefs, people with OCPD do not question themselves or seek alternatives but instead see fault or inadequacies with others or with external circumstances.

This rigidity, combined with perfectionism, can lead to missed deadlines and unfinished projects as a disproportionate amount of time and energy is spent on less important tasks.

The high level of inflexibility held by people with OCPD can also cause problems with personal and professional relationships.


The indecisiveness associated with OCPD often stems from perfectionism. People with OCPD have rigid standards, feel internal pressure to make "correct" choices, and have difficulty handling criticism. This can lead to struggles with making any decisions at all, as the same importance is placed on both simple and consequential tasks and choices.

People with OCPD take care to avoid making mistakes or being wrong, even by their own standards. The inability to do something perfectly can lead to tasks or activities not being completed at all. For example, a person with OCPD may have a great grasp of subject matter in a class at school and be a hard worker but receive low marks due to assignments handed in late or incomplete.

This perfectionism can be projected onto others as well. A person with OCPD may have difficulty choosing a romantic partner because of their extremely high standards and tendency to be preoccupied with their partner's perceived flaws, even minor ones.


The high standards set for themselves can be difficult, if not impossible, for people with OCPD to live up to. This, as well as the social isolation and difficulty managing emotions often experienced by people with OCPD, can lead to depression and anxiety.

People with OCPD often experience inner turmoil that may not be noticeable to others. The inability to meet their own standards can cause self-hatred and disappointment in themselves.

Dichotomous thinking (thinking in absolutes like good or bad, without an in-between) is common in OCPD. Because a person with OCPD considers their standards and beliefs to be good, they may see any perceived fault, flaw, or failure as a blow to their self-image.


Other characteristics of OCPD include:

  • Being overly devoted to work and obsessing over tasks to be completed
  • Difficulty throwing things away, even if they are of no value
  • Lack of generosity
  • Wanting to have control over what others do
  • Difficulty or unwillingness to show affection
  • Preoccupation with rules, lists, systems, order, organization, and details
  • Extreme difficulty handling when a schedule or routine is changed, often resulting in anger
  • Obsessive, judgmental, and inflexible views on morality
  • Difficulty seeing ways to do things other than their own
  • "All or nothing" thinking

How Is OCPD Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of OCPD is made based on a mental health evaluation, including the nature and severity of the symptoms and how long the person has been experiencing them.

The markers a healthcare provider or mental health professional will look for include:

Managing the Emotional Effects of OCPD

People with OCPD may not recognize that there is something wrong, insisting instead that any conflict is the fault of others.

People with OCPD are often high-achieving and professionally successful and appear to be doing well outwardly but are dealing with internal tension and struggles.

The decision to make changes and seek help may be prompted by friends, family, and/or romantic partners if relationships have become strained.

In addition to professional treatment for OCPD, some things that might help a person with OCPD manage the effects of their condition include:

  • Getting informed: Learning more about OCPD can help the person and their loved ones understand more about how OCPD manifests, as well as the options available for making positive changes.
  • Getting insightful: Keeping a record, such as a journal or voice recordings, about anything that is upsetting, overwhelming, depressing, or causing anxiety, can give the person helpful insight into themselves, and provide areas for the person to work on with their therapist.
  • Practicing self-care: Eating a variety of nutritious foods, engaging in physical activity, getting enough good-quality sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, and other forms of self-care can be beneficial.
  • Reaching out for support: OCPD can be isolating. Self-help and support groups, online communities, and other ways of connecting with others can help people with OCPD learn to better interact with others and work on accepting their imperfections.

OCPD Treatment

Therapy is typically the preferred treatment for OCPD, but in some cases, medication may be prescribed to help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Medication and therapy may be used together.

Types of therapy that may be used to treat OCPD include:

  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy helps the person gain insight into how they think and feel and works on improving relationships with others.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) identifies maladaptive thought processes and behaviors, then works to change them into productive ones.
  • Occupational therapy helps make it possible for the person to engage in their daily activities and other things they want to do.


OCPD is a personality disorder characterized by preoccupations with order, rules, and control. People with OCPD tend to exhibit perfectionism, rigidity, and an intense focus on details. People with OCPD can have difficulty managing their emotions, particularly when their routines or order are disrupted. This can lead to getting upset, anger, or outbursts.

People with OCPD may be reluctant to seek help for their condition because they don't recognize that something is wrong. However, treatments such as therapy can help ease inner turmoil and improve relationships.

A Word From Verywell 

If the description of OCPD sounds like something you can relate to, talk to your healthcare provider. Working with a therapist can help you understand why you feel the way you do and give you strategies to tackle your struggles.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does OCPD cause mood swings?

    People with OCPD are often uncomfortable expressing their emotions or vulnerability. Anger and frustration are more easily expressed than other emotions and can come out as outbursts.

  • What triggers someone with OCPD?

    People with OCPD can experience significant anger or irritation when they are not able to maintain control of their environment.

  • How do you manage anger related to OCPD?

    Addressing the underlying OCPD with a healthcare provider or a mental health professional is the most effective long-term way to manage anger from OCPD. In the moment, relaxation exercises and anger management strategies may help.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Diedrich A, Voderholzer U. Obsessive–compulsive personality disorder: a current review. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015;17(2):2. doi:10.1007/s11920-014-0547-8

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By Heather Jones
Heather M. Jones is a freelance writer with a strong focus on health, parenting, disability, and feminism.