Need help breaking free from addiction?
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Anxiety Disorder Vs. Personality Disorder: Differences?


I am confused about anxiety issues and disorders and how they differ from personality disorders (specifically OCD versus OCPD). My counselor helped me to realize that what I thought must be depression (inability to cope with managing our home and kids, letting everything “go” and getting little to nothing done every day) was instead caused by extreme anxiety and perfectionism (fear of success or failure causing me to freeze up). Many of the traits associated with OCPD seem to fit, but my counselor has called it OCD (although I do not have the classic symptoms or traits usually associated with OCD). Anxiety disorders such as OCD and OCPD seem to be so similar, yet many places I’ve looked seek to differentiate between them. How does one tell what they are dealing with? Does one NEED to know specifically? Are there different medications and treatments that go with the different diagnoses?

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

You are asking some very good questions that confuse many people. There are vast differences between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) versus Obsessional Personality Disorder (OCPD).

People with OCD are keenly aware of their problem. They know thay are anxious and fearful. They know they are doing some strange things to attempt to control their fears, such as repeatedly checking the front door to be sure it is locked when they know they locked it. Yet, they will check over and over again, plagued by doubts that it could still be unlocked. This is just one example.

People with an Obsessional Personality Disorder are totally unaware that they have a disorder. They may live very narrow lives, living in rigid daily patterns that wll not deviate under any conditions. For example, if they go to the gym at 6 PM everyday, they will not change that even if they have the chance to have sex. This is just one example. To them, this makes sense and they see nothing wrong. They are not even aware that they are rigid or that they have anxiety.

There are several treatments for OCD, such as being prohibited from doing the repetive behavior and, thereby, learning that nothing bad will happen. This is a behavioral type of therapy. There is also anti depressant medication that reduces anxiety, depression and OCD symptoms. Lets not forget Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well.

It is difficult to get someone with an Obsessional Personality disorder to consider psychotherapy because they believe they are fine and everyone else has problems. If they get into therapy they are difficult to treat because of their rigidity and defensiveness. However, there are those who do benefit from therapy.

Depression, which has to do with feeling sad and hopeless, goes along with OCD and is not separate. Being a perfectionist is also not unusual with OCD. With the Obsessional Personality Disorder, there is perfectionism in the form of following strict rules. However, the rules are followed for the sake of the rules with no regard to their purpose. With this personality disorder, there are no gray areas in life, only black and white, right and wrong.

I hope this helps.

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists

Want to get help, but not ready to talk? Find Out More