If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, as I am, then you’ve heard the OCD jokes. Yes, they joke about it, and poke fun, but it works. Whether intentional on the writers’ part or not, Sheldon does exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning form of autism) and maybe a personality disorder or two. He’s a fictional character though, so we really can’t speculate too much on what mental disorder’s he may have, and honestly, it is pretty funny. Though, there are times when I just wish I could punch Sheldon in the face, and some of his antics actually enrage me a little bit (I don’t know how Leonard put up with it for so long!) but that is generally dependent upon my mood at the time of watching the show. I’ve watched an episode while in a more cheerful mood and laughed my ass off and then watched the same episode on a day where my mood is really low or I’m cranky or irritable and felt completely pissed off by either how the story was written or by how the character was behaving. The show is brilliant though, so I can’t say many bad things about it.
Anyways, that’s not what I wanted to talk about today, but what I do want to talk about made me think of Sheldon, hence the image choice.
I don’t claim to be an expert in anything. Mostly because I have severe social anxiety and am terrified of saying or doing something that will make people think I’m an idiot and saying I’m an expert and then screwing up is one of my biggest fears. When I’m talking or writing about a topic, no matter what it is, I make sure I do my research beforehand, or at the very least, state, up front, that I may be wrong or I’m not 100% sure of the information I’m about to say, just to cover my bases in case I am wrong.
Writing about something that is opinion based, is one thing, and let’s be honest, we all know someone who has formed an opinion on something without really knowing all sides. But when you’re stating, or intending on or claiming to be stating, facts, you absolutely must to make sure you have done your research first.
Over the past year, I have read about a lot of different mental illnesses. Honestly, it is a bit obsessive. Mostly, because when I hear about an illness (mental or otherwise) that I don’t know much about, I am naturally very curious and want to learn more about it. Also, because since being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I’ve been looking for explanations to other symptoms that aren’t explained by what I was initially diagnosed with.
About a month ago, I came across this article: 5 Rare Mental Health Disorders You Should Know About
A recommended link, Facebook gave me after I clicked on another mental health related link in my news feed.
Naturally, I was expecting something interesting with good information and maybe I would learn about something new.
This article, started out alright. I had heard of most of the disorders being described, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was something lacking in the article. I can’t really explain it, it was really just a gut feeling I got as I was reading, maybe from the quality of writing I guess. I continued on anyway.
When I got to number four, Dependent Personality Disorder, I recalled some information I had read about this disorder while reading about personality disorders several months ago.
Reading the first bit, I thought, ok, they have acknowledged that personality disorders are a tricky subject, that’s good. They didn’t mention that doctors and mental health professionals don’t like to diagnose them before the age of 18 because the personality is still developing and changing in the teens, or that they are a lot more complex than that.
Then, suddenly, in one sentence, this article and it’s writer lost all validity for me.
After all, obsessive-compulsive disorder is classified as a personality disorder — and we hardly call that “everyday”
“Obsessive-compulsive disorder is classified as a personality disorder”
NO! It certainly is not!
The only reason this caught my attention so strongly is because I happen to have done a fair amount of research around this topic. Mostly, due to the fact that I keep wondering if maybe, just maybe, I do meet the diagnostic criteria for OCD (I’m still pretty sure I don’t) and maybe a personality disorder (even though my doctor doesn’t think so).
Here’s why they are so completely wrong and why I know they didn’t do their research, or pay attention to what they were researching. Most people have heard of OCD, although, having heard of it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand it. We’ve all heard someone says, “oh, I’m so OCD about that.” Which is wrong on so many levels, but that’s a topic for another day. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. What most people probably haven’t heard of is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is in fact a personality disorder, but OCPD entirely different from OCD.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder, consisting of:
Obsessions that cause anxiety.
Obsessions are defined as recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted that, for most individuals, cause anxiety or distress. The individual attempts to ignore, suppress or neutralize these thoughts, urges, images with some other thought or action (ie. performing a compulsion).
Compulsions that the person performs in response to an obsession.
Compulsions are defined as repetitive behaviours or mental acts that the individual feels driven to perform in order to their anxiety, however, the compulsions are clearly excessive and are not realistically designed to neutralize or prevent the anxiety or situation the individual feels may come if they do not perform the compulsion.
The obsessions or compulsions are time consuming (the DSM requires that it takes up a minimum of 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social or occupational functioning.
Symptoms cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition and the symptoms must not be better explained by another mental disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)
OCPD is classified as a personality disorder and is very different from OCD, however there are some common characteristics between the two disorders. Despite their similar names, OCD and OCPD are two distinct disorders. Although, it is possible for some individuals to have both OCD and OCPD, people with OCPD generally don’t feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions and usually find pleasure in perfecting a task, where as with OCD, people are more often distressed by their actions.
OCPD is pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, rigid perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one’s environment at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.
Diagnosis, according to the DSM-5, requires that these must appear by early adulthood and are present in a multiple contexts. At least four of the following must be present:
- Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
- Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).
- Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
- Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification).
- Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
- Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.
- Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
- Shows rigidity and stubbornness.
One of my current favourite YouTubers, Kati Morton, briefly mentions the difference in her OCD video (starting at 4 min 52 sec), which is great! The big difference is the fact that people with OCD don’t enjoy it, it causes them a lot of stress and anxiety.
Edit – Feb. 2, 2016: Kati made a new video about OCPD, and again, had an excellent description of the difference between OCD and OCPD (about 6 minutes in). /edit
A Little More About Personality Disorders
Personality disorders form a class of mental disorders that are characterized by long-lasting rigid patterns of thought and behaviour. Because of the inflexibility and pervasiveness of these patterns, they can cause serious problems and impairment of functioning for the persons who are afflicted with these disorders
These disorders typically aren’t diagnosed until an individual is a young adult, often not until their 20’s or even 30’s. Most individuals with personality disorders lead pretty normal lives and often only seek psychotherapeutic treatment during times of increased stress or social demands. Most people can relate to some or all of the personality traits listed; the difference is that it does not affect most people’s daily functioning to the same degree it might someone diagnosed with one of these disorders. Personality disorders tend to be an integral part of a person, and therefore, are difficult to treat or “cure.”
[ source ]
Going back to the article itself, that sentence also linked to an article where they got the information from, but clearly, the writer did not read it carefully, because it says “obsessive compulsive personality disorder” rather than “obsessive compulsive disorder.”
Maybe this is just me, but if I’d never heard the phrase “obsessive compulsive” followed by “personality” I would wonder why it was there and start looking into it.
In fact, that’s exactly what happened. I started out having heard of borderline personality disorder, which lead me to researching personality disorders in general. At that point, I already knew that OCD was an anxiety disorder, so when I was reading a list of personality disorders and saw “obsessive compulsive” in there, I immediately had to find out what it was and what the differences were between the two.
The fact that this didn’t set off alarm bells with the writer of the article, indicates to me that they didn’t actually care about what they were writing and were not really paying attention, and they probably also didn’t have the desire to learn and understand what that meant.
To make a long story short, if you’re going to write about something like this, make sure you have your facts straight! Especially if you are a journalist. I mean, come on!
Education is really important when it comes to mental health and mental illnesses and making false statements like this adds to the stigma and confusion and general lack of understanding. This is another reason I am so passionate about spreading awareness.
For the record, I do realize the article was posted on a rather insignificant website, but that doesn’t matter. People are still going to read it, not knowing that it contains incorrect information.
Some other great links
- 17 Things People Don’t Understand About OCD
- 3 Myths About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Plus Some Facts
Just to provide a little more context, in case the article ever becomes unavailable, here is the whole section where this statement was made.
4. Dependent Personality Disorder
Personality disorders are a tricky area of mental health, largely because, as professionals acknowledge, many people will read the symptoms of, say, Histrionic Personality Disorder and recognize some of those traits in a perfectly normal, sane friend or relative. But personality disorders do exist, and can be seriously disabling if left untreated or unacknowledged. After all, obsessive-compulsive disorder is classified as a personality disorder — and we hardly call that “everyday”. And DPD, as it’s called, is actually the most common personality disorder: it’s estimated that 2.5 percent of the population has it.
The fifth edition of the DSM explains that dependent personality disorder is “an excessive and pervasive need to be taken care of, submissive, clinging, [and exhibiting] needy behavior due to fear of abandonment.” Imagine leading your life as a complete doormat, unable to make decisions, be left alone, disagree, take responsibility, or do basically anything without approval and constant reassurance. It’s paralytic neediness, and it seems to happen to women more than men.
Personality disorders tend to have one treatment in common: psychotherapy. Because they’re not necessarily “biological” (though certain factors in brains and genetics may lead individuals to be more vulnerable to them), they can be more easily tackled with therapy. DPD tends to manifest in young adulthood and be persistent throughout one’s life, overwhelming everything.
In case you’re wondering what the other disorders were that they talked about, here they are, but I won’t bother quoting the information because, as I stated earlier, I question the validity of the entire article.
- Alice in Wonderland Syndrome/Todd Syndrome
- Dissociative Amnesia/Dissociative Fugue
- Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Diogenes Syndrome