EPISODE 12 TRANSCRIPT
06 | 19 | 17
In the world of OCPD things are usually black or white, but this is a subject with a tremendous amount of nuance. Today’s topic is something near and dear to anyone suffering from OCPD and I would imagine other personality disorders as well. Why? Well, because for those with this disorder that don’t want to spend the rest of their life alone, it’s kind of important to know if people like being around you.
One of the reasons I find it hard to condense my videos is because of the five subtypes of OCPD that always need to be taken into consideration. That won’t be any different today. There isn’t a one size fits all answer to the question I’ve posed. The other thing I have to keep in mind is that this might be the first video in which people have strong differing opinions to me. Which is fine, but it means I’m going to try and go the extra mile to look at this subject from as many perspectives as possible.
So what perspectives are available and which resources should I consult to give a fair answer? Well, we can start with the DSM criteria for OCPD to see if we can turn up any sort of clues there. What I don’t want to necessarily do is to form a conclusion for you. So let’s see what makes sense together.
Within the first criteria for OCPD we come across “overly conscientious and moralistic attitudes”. So this goes back to the idea that someone with OCPD is going to create a list of rules for themselves that they are going to hold themselves to. Now it becomes increasingly likely that the closer you get to someone with OCPD, the greater the odds are that they will hold you to these rules as well. If for example I have high cleanliness standards (which I do), I may try to hold my coworkers to them if they are within my personal work space. That may or may not go over well, or it may also not be feasible to even do that. But when I’m around my family, I’m going to expect them to put up with my rules or standards. Partly because I feel more comfortable around them and partly because I feel like they should know better. If I’m in a relationship, well now that person is going to be around all of the time and if they aren’t able to follow the rules, well then I’m going to be on edge all of the time and guaranteed I’m not going to be fun to be around.
Within the next criteria in the DSM we have impairments in intimacy and empathy. This is a big one and when I get into real world examples, you’ll see how often this actually comes up. Now empathy is incredibly complex and part of what makes being empathetic complex is that a lot of what happens, happens subconsciously. When we are doing this consciously however, we can focus on a situation and choose to show empathy by trying to put ourselves in the mindset of the other person. If we see someone that doesn’t have a jacket on a cold day, we can use our imagination or we can remember a time when we were in a similar situation and if we have a healthy way of thinking, we can choose to feel similarly to them, alongside them. Feeling that empathy may encourage us to act altruistically by showing kindness or care. When we interact with people we are given the opportunity to empathize constantly. If we are incapable of showing empathy, we can appear uncaring even if that is not the case. For someone with OCPD that struggles in this area, practicing empathy can, over time, improve interactions with others. The challenge though can lie in how hard we with OCPD are on ourselves. The harder we are on ourselves, the harder we will be on others. If we see someone in the cold that needs a jacket and instead of showing concern for the fact that they are freezing, we internally think “What an idiot. How did they forget their jacket?” or “I can’t believe they can’t afford a jacket. They should stop being lazy and find work so that they can afford to buy themselves a jacket.”, well a lot of people are going to view us as cold, callous and indifferent. I would hope and think that what I’m saying here is self evident to most people and I would think even more so if I talk about intimacy. The idea that society might not be accepting of those with OCPD sort of becomes irrelevant if the person with a personality disorder doesn’t enjoy closeness to begin with. I don’t want to be close to you and you don’t want to be close to me. Seems like a win/win. Or is it?
Well this is where I’ll bring in the 5 subtypes because I’m going to guess that for some of you watching with OCPD you may be starting to disagree with my assessment of the situation. Now for some of you disagreeing, well sadly that might just be another indicator of how negatively the disorder is impacting you. If you’re unable to see the forest for the trees, it’s going to halt any progress you make. But for a certain percentage of you, the reason that what I’m saying isn’t making sense to you is because it doesn’t actually apply to you. OCPD is both broad and narrow at the same time. There is a seemingly narrow list of criteria, but as we’re dealing with the traits that make up a person’s personality, the resulting combinations of how this disorder can manifest are bountiful.
So if you are a conscientious subtype, you may well be capable of empathy and intimacy. Your inflexibility and high standards may make you a bit prickly, but all in all it’s very possible to be and come across as a caring person. For the bureaucratic subtype, there may be narcissistic tendencies. Close-mindedness, intrusiveness and pettiness are common characteristics and although you may desire intimacy, you may not come across as someone that somebody else would want to be intimate with. Some of the same could be said for the puritanical subtype. A self-righteous and judgmental attitude do not go hand in hand with empathy. On top of that, a devotion to controlling ones own impulses and a prudish morality may not come across as sexy or cuddly. A parsimonious subtype could include a fear of letting others get to know you, again preventing true intimacy. And an inability to share could prevent you from seeming empathetic, even if you have those feelings. Finally, the bedeviled subtype in many ways is characterized outwardly by some traits that mirror OCD. So although you might be loving, caring affectionate and compassionate, your own rules, rituals and negativistic thinking may just make it impossible for someone to get truly close to you. Now, it’s not entirely all doom and gloom. Each of these subtypes has an upswing that may give you some advantage in life. If you’re conscientious or bureaucratic, you’re likely to be earnest and hardworking. If you’re puritanical, you may be someone that is always faithful to the person that you’re with and you would find it very hard to lie. A parsimonious person might exercise a lot of self control and have a mild mannered personality. And as I mentioned before with the bedeviled subtype, you might be warm and caring.
So going textbook definition, you can start to see the ways in which a person with OCPD would act, and you can make up your own mind thus far as to how you think others would react. So what other perspectives can we discuss? Well we have the perspective of someone that is diagnosed with OCPD, the perspective of someone that has a loved one with OCPD and of course we aren’t getting out of here without discussing my perspective.
To cover those with OCPD and those with someone with OCPD in their life, we’re going to go right to the source. Let’s start with those with obsessive compulsive personality disorder. I took to Facebook to talk one on one in some of the private groups I belong to to get some candid opinions on how people with OCPD believe others see them. I’m going to paraphrase them a little, however nothing in these comments could remotely identify the people that made them.
“I stay away from most people as they might not understand me, but I am close to a small group of friends.”
“I isolate myself because being around people causes anxiety. I don’t think others mind me however.”
“People love being around me now, but my family when I was at home, not so much.”
“I have close friends that share with me that they enjoy my company, but I also know people that cannot stand me. Sometimes it seems that the more time you spend around your friends the more the OCPD can be an issue.”
“I do not have a lot of friends and I’m not sure if it’s me or them.” Here's one from a partner of someone with OCPD: “I love being around my partner when they are relaxed, but not when they are stressed out. People do not like to visit us because they know how stressed out my partner is to have guests.”
Another one from someone with a loved one with OCPD: “From an outside perspective it’s so hard. It feels like the disappointment they express with me is really hate. I’m afraid of how they are going to react when I talk with them.”
There's a lot here for sure. It’s a bit all over the place. Please keep in mind that these are responses from those with OCPD that are aware that they have OCPD. For those that are unaware or undiagnosed or in denial, reactions are going to be much more severe. Again, although I have my own opinion, I’m not going to form your opinion for you. So please think about those quotes and how you would interpret them in your own life.
Next, we’re going to go to an OCPD specific forum. Now this particular forum is open, so I’m not sharing anything that isn’t readily available to you. On this site, both people with OCPD and those without are free to post. The tone in the posts of those that do not have OCPD themselves, but have someone in their life with the disorder, is considerably different. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
“Do you get compliments from your spouse? I never did and it hurts a lot.”
“They are so nice to everyone they meet, but not to me behind closed doors.”
“Is it normal for everyone with OCPD to be negative all of the time?”
“It’s frustrating that my partner will only ever see the negative in life.”
“The people that are undiagnosed don’t understand that there are other ways to think about things. If you resist them, it only makes it harder on yourself.”
“I tell myself that I’m not the one with the disorder. Their mood swings have nothing to do with me.”
“They don’t understand that they prioritize things incorrectly and how annoying all of their rules are.”
“I can empathize with you and how difficult it is to be around those with OCPD.”
“What I’m saying is that they never get better, they only get worse.”
“I love this person but it’s like being in an alternate reality in which I have to constantly tread through minefields.” So…those are different. Look, we’ve peered at this from many different angles, but there are many more to consider. First, we’re getting the most extreme viewpoints on this subject as these comments have been made by those that were passionate enough to take to the internet and voice their opinion. Also, in all of these forums you will find a tremendous amount of speculation. Many of the people being referred to could have a completely different disorder than the one that’s being assumed in these cases. Maybe the people speaking have issues themselves. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to today’s question. It’s going to vary depending on how you’ve experienced OCPD, whether it’s you that has it or someone you know. If you’re married to someone with OCPD you’re going to have a lot more patience than someone that employs someone with OCPD for instance. Or maybe in the long run, you won’t.
It’s 2017, right? Everyone has a disorder (exaggeration for emphasis). So what allows us to move past the disorder and to develop relationships, partnerships and friendships? It’s our individuality. Yes, we all have much in common within the world of OCPD, but we are all as equally different. Someone with OCPD can be loving, caring, affectionate, smart, clever, witty, funny, warm, loyal, responsible, hard working and honest. We can be musical, artistic, political, athletic & visionary. It’s possible we have a lot to offer just as we may have a lot that you have to tolerate.
Which brings me to me. What do I think of those with OCPD? In a word, challenging. Aside from a few family members I suspect of suffering from OCPD, this past year is the first year I’ve chosen to heavily interact with those with the disorder. I think biting my tongue on many occasions is the name of the game. However, for all of the frustrating conversations I’ve had, I’ve managed to still build friendships. I may not agree with a lot of the viewpoints and actions of those that I talk to, but guess what, they’re still good people and they still mean well. That’s part of my journey anyway. To be able to see things from others perspectives, to empathize. Hopefully none of this has been preachy and hopefully it’s been a little eye opening.