EPISODE 23 TRANSCRIPT
10 | 31 | 18
In this video we’re going to do something I haven’t done in a while on this channel. We’re going to go back to the basics. Reviewing the diagnostic criteria for OCPD is a seemingly dry endeavor, but as much as I’ve enjoyed diverting from the basics for a while, they really are key in both diagnosing OCPD and treating OCPD.
As you’ve probably noticed I put a ‘part 1 of 8 in the title of the video. There’s a few things to note about this. First, just to make you feel better, I’m going to keep these videos succinct, to the point and short. So it’ll be an easy series to binge. That’s the hope anyway. The second is that I’m doing something mildly controversial with this list. I’m going back to the DSM-4 to use as the criteria for this series. It’s not at all that I disagree with the updates, although I find them cumbersome at times. It’s just that there is a list of eight criteria that are very easy to identify and tackle individually, whereas the updates speak in broader terms and I think are harder to follow for those that are not mental health experts. Here is the older list of the 8 criteria. I’ll add this to my blog post which is linked in the description. And here is the updated list from the DSM-5. Absolutely the updated DSM-5 list is more accurate, but if you go through both the updates don’t negate the previous criteria. They just broaden the scope while honing the criteria.
So as this is part one, let’s run through some of the basics. Obsessive compulsive personality disorder is a personality disorder. A personality disorder is identified by impairments in personality functioning (self and interpersonal) and the presence of pathological personality traits. There are five criteria and we can run through them quickly in layman’s terms. One, we are internally impaired and struggle with interpersonal relations. Two, we need at least one of the pathological traits listed for the personality disorder (the number needed is different for each disorder). Three, the traits or symptoms are constant over time. Four, the personality traits can’t be explained through their culture, environment or developmental stage. And finally five, the traits are not a result of drug abuse or brain trauma.
Back to OCPD. Very quickly OCPD is a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. And last thing before we get into the topic, to diagnose obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, at least four of the previously outlined 8 criteria must be met before a diagnosis can be made. Keep in mind though that it really is the thought processes behind the criteria that define the disorder more than anything. If a diagnosis is made solely off of these outward symptoms, you could easily misdiagnose OCPD, as I’ve discussed many times in the past.
Alright, so what even was today’s topic? Oh yeah, making lists? So the first criteria and the subject of today’s video is a preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost. Remember the point of these videos will be both to identify the trait, see if it applies to ourselves and then discuss how to address it. The first two points will be quick and easy. And the great thing is that even if you don’t have OCPD, if you suffer from this particular symptom I’ll give you some useful tips to combat it.
So obviously there’s nothing inherently wrong with being organized, detail oriented or making shopping or to do lists. We need to match that with the second part of the criteria which is to become so preoccupied with the organizing of a task as to lose sight of the task in the first place. Here’s an example. You make a list for the grocery store. You decide that you should probably divide up the list between the food items and the non-food items. Then you decide that you should also probably separate out the pharmacy items. Now you’re looking at the list and it’s bothering you that it isn’t in alphabetical order. So you go ahead and do that. But then you realize it’ll be faster if you re-order the list according to where things are in the store. You remember you’ll be going by the bank and the gas station so you create a second list of to do items for on the way to the store and on the way home from the store. You check the clock. The store closes in 5 minutes. (stare blankly at camera).
This is what a preoccupation with the details instead of the actual task looks like. Apply this to a work scenario and you can see how it’d be difficult to keep that job, never mind get that promotion. Outwardly it can look like procrastination or laziness. It will definitely come across as obsessive, as it is, with the people that are close to you. And to take a look at some of these lists can be heartbreaking. When you see lists for self improvement that use adjectives describing how little a person thinks of themselves. When you see lists for trying to make time for fun or for family or things to do to repair broken relationships. Lists reminding people of how to act in social situations. Lists reminding them to check other lists. Then there is the frequency at which these lists are checked. And I won’t even go into the armageddon that follows losing one of these lists, or having a list making app crash.
I’m focusing on lists, as lists are something very tangible and easy to understand. But of course these same issues arise when focusing too much on details, rules, order, organization, and schedules. Again, these things in and of themselves are not the problem. It’s when they produce unnecessary stress, slow us down or take the joy out of an activity that they require tweaking. And, I’m not telling you to stop making lists or not to be detail oriented. I don’t want you blaming me for forgetting the the blueberries for your blueberry pie or for burning the pie when you weren’t paying attention. So now that we understand the problem, let’s take a look at some solutions.
Already in writing this episode I myself have started to fall into my OCPD traps. Wanting to cover every little detail, making sure my thoughts are completely organized. I stopped myself and we can discuss some tips I use. But there is a bigger picture and coming up with tips for each little thing isn’t really addressing the heart of the matter. So what I’m going to do is run through some important ideas that health professionals agree can help. In order to keep this episode at a reasonable length I’m not going to go into great detail, but I would encourage you to leave your questions in the comments if you’d like more information or clarification. You can leave situations you’re struggling with as well if you’re there’s something specific you just can’t seem to manage.
First and foremost we have therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy and schema are two therapies that have been proven to be effective. We’ve discussed CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) quite a bit on this channel and schema therapy involves diminishing the intensity of emotional memories in order to change cognitive patterns. You really aren’t going to find a better overall solution outside of therapy. You don’t necessarily need a therapist to start enjoying the benefits of CBT. There are great apps and websites that will give you the tools for free to start journaling, which is a big component of CBT. Journaling helps you to minimize the size of the problems you are dealing with and it forces you to think logically about worst-case-scenarios and how they are usually much more manageable than your obsessive mind believes them to be. Over time it retrains your mind to think more pragmatically about life and the day to day problems you face.
The next two are mindfulness and meditation. You can do either one, but they really complement each other nicely, and when practiced regularly and together they can yield substantial results. Applying mindfulness is working at being fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing. By doing this we will reduce overreacting and being overwhelmed by situations. We will also get better at recognizing our own distorted thoughts and thought patterns. Also, they force us to stop. Stopping is an excellent device. It’s what I did when writing out this episode. I was researching this topic and looking for more information and overwhelming myself with too many concepts and ideas. I closed every tab on my computer, cleared my mind and reevaluated my approach. I’m not saving the world, I’m just sharing my thoughts and some information. This episode is just fine if I forget to say one or two things. And guess what, if they’re important thoughts or ideas I can just put them in the next video. And at the end of the day, thoughts are just thoughts. I just let go of a bunch of them and my house didn’t burn down. In fact the only thing that changed is I feel lighter. Better.
Finally, if you’re here because you struggle with too much list making and you don’t actually have OCPD. Or if you do have OCPD but you’re looking at taking baby steps and tackling one thing at a time, here are some things to try in regards to list making specifically. Have only one list. This will minimize the time spent organizing and force you to start prioritizing which things are actually worthy of going down on a list. Get the list off of your phone and post-its. Research of successful people has shown that a small notebook or a deck of index cards have been proven to be the most effective tool for list making. The act of writing helps to forge memories of the lists in our brain, picking up a phone or device offers a myriad of distractions that can additionally slow us down and the temptation for list makers is to use multiple mediums for list making thereby reducing their effectiveness and again, slowing us down.
Warren Buffet, and there’s no arguing with his success, suggests writing down twenty five tasks. Afterward, circle the five you most want to accomplish and ignore, actually not ignore but actively avoid the twenty uncircled tasks. This really falls in line with the techniques I talked about a minute ago. This really forces us to stay in the present and focus on the things in life that really matter. Also, another downside of list making is that the more you do it the more you come to rely on it. It weakens our memory and cognitive skills and allows us to not give the proper attention to those things in our life that have the most significance.
For me personally I rely on four things. The first is that I keep one main to do list and a few standardized lists that rarely get changed. Exercise routines and travel itineraries for example. The second is journaling. By journaling I am better able to identify the things in my life that require the most attention and I’m better able to let go of the small things. The third is to practice mindfulness. This helps me to identify when I’m getting too hung up on rules and details and when I need to stop, step back and think about why I’m behaving the way I am. I had a fourth, but I didn’t write it down. So if it’s a mystery to me I guess it’ll have to be a mystery to you too.