This is a guest post by Kim Tremblay: A Case Manager at My Sisters’ Place which is a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association London Middlesex.
There is a big difference between OCD Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and OCPD Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. There can be overlapping symptoms at times so it can be confusing. It was once thought that OCD was the determining factor in “Hoarding Disorder” but as we now know it is much more complex than that. Individuals often have a number of vulnerability factors that have impacted on their struggles with clutter and hoarding.
I work with a client who was diagnosed years ago through the hospital with OCD. She has issues with hoarding which she is fully aware of but she actually has no OCD symptoms and the classic symptoms of OCPD.
I wouldn’t really describe myself as an expert in this field but usually I can see when someone who has challenges with their stuff also may struggle with OCPD. Perfectionism and the inability to let go of anything are usually the first clues. When we think about the issue of perfectionism which is something that comes up a lot, someone with OCPD is so challenged by this that they become paralyzed and unable to move forward. Throwing out a small piece of paper is a huge success for this person.
An OCPD person may have lots of clutter but it is all organized neatly in see through bins with labels, in alphabetical order and possibly stacked to the ceiling. There may even be a list somewhere of what is in those boxes or bins. They want everything to be in view so that they know where things are. They probably have empty drawers and filing cabinets. The shelving is likely unstable and as to whether one can really find things they are looking for is questionable.
They have certain rules and regulations about the order of things and how things should be in the world. When this doesn’t quite go their way, they may experience a lot of anxiety and turmoil. Having control is very important for someone who suffers with OCPD. They really can get so caught up in all of the small details that they easily lose sight of the main thing they were initially involved in. They often have difficulty with others who don’t agree with them or challenge their thought process.
This person likes to make lists and do research as opposed to doing the actual work of organizing or letting go of items. I had a woman in my group once who volunteered to type up all of the notes on the flip chart for us weekly and it seemed that was the main task and progress that she made in the group. Decision making is extremely difficult for these individuals from what to wear to what to order in a restaurant.
These individuals likely think that everything is special and needs a special place. Everything is valuable. It can be very difficult for this individual to throw out anything even things that we see as worthless but to them everything has a purpose and can be used at a later date. I remember once saying to a client “what about the things you don’t love”. She said, “pardon”, so I repeated myself and she said “but, I love everything”. I believe that this is common among those who struggle with these challenging issues.
As a Professional Organizer it is important to be aware that someone may be struggling with these issues of control and perfectionism and that they are not just being willful.
So, how can we work with these individuals?
It seems that there are quite a lot of resources about this disorder, support for people who love someone with this disorder but not really a lot of easy answers for those who are suffering. If the person has insight into their own issues support groups can help as well as individual therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy would be recommended as they are the preferred therapies for help for hoarders. Motivational interviewing may help for professionals working with clients.
Some Recommended Reading and Resources:
Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Jeannette Dewyze and Allan Mallinger
When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism by Martin Antony and Richard Swinson
http://www.wikihow.com/Recognize-Obsessive-Compulsive-Personality-Disorder – this is an awesome site with really accurate info about OCPD
http://www.lendingtheway.com/tightrope/OCPD2.pdf – this is quite long but interesting reading on this issue
http://www.outofthefog.net/Disorders/OCPD.html – great website with links to resources
http://outofthefog.net/forum/ – there are some support forums online
Do you know of other resources that would be helpful? Please share below and thanks so much for following along.