Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder – DSM5

Disclaimer: Use this information for reference only. Please do no self diagnose. You must see a doctor or a mental health professional to get proper diagnosis.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria 300.3 (F42)

  1. Presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both:

Obsessions are defined by (1) and (2):

1. Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.

2. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).

Compulsions are defined by (1) and (2):

1. Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

2. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.Note: Young children may not be able to articulate the aims of these behaviors or mental acts.

B. The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming (e.g., take more than 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

C. The obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition.

D. The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., excessive worries, as in generalized anxiety disorder; preoccupation with appearance, as in body dysmorphic disorder; difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, as in hoarding disorder; hair pulling, as in trichotillomania [hair-pulling disorder]; skin picking, as in excoriation [skin-picking] disorder; stereotypies, as in stereotypic movement disorder; ritualized eating behavior, as in eating disorders; preoccupation with substances or gambling, as in substance-related and addictive disorders; preoccupation with having an illness, as in illness anxiety disorder; sexual urges or fantasies, as in paraphilic disorders; impulses, as in disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders; guilty ruminations, as in major depressive disorder; thought insertion or delusional preoccupations, as in schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders; or repetitive patterns of behavior, as in autism spectrum disorder).

Specify if:

With good or fair insiglit: The individual recognizes that obsessive-compulsive disorder beliefs are definitely or probably not true or that they may or may not be true. 

With poor insight: The individual thinks obsessive-compulsive disorder beliefs are probably true.

With absent insight/delusional beliefs: The individual is completely convinced that obsessive-compulsive disorder beliefs are true.

Specify if:

Tic-related: The individual has a current or past history of a tic disorder. 


Many individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have dysfunctional beliefs. These beliefs can include an inflated sense of responsibility and the tendency to overestimate threat; perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty; and over-importance of thoughts (e.g., believing that having a forbidden thought is as bad as acting on it) and the need to control thoughts.

Individuals with OCD vary in the degree of insight they have about the accuracy of the beliefs that underlie their obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Many individuals have good or fair insight (e.g., the individual believes that the house definitely will not, probably will not, or may or may not bum down if the stove is not checked 30 times). Some have poor insight (e.g., the individual believes that the house will probably burn down if the stove is not checked 30 times), and a few (4% or less) have absent insight/delusional beliefs (e.g., the individual is convinced that the house will bum down if the stove is not checked 30 times). Insight can vary within an individual over the course of the illness. Poorer insight has been linked to worse long-term outcome.

Up to 30% of individuals with OCD have a lifetime tic disorder. This is most common in males with onset of OCD in childhood. These individuals tend to differ from those without a history of tic disorders in the themes of their OCD symptoms, comorbidity, course, and pattem of familial transmission.

Diagnostic Features

The characteristic symptoms of OCD are the presence of obsessions and compulsions (Criterion A). Obsessions are repetitive and persistent thoughts (e.g., of contamination), images (e.g., of violent or horrific scenes), or urges (e.g., to stab someone). Importantly, obsessions are not pleasurable or experienced as voluntary: they are intrusive and unwanted and cause marked distress or anxiety in most individuals. 

The individual attempts to ignore or suppress these obsessions (e.g., avoiding triggers or using thought suppression) or to neutralize them with another thought or action (e.g., performing a compulsion). 

Compulsions (or rituals) are repetitive behaviors (e.g., washing, checking) or mental acts (e.g., counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly. Most individuals with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions. 

Compulsions are typically performed in response to an obsession (e.g., thoughts of contamination leading to washing rituals or that something is incorrect leading to repeating rituals until it feels “just right”)· The aim is to reduce the distress triggered by obsessions or to prevent a feared event (e.g., becoming ill). However, these compulsions either are not connected in a realistic way to the feared event (e.g., arranging items symmetrically to prevent harm to a loved one) or are clearly excessive (e.g., showering for hours each day). Compulsions are not done for pleasure, although some individuals experience relief from anxiety or distress.

Criterion B emphasizes that obsessions and compulsions must be time-consuming (e.g., more than 1 hour per day) or cause clinically significant distress or impairment to warrant a diagnosis of OCD. This criterion helps to distinguish the disorder from the occasional in- tmsive thoughts or repetitive behaviors that are common in the general population (e.g., double-checking that a door is locked). 

The frequency and severity of obsessions and compulsions vary across individuals with OCD (e.g., some have mild to moderate symptoms, spending 1-3 hours per day obsessing or doing compulsions, whereas others have nearly constant intmsive thoughts or compulsions that can be incapacitating).

Associated Features Supporting Diagnosis

The specific content of obsessions and compulsions varies between individuals. However, certain themes, or dimensions, are common, including those of cleaning (contamination obsessions and cleaning compulsions); symmetry (symmetry obsessions and repeating. ordering, and counting compulsions); forbidden or taboo thoughts (e.g., aggressive, sexual, or religious obsessions and related compulsions); and harm (e.g., fears of harm to oneself or others and checking compulsions). Some individuals also have difficulties discarding and accumulate (hoard) objects as a consequence of typical obsessions and compulsions, such as fears of harming others. These themes occur across different cultures, are relatively consistent over time in adults with the disorder, and may be associated with different neural substrates. Importantly, individuals often have symptoms in more than one dimension.

Individuals with OCD experience a range of affective responses when confronted with situations that trigger obsessions and compulsions. For example, many individuals experience marked anxiety that can include recurrent panic attacks. Others report strong feelings of disgust. While performing compulsions, some individuals report a distressing sense of “incompleteness” or uneasiness until things look, feel, or sound “just right.”

It is common for individuals with the disorder to avoid people, places, and things that trigger obsessions and compulsions. For example, individuals with contamination concerns might avoid public situations (e.g., restaurants, public restrooms) to reduce exposure to feared contaminants; individuals with intrusive thoughts about causing harm might avoid social interactions.


The 12-month prevalence of OCD in the United States is 1.2%, with a similar prevalence internationally (1.1%-1.8%). Females are affected at a shghtly higher rate than males in adulthood, although males are more commonly affected in childhood.

Development and Course

In the United States, the mean age at onset of OCD is 19.5 years, and 25% of cases start by age 14 years. Onset after age 35 years is unusual but does occur. Males have an earlier age at onset than females: nearly 25% of males have onset before age 10 years. The onset of symptoms is typically gradual; however, acute onset has also been reported.

If OCD is untreated, the course is usually chronic, often with waxing and waning symptoms. Some individuals have an episodic course, and a minority have a deteriorating course. Without treatment, remission rates in adults are low (e.g., 20% for those reevaluated 40 years later). Onset in childhood or adolescence can lead to a lifetime of OCD. However, 40% of individuals with onset of OCD in childhood or adolescence may experience remission by early adulthood. The course of OCD is often complicated by the co-occurrence of other disorders (see section “Comorbidity” for this disorder).

Compulsions are more easily diagnosed in children than obsessions are because compulsions are observable. However, most children have both obsessions and compulsions (as do most adults). The pattern of symptoms in adults can be stable over time, but it is more variable in children. Some differences in the content of obsessions and compulsions have been reported when children and adolescent samples have been compared with adult samples. These differences likely reflect content appropriate to different developmental stages (e.g., higher rates of sexual and religious obsessions in adolescents than in children; higher rates of harm obsessions [e.g., fears of catastrophic events, such as death or illness to self or loved ones] in children and adolescents than in adults).


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for clinicians to communicate about their patients and establishes consistent and reliable diagnoses that can be used in the research of mental disorders. It also provides a common language for researchers to study the criteria for potential future revisions and to aid in the development of medications and other interventions.

artwork by: Toby Allen