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When My Doctor Diagnosed Me With Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

There are a lot of positives around being in the university system, at least in my experience. Our health insurance is good. Our mental health support is pretty great. Our jobs have flexible hours (even if they are incredibly long).

But, you hop around. A lot. I’ve had 11 addresses in eight years. I’ve cycled through counselors, psychiatrists, nutritionists and friends as I have hurled myself through the fast-paced, constantly changing world that is education.

Last week, I met a new set. The man with the drugs and the lady with all the words and listening ears to make my life bearable. She tells me it sounds exhausting in my head, and he throws a new term at me: obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). I’m appalled.

You see, I have used obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as a puzzle piece in the assemblage that is my identity for three years and four addresses now. When I have a panic attack over something I cannot control, I desperately try to take back what I can by washing the dishes and organizing just right. I have thoughts that spiral tighter and tighter until I’m suffocated. How could I now have something different? The category in which I had placed myself was a comfort, and now he wants to steal it from me.

But what about the lists?” he asks.

I’m defensive. “What about them?”

I have a list on the white board and one on the fridge, a planner full of jottings and a notebook cataloguing everything I have eaten and everything I have done. They settle the monsters creeping up my skull and make them quiet for a little while.

“Are you making lists to get things done?” he asks. “Or is the therapy in making them?”

At that point I wanted to go back into my box and hide — slam the doors, shut the windows. He doesn’t know me! I haven’t even heard of this OCPD thing before! It can’t be real!

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is real and isn’t as commonly known as OCD. People with this diagnosis aren’t treated as often because they tend to think there isn’t anything different about them. They hold themselves to high standards, are incredibly organized, frugal and have difficulty trusting those around them to complete tasks to their satisfaction. Often, when in therapy, they say their spouse or family sent them because they’re “difficult to live with.” I found the idea I might be difficult to live with offensive, but my husband thought it hilarious (and true).

I’ve sat on his words for a week now. The diagnosis and the explanation. On day three, I admitted maybe he wasn’t a fool. On day five, I realized a new diagnosis was not telling me I wasn’t OCD. It wasn’t taking away a definition for me, but adding one. People are complicated; I am allowed to be complicated, too. And today, I’m writing about it. Because it isn’t “new shrink, new me,” it’s “new perspective, better help,” and maybe I can be OK with that.

Unsplash image by Lea Dubedout

Originally published: August 18, 2021
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