In psychology, there are concepts which, being complex and having many facets, may overlap in some respects and be confused by the general public. This is the case with perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which have certain characteristics in common but must be distinguished due to the many aspects in which they differ.
like that, in this article we will see what are the most important differences between perfectionism and OCD, And how they affect the lives of those who experience them in first person.
Knowledge is very useful, as the lack of information in this regard can cause perfectionists to worry unnecessarily that they may have OCD, and that people diagnosed with OCD, by not knowing this trouble, believe what happens to them. is normal and should not be treated by mental health professionals.
Key differences between perfectionism and OCD
Before we see what the differences are between obsessive-compulsive disorder and perfectionism, let’s give a general overview of the meaning of each of these two terms.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a psychological disorder that appears in diagnostic textbooks used in psychiatry and clinical psychology, and their symptoms have components of anxiety and impulse control difficulties (although not categorized as anxiety disorders or impulse control disorders).
Specifically, people with OCD experience intrusive thoughts that cause discomfort and anxiety, and attempt to dispel them by performing compulsions, stereotypical and repetitive actions similar to small rituals, and the goal is to make these mental images disappear.
OCD can be expressed through many types of obsessions and a wide variety of compulsions. Examples of the latter are washing your hands several times in a row, walking alone on certain tiles in the same room, often closing a door, etc.
On the other hand, to talk about obsessive-compulsive disorder, these obsessions and compulsions must appear very frequently and cause significant damage to the person’s quality of life, which often even leads to an impact on your physical health.
On another side, perfectionism is a category that has not been defined by consensus among researchers in the world of psychology and is not included in the entries in diagnostic textbooks, and indicates a tendency to do things with great fidelity to plans and goals set in advance.
With that said, let’s take a look at the differences between perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
1. OCD is always harmful, perfectionism is not
As we have seen, obsessive-compulsive disorder always causes discomfort, either because of health problems or by devoting time and resources to rituals that do not bring any objective well-being, beyond the dissipation of short-term discomfort (which is also induced by this disorder).
On the other hand, while perfectionism can lead to many problems if it occurs to a very high degree, and can even contribute to a rapid deterioration of the state of health, this does not have to be the case in all cases. . In some situations, perfectionism is a beneficial trait, And in others, no; it depends on the context.
2. In OCD, there are repetitive rituals
The main characteristic of OCD, and one of the clearest differences between this disorder and perfectionism, is that it leads the person to perform very specific and repetitive rituals, Which are raised in practice always in the same way. In fact, if at any time a new element appears in the realization of these compulsions, people with OCD tend to break the sequence and start over.
The repetitive nature of compulsions is independent of the context, it always arises in the same way, so that a person who observes these rituals, will already know what the following will look like.
however, in perfectionism, rigidity is not so literally present. It is true that perfectionists adopt behavioral patterns linked to discipline, but it is a rigidity that makes sense to achieve a medium or long term goal; it is not so much the discipline itself that is valued, but what the discipline allows to achieve. Which brings us to talking about the next difference between perfectionism and OCD.
3. In OCD, the purpose of compulsions is always the same; in perfectionism, no
Perfectionists are so in so many areas of their lives as they aspire to achieve through those lofty goals, on the one hand, or an order that allows them to effectively use their time and resources in whatever they can. make one day for the base day.
In contrast, when people with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience the anxiety effects of this psychological disorder, the goal they have in mind when performing their discomfort rituals is always a: stop feeling bad right away or prevent a specific situation from happening that would be catastrophic, And that tends to be always the same (usually the two phenomena occur at the same time). The goal is always to get away from something bad, and more specifically, from a bad thing that is always the same or almost the same.
For example, a perfectionist might clean their kitchen every day before bed to avoid problems the next day by finding cutlery or emptying part of the table to eat, or simply because they understand that the default state is kitchen is clean, but someone with OCD will clean it lest the area fill up with cockroaches in a matter of minutes, and always do it in the same order.
4. In OCD, there is a magical thought, and in perfectionism, not always
Those who experience OCD have compulsions because they implicitly believe that these rituals will serve to prevent something bad from happening or an unpleasant circumstance from having an effect. You can rationally recognize that it doesn’t make sense, but you think if you don’t, something is wrong. Therefore, in practice he falls into superstitious approaches (At least for this aspect of life, not necessarily in the others).
In perfectionism, on the other hand, magical thinking doesn’t necessarily have to be given, as there are objective reasons to believe that doing things to be true to a plan brings benefits when it comes to achieving something.
How do I get help for obsessive-compulsive disorder?
As we have seen, OCD is a psychological disorder that always affects a person’s quality of life, and which always worth a visit to the psychologist.
At the Institute of Psychode Psychology, A mental health care center located in Madrid and Alicante that also offers online therapy, explain that with appropriate psychotherapeutic care, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms of this mental disorder, even in cases where it appears at the same time. With other disorders (relatively frequent).
The key to treatment is to intervene both in the thoughts and beliefs of the patients, and in the specific actions and habits of the patients. From this double path of psychological intervention, favored by cognitive-behavioral therapy, it is possible to quickly change the daily life of these people and, although it is rare for all the symptoms to disappear at all, we can start to live normally.
For example, one of the most common tools used to modify the actions of patients with OCD is Prevention of exposure and response, In which the person is trained to get used to not realizing the compulsion and allowing the anxiety to dissipate on its own.
Professionals specializing in clinical psychology at the Psychode Institute emphasize that a much of the therapy is based on performing activities, rather than just talking to the psychologist, as many people believe. However, psychotherapists guide each patient in a personalized way, so that they know at all times what to do and why it makes sense to do it.
On the other hand, in many cases the use of psychotherapy is combined with the administration of psychotropic drugs prescribed by the doctor, at least temporarily, to control the symptoms.
- Koran LM, Hanna GL, Hollander E, Nestadt G, Simpson HB (July 2007). “Practical guide for the treatment of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder”. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 164 (7 Suppl): 5-53.
- Stern, ER; Taylor, SF (September 2014). “Cognitive Neuroscience of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Psychiatric clinics of North America. 37 (3): 337-352.