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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I believe that I am married to someone with

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Hello, I believe that I am married to someone with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. I will give an example that occured about a half hour ago. I had just come down from getting my 12 year old son to sleep. My son like to cuddle with me for about 5-10 minutes before he goes to sleep. We usually talk about things that have happened that day,it is a good quiet tme for talk with him while he is relaxed. My wife often objects to this because it means that he doesn't get to sleep exactly on time. She also doesn't like it because it causes him to lie in the "wrong" position. He is not covered up enough, which (according to her) cause him to get sick, or his head is lined up wrong with his pillow, which will cause him to have a neck ache the next day.
Anyway, we got through this without a confrontation tonight, but I then went downstairs and made some microwave popcorn. Suddenly she appeared in the kitchen and in a very accusitry tone asked me what did I think I was doing. I replied that I was making popcorn because I was hungry. She became upset and told me that I was, as always, making a mess for her after she had worked so hard to get the kitchen clean. She then proceeded to berate for being a person who did not have any respect for others, all I did was make problems for her and make her work so extremely hard. She continued on in this vein for several minutes all the while cleaning the counter where I was eating and the floor around where I was standing. I finished the popcorn and began to wash the bowl in the sink. She hates it when I use the kitchen sink for anything and she became even more upset, saying that it was typical of me to be so inconsiderate as to make her wash the sink again and of course I was not capable of cleaning anything. When I replied that I was not going to feel bad for making a bowl of microwave popcorn. She began to list all the things that I was not doing and that needed to get done. She concluded that if I wasn't careful I was going to lose everything and sooner than I thought. After that I left the kitchen to come to my study and she called out after me "see their you go again you always just walk away while I am telling what you need to be doing". All in all quite a reaction to a bowl of microwave popcorn being made at 10:30 in the evening.
Thai is a typical night in my house. So my question is does this fit the discription of someone with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder? Please note although she is obsessively neat she does not often bhave in the ritualistic beahavior that is the classic sign of OCD.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First, let me say I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. On the one hand you are just trying to live normally. But on the other hand your wife seems to not only micromanage everything about the family and the house but she does it in an extremely critical manner.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. The symptoms you describe do not seem like OCD. You are correct that one aspect of OCD is very often a ritualistic aspect to the behavior and you write that she doesn't do that. The other part is the compulsive and obsessive nature of the behavior, whether in ritual form or not. An example would be that if you had made popcorn, she would feel the compulsion to keep checking the microwave door to make sure it was closed completely.

None of the behavior you describe seems to fit a diagnosis of OCD. However, it DOES indicate a need to be controlling and a need to be critical. The neatness, etc. seems to come from that need to control. The controlling and critical behavior, though, is either a problem she has in and of themselves or as part of the marital relationship. It is not possible to differentiate without doing some therapy work.

Therefore, I urge you to go to couples therapy with her. First, it will help you determine if there is an emotional or mental disorder she is dealing with or if there is a marital problem she is expressing with her critical behavior. Second, it will help the marriage either way.

One type of couples therapy is called Gottman therapy. Seek a therapist who is certified by the Gottman Institute. Here's their web address for finding a therapist:

Why? Because John Gottman is the foremost researcher in marriage today and his couples therapy model is the most straightforward model available.

The other therapy is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. This one I would use in your situation if you or she connects with it more than Gottman. Why? Because it focuses on how there have been created emotional barriers and how to get through those barriers. Here is the web address for their therapist finder:

On the website you'll also find excellent books by the founders, Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg.

Okay, I wish you the very best in this and in the future! Know that in my practice your marriage would be one that still has potential and hope!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, ***** *****

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hello, thank you for your answer. However, I don't think you really understood what I was asking. I was not asking whether or not my wife had OCD, I was asking asking if she had Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. This is, at least as I understand it, a different and distinct disorder that falls under the grouping of Personality Disorders, not anxiety disorders. It is also know as Anankastic Personality Disorder and is listed seperately in DSM-IV-TR.

In any case your answer certainly is helpful and I thank you for it. Unfortunately , one of the characteristics of someone with OCPD is "ownership" of the truth. My wife refuses to go to counseling because the root of all our problems lie in my own failings. I am worried about the effect of this situation on my children and I will continue to seek answers on my own.

I am familiar with the DSM criteria for OCPD. You seem very attached to the idea that she has this disorder, so okay. But I don't think you're understanding the features correctly. They are very close to OCD but in an ongoing form that isn't as debilitating over time. In other words, the person can continue going for decades whereas with the OCD the underlying anxiety increases too much to continue. I don't know where you find the ownership of truth in the criteria but again, it seems that this helps you cope with your situation, so okay.

If you're talking about her not willing to find any fault in herself, again that's not OCPD, that's more a narcissistic feature. If so, you are in a difficult spot. If her critical behavior is part of narcissistic features, you're right, she won't ever go to therapy for herself. Usually the only way is if you say you want her to accompany you to therapy for your benefit as a way for her to help you work on problems. Sometimes it works but not that often.

I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, ***** *****
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hello, ok as I understand it; based on the information that I have given you, you do not feel that my wife suffers from OCD nor OCPD. That is what I was seeking an answer to; the question of whether my wife was displaying symptoms of OCPD.

Actually, I have tried something close to the route you have suggested. I went to a psychologist because my wife suggested it and I also felt that I needed some help. He asked to see my wife with me and also my children. His conclusion was that I had a alcohol dependence problem. I went into treatment, got out, and became a member of AA. I just had my one year anniversery in AA and the program has been, literally, a godsend for me. His other conclusion was that my wife had OCD and that her condtion was having a negative result on our children. The reason that I am attached to idea of OCDP, is that when I read descriptions on the condition I feel that I am reading a description of my life with my wife.

I understand that my dependence on alcohol affected my relationship with my wife. If I read your answer correctly it may be that her behavior could be more of a result of the dynamics within our relationship, rather than an underlying condition of her own.

I will read the literature that you suggested and if I can I will try to get my wife to go to couples therapy with me again.

However, if this is not possible I think the best solution for everyone, myself, my children and my wife, would be for us to seperate. If you would like to comment on this, or have any advice that you think would be helpful I would gladly pay another fee to hear it.

Thank you, ***** *****


First of all, the psychologist you saw had a LOT more information than I have been given to speak about your wife and a possible diagnosis of OCD. So, I will go with his observation. One of the aspects of OCD that is pretty universal is a recognition by the person of the compulsive and/or obsessive behavior she is engaging in. It usually needs to bother the person to be OCD. OCPD may have a little less insight but it still is usually part of the package. Your wife seems to blame you and that's not typical.

Congratulations on the 365 days sober. Fantastic! Keep going to those meetings. That's also a dynamic in the marriage that I wasn't aware of that may be shaping her feelings. Sometimes marriages with alcoholics don't last after the alcoholic recovers. Why?

Spouses have a hard time adjusting to the changed situations. Husband has now changed roles and wife isn't quite clear on how to change her role. I always recommend Al Anon at the same time as AA so that both can adjust to the new reality.

Maybe try to have her read my answer and see if she can relate to what I'm saying here: you've changed and she's sort of left holding the bag of all those old awful parts of when you were an active alcoholic. So, couples therapy of the types above may help, especially if the therapist is acquainted with Al Anon and AA.

As for separation, as I wrote, it is not so infrequent because you've changed a lot and she's as I said above. But, give her a chance to find a way to change too if she's willing. Okay. I wish you the very best! Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you