Personality Disorders- Children with Obsessive Compulsive Parents

February 23, 2017

Children growing up with obsessive compulsive parents can be extremely difficult.

Personality disorders differ from mood or behavioral disorders because it encompasses the personality of the affected person. People with obsessive-compulsive disorders hate their behaviors, whereas research has shown that people with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder are comforted by their rigid behaviors. OCPD does not exhibit true obsessions and compulsions as OCD. People with OCPD are unable to accept openness, flexibility, or efficiency therefore they are unable to change routines.

Parents with OCPD are labeled as “the drill sergeant or the punisher.” Children are led to feel “I will never measure up or be good enough” that also carries into adulthood. As an adult dealing with OCPD parents, they develop hate toward things that were criticized as a child, such as housework or even a sport they once enjoyed. These adult children also are easily triggered and sensitive when others give them feedback.

Whether you or someone you know is struggling with a parent diagnosed with OCPD, continue reading to better understand parental behaviors and get answers how to handle any future situation with the struggling parent.

obsessive compulsive parents
obsessive compulsive parents

What should we expect? Every person with OCPD focuses on one or more thing to obsess over. If the parent becomes obsessive about their parenting, then children should expect that parent to override and watch every move made. A few examples include tracking phone conversations, time with friends, how the child studies for school, and bedtime/morning routines. The OCPD parent always thinks their children did something wrong, leading them to feel the constant need to act perfectly. Children tend to feel they could have done better and that they can never get anything right. Expectations are never realistic and unreasonable. OCPD parents are eager for their children to be better than other children and master skills that are to accomplish such as perfect grades or perfect hits, throws, kicks, etc. in their extra curricular activities.

How has OCPD parenting affected me? To better understand, let’s break it down into each trait exhibited in the DSM-V diagnostic criteria.

1) preoccuppied with rules and lists, the purpose of activities are lost

2) perfectionism interferes with task completion

3) excessively involved in productivity that prevents leisure activities and relationships

4) not flexible about seeing other potential ethics, morals, or values (not including cultural or religious concepts)

5) unable to discard objects not needed because they feel years from now they might need it again, looks like hoarding

6) reluctant to delegate tasks due to fear that it would not be done their way

7) reluctant to spend, money is hoarded for future catastrophes

8) shows rigid and stubborn behaviors

Based on the above criteria, when children make mistakes the OCPD parent will usually tear down that child with insults and compare him or her to siblings who did better than the child who messed up. Children begin to always feel that need to be perfect. According to the DSM-V criteria, children will mostly likely stop attempts to do things themselves because they have developed a fear of letting down their OCPD parent. The diagnostic criteria shows that children should plan to live by rule charts and chore lists with allotted times to complete each task. Children should expect ongoing lectures for anything done outside of their standards. If the task has not been done exactly to the expectations of that parent, then children are forced to re-attempt the same tasks over and over until it is completed perfectly. OCPD parents tend to spend hours on simply on one task.

How should we take action? The most effective form of treatment for OCPD is group therapy in order for the individual to learn from their peers. Regardless of age, cultural background, etc., research has shown how group therapy can dramatically keep OCPD individuals motivated, engaged, and accountable. As a child, it would be difficult to convince a parent to attend therapy. However, once that child becomes an adult it is important to assert boundaries. The adult child could say “mom you need help because this disorder is negatively impacting our relationship and your relationships with others.” Adults need to be cautious to not allow the overtly strict parenting style from their OCPD parent transfer into their own parenting style for their own children. Every child deserves the opportunity to enjoy their childhood, to learn from their mistakes without feeling judged, and to feel unconditionally supported by their parents regardless of their failures.

If you or loved one is suffering from a Personality Disorder, be sure to share this information on how to manage child-parent relationships.

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For more information on receiving help for managing a Personality Disorder, specifically Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, or other related topics, check out the Resources Page.

  • Nick Silverthorn

    My ex has OCPD & sometimes its difficult to get on, I have tried to be friends but sometimes she explodes for stupid reasons, I had a boy with her & now he is 7 years old & even once said to me that she had hit him in the stomach in a rage, I’m a bit scared of what she is capable of

    • That One Girl

      You need to get him out of there.

      • Easier said that done under UK law – he’ll have it twisted against him, encounter lousy professionals (particulary in the psychology profession) and will have years of having to demonstrate he’s a fit human being at a cost of tens of thousands – family law is riddled with chauvinism.

        • Lisa Ellison Bragg

          One thing is for sure: do nothing and nothing will be done. Your son has asked you for help in the only way he knows how. He needs to see that you’ll exhaust the law to protect him.