In short, there are no specific types of individuals that are prone to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Studies have found the condition equally affects men, women, and children of all ethnicities, races, and background.
However, some psychologists do believe that certain personality types are vulnerable to the condition. For example, Sigmund Freud theorized people who felt indecisive and felt a need for orderliness were more prone to developing OCD than the general population.
While there is no single personality type that will determine whether or not you struggle with OCD, recent research has shown a number of human characteristics are more prone to the condition. ¹
Throughout this article, we’re going to observe these personality types that are more prone to OCD. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that’s defined by cycles of obsessions and compulsions. To put it simply: ²
- Obsessions are unwanted and/or intrusive thoughts, images, and/or urges that give individuals a lot of anxiety.
- Compulsions are behaviors that reflect these obsessive thoughts and, in turn, decrease the anxiety.
While compulsive behaviors relieve anxiety caused by obsessions, they don’t take care of the underlying causes of OCD. In fact, those who push themselves deeper and deeper into this cycle are actually harming themselves more than helping.
What are OCD Symptoms?
OCD symptoms are characterized into “Obsession” and “Compulsive” categories. Since OCD is such a personalized condition, no two people will experience the exact same set of symptoms.
Here are the most common symptoms of OCD:
- Aggressive thoughts – i.e. losing control or harming yourself
- Cleanliness – fear of contamination
- Doubtful – difficulty permitting uncertainty
- Organizational – the need for things to be ordered and symmetrical
- Unwanted thoughts about aggression and/or aggression or religious topics
- Always checking something
- Following a strict routine
- Keeping everything in perfect order
- Requiring reassurance
- Washing and cleaning
What are the Risk Factors for OCD?
One of the biggest indications to know whether or not you have OCD is whether or not you’re prone to a risk factor. While individuals in such a position are more at risk of OCD, it’s important to keep in mind that anyone can develop symptoms.
The most common risk factors for OCD include:
- Age – While OCD can develop at any age between preschool and 40 years old, it’s most common in older teenagers and young adults.
- Genetics – Some studies suggest that genes play a role in whether or not someone will develop OCD. If you have a close relative with the condition, you may be more vulnerable to symptoms. ³
- Pregnancy and Postpartum – A pregnancy and the postpartum period can worsen symptoms in those with or those vulnerable to OCD. ⁴
- Presence of Other Mental Health Conditions – OCD has been found to co-occur with a number of other mental illnesses, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, substance abuse disorder, and a number of other types of anxiety disorders. ⁵
- Stress – Research has found a connection between stress and the development of OCD symptoms. Most commonly, OCD appears when major life changes occur, such as the loss of a loved one or losing a job. It’s worth noting that stress has been found to create obsessive symptoms more so than compulsive symptoms. ⁶
The 7 Personality Categories
The Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) has developed a personality category list in order to make it easier for psychologists to identify specific personality traits. ⁷
Of course, we each hold a unique personality that’s so complex, no single bubble could describe it.
The purpose of the TCI model is simply to understand where your personality generally ranges and whether or not that puts you at risk for certain mental health conditions. In this case, OCD.
1.) Novelty Seeking
Do you seek adventures more so than others? Do you find yourself getting involved in random activities just for the thrill of it?
People who are “Novelty Seeking” tend to be very excitable, curious, and impulsive. This can lead them into risky behaviors, such as dangerous driving, promiscuous sex, and drug use.
People who aren’t novelty seekers tend to be calm, cautious, and sensible.
2.) Harm Avoidance
Do you find yourself avoiding places or situations? Do you find you’re always thinking about the worst possible outcome?
People who participate in “Harm Avoidance” tend to be anxious, worried about the future, and unable to bear uncertainty. Such behaviors can lead to social isolation and other mental health conditions, such as depression. ⁸
People who don’t avoid harm tend to be more relaxed and are able to handle anxiety better.
3.) Reward Dependence
Do you find that you’re in constant need of reassurance? That you cater to others in order to gain their approval?
People with a “Reward Dependence” personality tend to be warm, loving, and very sensitive. While this usually means they’re great with other people, it also means they rely heavily on other people’s opinions.
People who aren’t reward dependent tend to be unemotional and sometimes cold.
Are you determined to meet your goals no matter the cost? Do you find it difficult to get to sleep at night without finishing every little detail of your work?
People with the quality of “Persistence” tend to be hard-working, innovative, and immune to fatigue. While this isn’t necessarily a bad personality trait, it could lead to unhealthy behavior, such as perfectionism.
People who aren’t persistant tend to be less goal-oriented and more laid-back.
Do you know exactly where you want to be in 5 years? Do you find yourself motivated to do whatever it takes to get there?
People with the personality trait of “Self-Directedness” tend to be mature, responsible, reliable, and goal-oriented. Similar to “Persistence,” this isn’t a bad characteristic to have. However, it may lead to negative behaviors, such as perfectionism.
People who aren’t self-directed tend to be self-focused, unreliable, and immature.
Do you find it easier to work with others rather than working alone? Do you find that you prefer to be in a social enviornment?
People with “Cooperativeness” are usually good team players and have an aim to get along with others. While this can certainly be beneficial, it may also lead someone down a path where they’re in need of reassurance from others.
Those who aren’t cooperative tend to value themselves and their personal goods above other people and things.
Do you believe you were put into existence for a higher purpose? Do you find yourself indulging in all things spiritual in order to find your true meaning?
People of the “Self-Transcendence” personality trait tend to be on a search for something greater than themselves and find themselves engrossed in enjoyable and spiritual activities.
People who aren’t as self-transcendent tend to be rational, in the present, and have little to no spiritual ambition.
Personalities that Lead to OCD
Studies have found that this personality model can accurately determine whether or not someone may be struggling with OCD. Those who have higher scores with harm avoidance are most at risk. Whereas those with lower scores in novelty seeking, reward dependence, self-directedness, and cooperativeness are less at risk. ⁹
Of course, this test shouldn’t be the sole determination of whether or not you struggle with OCD. Individuals with reward dependence and self-directedness personality traits can still develop the condition.
Not to mention, these tests don’t determine the scale of how much someone struggles with OCD. While some people with obvious signs may test positive, others with less obvious signs may test negative.
Other Factors of Personality and OCD
When you speak with a mental health professional, there are two important things they’re going to observe to determine whether or not you have OCD: your symptoms and your risk factors.
If you appear to show symptoms related to OCD and these symptoms are inhibiting your day-to-day life, there’s a good chance you could be struggling.
From there, through a series of interviews, a psychologist will be able to determine how at risk you are for this condition. For example, if you reveal your mother struggles with OCD or that you’ve been experiencing large amounts of stress, mental health professionals will match that with the symptoms you’ve discussed.
It’s difficult to determine OCD simply off personality traits because, again, personality is so deep and complicated. It’s likely each of us hold some personality traits that can be linked to the condition, but it’s unlikely we’re all struggling with this illness.
Unrelated to the personality test mentioned above, there are a set of traits that are often found in those who have OCD: ¹⁰
- Impulsivity – When you participate in activities that feel good without considering future consequences.
- Indecisiveness – When you have difficulty making decisions or need a lot of time to come to a decision.
- Neuroticism – When you avoid situations or places that you feel can put you in harm’s way.
- Perfectionism – When you need situations and/or objects to be exactly right (i.e. everything must be symmetrical).
- Responsibility – When you feel more accountability for your actions than most people do.
If you struggle with at least one of the above personality traits, we highly suggest you see a mental health professional in concerns with OCD.
Again, there are no specific types of people prone to OCD in comparison to others. However, when get into the finer details of personality, we can see that some characteristics are more vulnerable to the condition than others.
Still, a proper diagnosis is determined namely by symptoms and risk factors rather than personality type. If you’re wondering whether or not you have OCD, the only true way to find out is by consulting a mental health professional and getting their opinion.
Still have questions concerning whether or not certain types of people are prone to OCD?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Psychiatry Investigation: The Impact of Personality Traits on Ratings of Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms
² National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
³ The Psychiatric clinics of North America (HHS Public Access): Genetics of OCD
⁴ Archives of women’s mental health (HHS Public Access): Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: Course of Illness and Obstetrical Outcome
⁵ Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Obsessive-compulsive disorder and its related disorders
⁶ frontiers in Psychiatry: Perceived Stress in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is Related with Obsessive but Not Compulsive Symptoms
⁷ Comprehensive Psychiatry: Temperament and character in subjects with obsessive-compulsive disorder
⁸ Medicine (Wolters Kluwer Health): The Role of the Harm Avoidance Personality in Depression and Anxiety During the Medical Internship
⁹ APA PsycNet: Conscientiousness and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
¹⁰ Wiley Online Library: Should an obsessive-compulsive spectrum grouping of disorders be included in DSM-V?