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lilikoi's avatar

I think my mother has OCPD. What can I do?

Asked by lilikoi (10079points) March 31st, 2010

She fits about 95% of the symptoms. Is there anything else it could be?

She is extremely self absorbed – conversations are very one-sided with her, and she shows almost no interest in my life. Is this also related to OCPD, or something else?

What can I do about it? I’ve read that one major characteristic of someone w/ OCPD is that they do not think they have a problem – she certainly does not acknowledge it.

And is this genetic? What is the likelihood of me being like her?

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38 Answers

SeventhSense's avatar

She could be NPD.

TheOnlyException's avatar

have you talked to her about it? it could easily be something else in her life making her behave this way.
you might find this site useful.

lilikoi's avatar

@TheOnlyException She does not like showing feelings. She never shows emotion. She won’t have a conversation like this. It would embarrass and humiliate her. She has always been like this, as long as I can remember. It is not an acute problem that suddenly appeared.

TheOnlyException's avatar

@lilikoi hmm. It could just be her personality? The way she was brought up? I know people, who, when something so bad has happened to them in their childhood, they never cry or show emotion because they relate it to weakness, and they feel if they let it out everything will fall apart. if she has been like this since forever, it could just be something that happened to her growing up that made her like this, like some people are boisterous and others arent.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Funny, I was talking with some other friends about this (we all think our mom’s have it) but really, our moms do engage well with other people, it’s just us they’re not much interested in :(

lilikoi's avatar


Perhaps that is true of the emotion thing, but that doesn’t explain the pack-rat mentality, the obsession with cleanliness, the rigidity, perfectionism, work obsession, obsession with detail, miserliness….

The only thing that didn’t quite fit in the symptoms list on Wikipedia and other sites is miserliness. She is a miser to everyone except my sibling to which she displays endless generosity.

Thanks for the video link. It cements everything I’ve read about this so far. What I still don’t know is whether this is genetic or environmentally caused (the video was little weak on the causes of OCPD), and how you can get someone who does not realize their problems to go to therapy to face them.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

Not to be mean, but could it just be she doesn’t find you interesting? Not everyone is for everyone else and that is also the case with parents and children. A lot do have unconditional love and think their kids are great and their feces smell like roses, but that isn’t the case always, nor is it wrong if it is or isn’t.

I wouldn’t be all that interested in a kid who turned out to be a social butterfly or what I consider a valley girl. Not that there is anything wrong with those things, just not my cup of tea and I wouldn’t fake interest either because that isn’t my thing.

Perhaps not showing emotion is more comfortable for her than being overly emotive. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe she thinks you have a problem because you feel like she should be more emotive and take more of an interest in your life.

Just because your personalities are not similar does not mean your mother has some kind of psych disorder.

nikipedia's avatar

how you can get someone who does not realize their problems to go to therapy to face them

I used to do research for a very good psychiatrist. I once asked him this question. He stared at me blankly and said, “nikipedia, you can’t.”

lilikoi's avatar

To give some examples:

—Her house has always been packed with stuff. You can barely see the floor. A lot of these things are 4 decades old and never used. She will not let you get rid of them.

—Her house is really clean. She cleans constantly. There is no dust anywhere. The bathrooms are spotless. They are decades old, and the tile and porcelain look brand new. Her car is spotless – it is two years old and looks like it was just driven off the lot.

—She spends nights and weekends working on lesson plans. She gets caught up in every single detail and gets overwhelmed by it. She is extremely inefficient. She always says she is busy (because she is overwhelmed by details), when on normal standards she is not. She works constantly. She is an extreme perfectionist.

—She is rigid, stubborn, and extremely judgemental. She is extremely inflexible about morals, ethics, and values.

wonderingwhy's avatar

There is believed to be a genetic contributor to OCPD. More likely than not, it’s just “her”. Maybe, and this sound pretty bad, she’s just not that interested in your life? Lots of people are self-absorbed to the point of exclusion and insult of others, parents towards their children included. There may be also be any number of personal issues causing her to ignore you and become self absorbed, things she may not even want to acknowledge much less talk about (for example, serious medical condition recently diagnosed). If it’s a disorder it probably wouldn’t be just you. Also this behavior would not suddenly come about, it would develop and evolve over time. Are the symptoms getting worse? Are they having an effect detrimental to her life? Talk to her, ask her directly, but politely, about her attitude. If she doesn’t talk about it, or doesn’t acknowledge it, ask again, let her know how you feel directly. If you genuinely believe after considering that it could be a serious personal issue or just her being her, ask a trained psychologist.

From the DSM-IV via Wiki (though it’s been challenged as to it’s validity). Also, this is just for reference, just because she exhibits symptoms listed, that alone means nothing. She can only be properly assessed by someone trained to do so.

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
-Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
-Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)
-Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
-Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
-Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
-Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
-Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
-Shows rigidity and stubbornness

Jeruba's avatar

I’m afraid it seems very foolish to me to try to diagnose someone else’s possible personality disorder by means of untrained and nonobserving third parties over the Internet.

By the way, I know plenty of OCD people who are aware of it and may have even correctly self-diagnosed.

TheOnlyException's avatar

@lilikoi Of course I dont think I, or you, or any of us know nearly enough to properly diagnose your mother. even with all those things about her, it may just be how she has been molded by her environment? it could be a million reasons, maybe she feels if she is a perfectionist (even to an obsessive extent) it is her way of keeping in control of her life. maybe she feels if she relaxes even for a moment things will start going to pieces. i know people like this, really i do, they have had such difficult lives and they see overzealousness to the point of near-insanity being the only way of keeping everything ‘good’ and they deny that anything is wrong and that people think their behaviour is odd. keep observing her, and please try and approach her about this, you said that would embarrass her and make her uncomfortable (yet another thing could have sprung from her upbringing? parents maybe didnt like to talk intimately?) but push through as you need to do this. i hope it is nothing too serious love :)

lilikoi's avatar

@rahm_sahriv Please see above. I asked if her not having any interest in my life was also a sign of OCPD – it was a side question. Besides that, she is in line with all the symptoms for OCPD independent of that observation. I’m not saying that because she takes no interest in my life, she must have OCPD. I’m saying she has all the symptoms of OCPD, what can I do about it, and btw is her lack of interest in my life also connected to OCPD or something else. But thanks for your answer.

TheOnlyException's avatar

@Jeruba she is just trying to get some reassurance. wouldnt you want some?

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t think reassurance trumps the truth, @TheOnlyException, do you? What use are feelgood answers? She sounds like she really wants to know. No, I would not want reassurance. I would want accurate information.

wonderingwhy's avatar

All you can do is talk to a psychologist and preferably get her to talk to one. If she doesn’t acknowledge she has a problem or doesn’t believe she has one the only alternative (to my knowledge) is to have her committed and that is a very serious step that only a psychologist with first hand knowledge of the situation should be consulted on. Frankly, if she doesn’t see it as interfering with her life, there really isn’t (for her) much of a problem and not much you can do about it.

Jeruba's avatar

Have a person committed because she works hard on her lesson plans and doesn’t converse socially with her daughter?? OCPD is not insanity.

TheOnlyException's avatar

@Jeruba Not reassurance then, but.. something? I have asked questions somewhat similar to this, and although I have known I would be better off googling it or tackling the situation head on, it was nice to know there are others you can talk to, anonymous others, until you are ready to talk to someone you know about it, it built up my confidence that maybe the people in my life would react similarly to such a question. i got real person reactions.

Jeruba's avatar

@TheOnlyException, I see a very great difference between asking a question like this:

How do I cope with my father’s Alzheimer’s? It is wearing me down. Have you had to face this problem?

and asking a question like this:

I understand that Alzheimer’s is caused by neural tangles in your brain. I think my father has neural tangles. Here are his symptoms. Do you think so too?

One is a personal request for advice and support. The other calls for a professional diagnosis. I think we should remember our collective limitations and not risk doing harm to someone out of ignorance, no matter how well-intentioned.

lilikoi's avatar

@wonderingwhy Thanks for the answer. I think all of the symptoms of OCPD individually can be normal personality traits to a certain extent. Her hoarding and her obsession with rules and cleanliness are definitely not normal, and that is how I found OCPD. She not only exhibits all the symptoms listed for OCPD, she is on the extreme end of most of them. I read the Wikipedia article, thanks.

@TheOnlyException I have been observing her all my life. I have always thought it was just who she is, but there really does seem to be something more there.

@Jeruba I think you are right. From the answers I am getting, it is clear that no one here grasps how extreme her behavior is nor can see how closely she fits the symptoms. How could they – they didn’t live with her for 17 years and haven’t been observing her for the last 7 years, like I have.

@wonderingwhy I don’t think you can commit someone for this disorder. I’d like to talk to a psychologist, but I don’t think I can afford it at this time.

And why was everyone so tunnel-vision focused on my mention of my mother lacking interest in my life? That was hardly the point, people! Again: I’m not saying that because she takes no interest in my life, she must have OCPD. I’m saying she has all the symptoms of OCPD, what can I do about it, and btw is her lack of interest in my life also connected to OCPD or something else. It sounds like something else. Thanks for clarifying.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

@lilikoi There is nothing you can do. You can suggest her seeing a shrink or therapist, you can state you think she might have this or that but that is all you can do. Whether she chooses to go or accept your thoughts on the matter is up to her. Even if she sees a shrink initially and actually turns out to have OCPD, treatment for it is still in her power. If she sees no need to change things, if she doesn’t feel she has a problem, not anyone is going to be able to convince her otherwise.

SeventhSense's avatar

Is she disorganized? Does she say amazingly inappropriate things at inappropriate times with complete disregard for other’s feelings?

lilikoi's avatar


I really do appreciate your answers and interest in helping me. I think @Jeruba and @wonderingwhy, you guys both have validity to your points.

For the sake of this post, let us just assume she does have OCPD.

I don’t think we need to try to make a diagnosis here. My original question was what can i do? As in, what course of action can I take to (1) find out whether or not she does have OCPD, and (2) get her the help she needs if she does?

It sounds like the first thing I should do is talk to a psychologist. Is this correct? What do I do? Go in there and tell him I think she has OCPD? What will s/he do? I guess I just don’t see where that can go. If she does have OCPD, I’d like her to get help to sort it out. Will the psych have good suggestions on how to persuade her to come in and see him/her?

lilikoi's avatar

@SeventhSense No to the first. She is actually amazingly organized. She has stacks and piles of stuff everywhere where you can barely see the floor, but all of this stuff is organized. They are neat piles. Things are carefully and meticulously packed in boxes. Boxes are carefully and meticulously stacked. I don’t think she says inappropriate things at inappropriate times.

wonderingwhy's avatar

@lilikoi Yes, talk to a psychologist. Explain the situation as fully as possible, start with the fact that you’re very concerned and the symptoms. They may well have suggestions on how to get her to come in or what you can do to encourage her to. They may also be willing to pay her a visit (not common to my knowledge, but it still happens). If there’s nothing they can do, just be supportive and understanding make sure she knows how you feel and encourage her at any opportunity to break from her habits, even in small ways. That’s probably not what you’re looking for, but it’s all I’ve got, sorry I couldn’t give you better input, good luck!

lilikoi's avatar

@Jeruba OCD is very different from OCPD. I’ve read it is very common for OCD people to be aware that something is not right while OCPD people usually have no idea that something is wrong.

SeventhSense's avatar

Yes she’s more than likely OCD and not NPD but she may just be very neurotic and sublimating some anxiety into her constant activity. The only question you should ask is how best to deal with this and what are the limitations of what you can or can’t do. Suppose she is OCD. What can you do with this information that’s helpful? First and foremost I would ask how this knowledge can help me personally and how I relate to her. Sometimes it helps for me to understand my mother’s issues and sometimes it doesn’t matter and I just need to accept life.

edit- wasn’t aware of the OCD OCPD difference. It sounds severe either way which is probably beyond your capacity to implement a change other than a suggestion or hint.

lilikoi's avatar

@SeventhSense Thanks. I just want her to be happy and enjoy life. She seems incapable of it. Nothing is ever good enough for her; she is never satisfied with what she has (perfectionism I am guessing being the root cause of this). She is always complaining that she doesn’t have time for other things. She does not see that it is because she is obsessed with detail and perfectionism in her work that her work becomes all consuming. She always complains about not having a showroom house, and cannot see that if she could just stop hoarding and let go of things she could have it. This is mostly about her. For me, it would be nice if she weren’t so judgmental (I actually limit my time around her for this reason), dealing with her problems instead of endlessly ranting about them and doing nothing would make it much more pleasant to be around her, and it would provide an explanation for most of the things I have never understood about her.

SeventhSense's avatar

I would say just be careful that you don’t start getting caught up in her outlook too much or it may hurt you. I would just love her but look at her as any sick person and keep your boundaries clear. If she has an illness there’s nothing in stone that says you will be afflicted. Unless of course you start becoming too focused on her and then you may see a self fulfilling prophesy develop.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, there you are, @lilikoi. I didn’t know there was a difference; I thought it was just an evolving label. I’m not an ignorant person, but I’m obviously no expert in this matter even though I’ve got a pretty good case of OCD myself. This is exactly why we aren’t the right resource for serious professional advice.

escapedone7's avatar

There is a website I found helpful as a support for children of hoarders.

My grandmother and mother were both hoarders but my mother to a much lesser degree. My grandmother’s house wasn’t even livable. We had to literally shovel out the piles and burn all the garbage after she died.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t really think it is our place to judge or diagnose another person. If she doesn’t believe she has a problem, and is living her life on her own, then you need to learn to be more tolerant, not figure out how to change her – change your own attitude. In the long run, the only person we can change is ourself.

SeventhSense's avatar

What intrigues me is that she’s neat and clean and a hoarder? They usually are mutually exclusive. Hoarders are not clean and neat or organized.

FarewellStockholm's avatar

I understand your concern. I have a mother who suffers from Borderline Personality traits. Just the other evening she called my sister and I both when we were out to dinner to belittle us and make us feel guity for having dinner without her. She felt “left out” and we were supposed to feel sorry for her. Pssshhh…

It’s important to remember that although she may fit those traits of the disorder it does not mean she HAS the disorder. She would need to see a trained professional to obtain that type of diagnosis. It is perhaps possible (as with my mom) that she suffers from those traits and they are prevalent enough in her personality that they interfere with her (and your) life.
I would love to offer any tips I can offer based on my own personal experience with my mom and how I handle the situations. I really had to accept her, learn some new skills on how to handle her behavior, and restructure our relationship.

First off, how old are you and how long have you noticed this has been happening?

Jeruba's avatar

@SeventhSense, hoarders come in too many kinds and degrees for a simple generality. Some hoarders are like Dorian Gray: a beautiful public front, and a frightful heap just out of sight.

SeventhSense's avatar

^ Yes like you say a frightful heap. It’s not clean neat or organized. The definition of hoarding is piles and piles of stuff that you can’t even get too. I’ve known quite a few and I’ve never seen one who is clean or organized except on their physical person.

SeventhSense's avatar

Looks pretty bad.

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