OCD Causes Personality Traits That May Make OCD More Likely By Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 26, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Geber86 / Getty Images It has long been thought that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might be related to different personality characteristics. For example, Freud thought that personality traits such as indecisiveness and orderliness played a large role in the development of OCD. Although there does not appear to be one type of personality that is vulnerable to developing OCD, recent research suggests that certain personality features may be influential. Personality Categories Although there are many ways in which we can think about or define personality, it has become popular to describe personality using distinct categories that reflect different aspects of the way we think or act. According to one popular psychological model, the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), personality can be described using seven categories. Novelty Seeking: People high in this trait are usually excitable, curious and impulsive, while those on the low side are calm, cautious and sensible.Harm Avoidance: People high in this trait are usually anxious, worried about the future and unable to tolerate uncertainty, while those on the low side are relaxed and deal well with anxiety.Reward Dependence: People high in this trait are usually warm, loving and sensitive, while those on the low side tend to be cold and/or unemotional.Persistence: People high in this trait are usually hard-working, industrious and resistant to fatigue, while people low in this trait may get tired easily, are more laid-back and less goal-directed.Self-Directedness: People high in this trait are usually mature, responsible, reliable and goal-oriented, while people low in this trait tend to be more self-focused, unreliable, and immature.Cooperativeness: People high in this trait usually strive to get along with others and are good team players while those low in this trait tend to be uncooperative and value their personal good above that of others.Self-Transcendence: People high in this trait usually search for something bigger than themselves, get easily engrossed in activities they enjoy and are spiritual in nature, whereas people low in this trait tend to be rational, present and not particularly spiritual. Studies using the model have consistently found that individuals with OCD have higher scores on harm avoidance and lower scores on novelty seeking, reward dependence, self-directedness, and cooperativeness compared to people without OCD. How Personality Categories Relate to OCD While specific personality characteristics are unlikely to be a direct cause of OCD, they could be risk factors. A risk factor is something that increases a person's chances of eventually developing a given illness. For example, a person who scores high on harm avoidance may develop ineffective coping strategies for managing stress, thus increasing the chance that they will develop OCD. In addition to being risk factors for developing OCD, particular personality traits may be associated with symptoms of OCD owing to a shared biological basis. In another example, someone who is low in reward dependence may have difficulty taking advantage of the support offered by friends and family that might otherwise be helpful in dealing with difficult situations. Again, under the right circumstances, this could leave them vulnerable to developing OCD. Specific Personality Traits That Are Prevalent in OCD Unrelated to the personality categories detailed above, there are five specific personality traits that many people with OC spectrum disorders tend to have. Perfectionism: A need to have situations and objects exactly right.Indecisiveness: An inability to make decisions or needing a lot of time to decide.Impulsivity: An inclination to do what feels good at the moment without thinking about future consequences.Responsibility: A tendency to take on and/or feel more responsible for your actions than most people do.Neuroticism: A drive to avoid situations that seem dangerous. Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Indecison Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring psychologist William Miller, PhD, shares how to deal with indecisiveness. Click below to listen now. Subscribe Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Therapy Can Help Identify Personality Patterns Psychotherapy can be helpful in identifying personality characteristics or patterns of behavior that are getting in the way of developing good coping strategies and/or taking advantage of treatment. Many clinical psychologists are trained in personality assessment and can work with you to explore your personality profile. If you are interested in learning more about how your personality might be influencing your symptoms or treatment, be sure to speak with a mental health care provider. 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Samuels J, Costa P. The Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders. (Widiger T, ed.). New York: Oxford University Press; 2012:556-558. Huh MJ, Shim G, Byun MS, et al. The impact of personality traits on ratings of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Psychiatry Investig. 2013;10(3):259–265. doi:10.4306/pi.2013.10.3.259 Kim, S.J., Kang, J.I, & Kim, C.H. Temperament and character in subjects with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 2009 50: 567-572. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2008.11.009 Samuel DB, Widiger TA. Conscientiousness and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Personal Disord. 2011;2(3):161-74. doi:10.1037/a0021216 Fineberg NA, Day GA, De koenigswarter N, et al. The neuropsychology of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: a new analysis. CNS Spectr. 2015;20(5):490-9. doi:10.1017/S1092852914000662 Phillips KA, Stein DJ, Rauch SL, et al. Should an obsessive-compulsive spectrum grouping of disorders be included in DSM-V?. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(6):528-55. doi:10.1002/da.20705 Additional Reading Bergin J, Verhulst B, Aggen SH, et al. Obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions and neuroticism: An examination of shared genetic and environmental risk. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2014;165B(8):647–653. doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.32269 Thamby A, Khanna S. The role of personality disorders in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Indian J Psychiatry. 2019;61(Suppl 1):S114-S118. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_526_18 By Owen Kelly, PhD Owen Kelly, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, professor, and author in Ontario, ON, who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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