Monday, October 18, 2010

Disorders

Let's talk about OCPD a bit, shall we? It stands for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. It is a personality disorder, a fundamental mis-wiring or brokenness in the brain; other personality disorders include narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and, oh yes, antisocial personality disorder. So, hey, these are not minor things. While it's true, people can have them to varying degrees, still, they are invariably disruptive. Especially to the people around the person with the personality disorder.

Now some people may say, Oh but they can't help it! Have some compassion! You disablist bitch! To which I say, guess what? I've had to live with my father's personality disorder, and the effects of that personality disorder, which hey, actually constituted neglect, which is bona fide abuse, for decades. I get to judge. I mean, really, what kind of asshole makes excuses for, say, a sociopath, or a malignant narcissist? (And yes, I have actually had this conversation.)

Now, all right. I'm going to quote Wikipedia here, which I am normally loathe to do, as I am rightly suspect of its truthiness at times, but. This seemed like a decent introduction to the concept. Wikipedia says:

These behavioral patterns in personality disorders are typically associated with severe disturbances in the behavioral tendencies of an individual, usually involving several areas of the personality, and are nearly always associated with considerable personal and social disruption. Additionally, personality disorders are inflexible and pervasive across many situations, due in large part to the fact that such behavior is ego-syntonic (i.e. the patterns are consistent with the ego integrity of the individual) and are, therefore, perceived to be appropriate by that individual.


In other words, a fundamental brokenness in the brain, which is taken as normal, since that is all that particular brain knows. And then everything else, all the other parts of what would be a normal psyche, are set to work around, and for, that brokenness. I suspect, and this is only just a hunch, it is something based fairly heavily in the organic structure of things rather than in a more strictly psychological sense. Or at least that's the way it looks to me, from my experience, which is considerable, after all, and which does make me some kind of an expert. I am not, however, a psychiatrist, or a research scientist; just a daughter.

But that means that all the usual tools the brain uses are then in service to the disorder: reason, rationalization, defense, logic, creativity, even I swear perception itself. Back when my father was still here, and we were trying to clean up the place, with him still in it (not something I would ever recommend, though I know a lot of times there simply is no other way), we came across yet another milk crate full of cedar shingles, which, judging by the number of them he saved, must have been one of his all time favorite things ever (up there with refrigerator drawers, empty bureau drawers, old coffee cans of bolts, and baby food jars). When I pulled it out it was crawling with carpenter ants. There were also numerous holes in the shingles, chewed out by said ants. They were really quite infested, and it was really very obvious. I tried to get him to throw them away; he resisted, as always. But this time I thought I had logic, and stark reality on my side—they were obviously infested, literally crawling with ants that eat wood. You can't put them on a house.

Do you know what he said? "BUGS DON'T EAT CEDAR!" When I pointed out, well, actually, they do, and in fact they are eating said cedar right now in front of your very eyes, he just said, again, "BUGS DON'T EAT CEDAR!" And kept repeating it, and repeating it, louder and louder, as he looked at the bugs eating the cedar.

The brokenness in my father's brain was so fundamental, so powerful, so impossible, that it trumped reality.

You cannot argue with that. There is no point to even trying.

Here's Wikipedia again, quoting the good old DSM-IV, for the diagnostic criteria of OCPD.


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:

1. Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
2. 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)
3. Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
4. Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
5. Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
6. Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
7. Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
8. Shows rigidity and stubbornness


Let's take those one at a time, in regards to my father.

1. Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost


One of the reasons he couldn't get around to fixing the water heater when I was growing up was that he absolutely had to do the pipes first. And he had to do them completely, and thoroughly, and in his way. It had to be done in a certain order, and in a certain way, and could not be done any other way.

So yes, I'd say, #1, check!

2. 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)


If he ever did get up the energy to try to do something, he'd stop in the middle (that is, if he could even get started in the first place). He would wander around the cellar, garage, shop, &c for hours because he couldn't find the tool that he needed. Mind you, this wasn't (just) because the place was so full of crap it was difficult to find anything there; there were plenty of other things he could have made do with. It was because he had to have that one perfect tool.

So #2, check as well!

3. Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)


This I would have to say no to. He was, as far as I could tell, perfectly happily lazy. He didn't want to do anything, ever, especially something that looked like work. Though, he was always out in the shop, fixing VWs, or, really, taking his time while fixing VWs. I suppose one could say he was devoted to not working or being productive. That would have been, almost, a sign of failure. Because someone else would have had some control, or have gotten their way, over him. My intuition tells me that the underlying reasoning for why someone else with OCPD would be preoccupied with work, and why my father was so adamantly opposed to work are actually the same, though I can't quite articulate it; still, we'll call #3 a miss.

4. Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)


This one is a little odd, too. My father was not religious. Thank the Gods he wasn't, too. I can only imagine how much more miserable it would have been for us if he had been say a strict fundamentalist Christian. And he was reasonably open-minded, I always thought; we kids didn't get punished much (well, besides within the day-to-day reality of living amid junk and a lack of heat). But he was, actually, very honest. To a fault. His morality was pretty open-minded, yes, or at least he seemed to be; but he could get judgemental, too, of others, and though he was really quite liberal in all his views on the issues (I asked him once, bewildered), he always always voted Republican. I think it was a side effect of the miserliness; he'd freak out at the mention of taxes, you know, something the Republicans have always claimed they are against. So, he was, in a way, really quite rigidly inflexible as far as his beliefs and values went, just not in the usual way.

So with some qualifications I'm going to call #4 a yes.

5. Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value


Ha! Do I even need to explain this one? If you need some examples, see the rest of this entire blog.

#5, oh Hell yes.

6. Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things


I wouldn't call it reluctance, actually; more a complete inability to let anyone else do anything that he thought should be done his way. And that was just about everything, even things he had no interest in actually doing himself.

So, #6, check.

7. Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes


That's also a yes, though I don't think I can give any more than the most general examples, as I can already feel myself becoming enraged. Have I mentioned that the house was commonly kept at 55 degrees in the winter? It was not unusual that I could see my breath, indoors; and my fingernails used to turn this shade of bluey-purple from the chill. Now, we were poor, I know; but we were not that poor, I don't think, since we were never on Food Stamps or anything that I recall; and anyway this is an old colonial, and if there's one thing this house has, it's fireplaces. Six of them, to be exact. But we weren't allowed to use them, except for the one in the kitchen. I don't know what the logic was now. If it was fear of a chimney fire, I'd think they'd all have been off-limits, right?

There are other examples, but I'm starting to get worked up here, what with the memory of how every fucking time he came in from working out in the shop the first thing he did was pause by the thermostat and scowl, then turn it down. While we were already freezing. What a bastard.

By the way, when the house is now set at 65 degrees, it still reminds me of Christmas, the only day it was warm in here in the winter.

So, anyway, #7 yes in fucking spades.

8. Shows rigidity and stubbornness


Oh ha, again. Yes I think he had this one covered. I have never known a more ridiculously, absurd, to the point of insanity (literally) stubborn person in my life.

So, hey, that's a yes on #8, too.

Which makes how many yesses?

Why that's seven out of eight possible, six of them being oh Hell yes yesses, with one being a sorta mostly yes.

Now, how many are required to qualify for having obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, according to the DSM-IV?

Four.

We got lucky, didn't we.

11 comments:

Chocobi said...

Hi, Thalia! Your anger is palpable and soooooo understandable. I thought my dad was (is) bad, but I see your dad is the ultimate king of the disorder. I'm from New England, too, so I can just picture your frosty breath inside that drafty Colonial growing up. And no hot shower to warm you up when you're chilled to the bone. My compassion is for you and your sister, not him.

I remember as a kid thinking to myself in our house, "Man! It's dark in here! Why don't we turn on some friggin' lights?!" and my dad would walk into the room and turn off a lamp or two.

Oh, the "I-can't-do-this-until-I-do-that" syndrome! I know it so well, too! And it affects EVERYTHING! He can't let my mother plant a few flowers until he re-landscapes the entire yard... He can't put any drywall up in the breezeway until he rebuilds the entire garage that's attached to it... Can't take his Paxil until he's had a full meal and waited X number of minutes (or until he's sorted all of his pills into his pill organizer), so he'll just be a raging lunatic for the day, thank you very much.

My dad has several rusty buckets of bolts, too. Surprise, surprise.

You say #3 doesn't feel right, and my dad is the same. Devoted to not working. Sitting reading the paper for 40 years. Did your dad have hobbies and friends? My dad doesn't really. So #3 seems sort of true for me, anyway, in an "opposite" sort of way.

But you and your sister don't have any of these tendencies? I hope not, for your sakes. I catch myself saying, "I can't have a yardsale until I clean and organize the entire basement..." etc., etc. Uh-oh...

Dave said...

So how do you really feel ;-).

Btw I had a dresser that my crazy hoarder wouldn't let me throw away for about twenty years, I was just going to throw it out, but I took a page from your book and broke it to bits.

Sweet.

Perfectly Awful said...

Hi Thalia - been there, done that, got the T-shirt - only with my immovable OCPD object being b-f, not father. (My father was a Narcissist alcoholic, not a lotta joy there either.)

Not to flog my new website to death, just to push it a little bit, since you're on the subject. It's www.perfectlyawful.net and has lots of info about OCPD (and a link to your blog) and there's also a FB community page for us Significant Others.

Just in case you want to connect with more people who really, truly "get it."

I've heard rumors that the upcoming DSM-V may put hoarding into its very own category, rather than included as a subset or marker for OCPD. Personally, I don't care if they call it Queen of the May Disease, my b-f is an OCPDr who hoards (though not all those with OCPD hoard, and not all who hoard have OCPD.)

I just want more people to become AWARE, that this really and truly is a brain disorder, not just a little personality quirk than just takes a little firmness and all is well. And that is truly horrific for the nons living with the person who has such a distorted world view. I'm so sorry you & Tara had to grow up in such broken-down world.

Thalia said...

Chocobi--my dad used to turn off lights, too, again, while scowling about the electric bill or something. My mom did too, and come to think of it still does sometimes, but I can yell at her and get her to stop. I think with her it's just habit. I mean, really, we've go so many of those compact fluorescent bulbs now, you know?

And no, no hot water to even run your hands under to warm them up. And me a pianist and artist who likes fine detail. Try doing either of those when your fingers are all stiff and freezing.

The weird thing with hoarders (or at least my dad, I suppose I shouldn't speak for anyone else's experience) is just how perverse or inverted so many of the criteria are. On the surface it sure as Hel doesn't look like hoarding would have anything to do with perfectionism, does it?

So I wonder about #3. Like I said, intuitively I suspect he's got this one too. It might come down to control at the root, not work. The workaholic maybe does it because it's something that gives him a feeling of control, and it comes before family and friends; the anti-work person does it because not working means the rest of the family is always nagging, complaining, placating him, which is also all about control. Something like that, maybe. And no, my father didn't really have any friends or hobbies. Unless you count going to the coffee shop every morning and talking at people having friends, and sitting on the couch all day reading the newspaper or an old book a hobby.

I don't have any of these tendencies, I don't think. I went through a period in my late teens and early twenties where I consciously set out to change the attitudes I'd inherited when it came to throwing things away. Somehow I managed to recognize stuff that came from my dad and that wasn't mine. So I learned to throw things away. And I learned, also, that even if I think I'll regret something being gone, 99 times out of 100 I never think about it again. Ever.

I don't think I have the something has to be done in this order thing, aside from figuring out normal logistics (like you actually should paint the ceiling, then the walls, then the floor, that kind of thing). I do get paralyzed, though, and not know where to even start a lot of the time. Once I'm going though forget it, I'm good. I think a lot of it is simply from living in an overwhelming environment, and being actively dissuaded (that is probably far too mild a word) from doing anything for myself.

Thalia said...

(Huh, blogger told me that last comment was too large, then published it anyway. Blogger, is your head up your ass tonight by chance?)


Anyway, Chocobi--at least you recognize that you are doing it. We pick up bad habits; I've heard them called 'fleas', as in, if you grow up with mangy dogs, you get them. Doesn't mean you are (abusive, narcissistic, manipulative, ocpd, fill-in-your-own-blank); just that you learned the habits and patterns of life from someone who was.

Thalia said...

Dave, it's damned satisfying, isn't it? It has the added bonus of being destroyed, too, and so most of the time cannot be dug out of the trash.

Thalia said...

Perfectly Awful--Yes I've heard that rumor, too. I'm not surprised, really. Hoarding is only just beginning to get some attention these days, and the experts aren't really. And yeah, the people who think it's just a little personality quirk drive me nuts. I've heard people say that well, it's harmless and doesn't hurt anyone, right? They have to right to live as they like, blah blah blah, who are we to make them conform? And these are people who are otherwise in the habit of bringing the voices of the voiceless to the fore.

I've been over to your blog and it looks good; thanks for the link, and it's a real service to have those links to sites about how to recognize manipulative relationships. So many people can't see it, or have been conditioned to think it's normal (witness every co-dependent pop song ever written).

I had to laugh at your comment about the Buddhists thinking that psychic powers were a distraction or something; all I could think was, well, the Buddhists would say that. It's all a distraction to them. Cripes. I mean, nothing against Zen Buddhists but holy cow I am not one of them.

And thank you for the sympathy; we appreciate it a lot.

Dave said...

Thalia, you dont know how much I hated this thing, the last time I moved, I actually slipped the movers a $20 to break it. (passive aggressive I know). They sadly didn't do a good enough job and my hoarder stored it in the basement for about ten more years. It was good to finish the job off.

Debating whether I should burn it or throw it out. burn it burn it burn it.

Thalia said...

Burn it burn it burn it! Burnt things never come back never ever!!

Vivienne Grainger said...

I married a hoarder. I'm currently trying to get his son to let go of some stuff; we're having more luck supporting his OCD nutritionally than with anything else (L-tyrosine and DL-phenylalanine; both are amino acids). Oh, how I wish these had been available to both his father, and yours ...

Anonymous said...

I do wonder if the reason you werent on foodstamps wasnt because you werent poor enough, but because it would have given something "outside" a bit of control over your lives/nutrition.