un-conscientious

Disclaimer: although this post is based off of a video on OCPD, it is not itself a discussion of the disorder, so if that’s what you’re interested in reading about, you can move on 😀

Also, i might edit & update this post at some point.

6:28 OCPD & the five factor model

Dr. Todd Grande, whose channel I spend a little too much time watching & can highly recommend, recently uploaded this video about obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Transcript of the relevant portion of the video (my post begins on the next page):

Now looking at the personality characteristics associated with this disorder. I like to look at personality using the five factor model of personality theory. I remember the traits in the five factor model through the acronym OCEAN: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

I’m actually gonna start here with conscientiousness, because that’s the personality trait that we think of, initially, as being the most related to OCPD, having the strongest association. So conscientiousness describes individuals who are industrious, reliable, self-disciplined, and ordered. There are six facets of this personality trait: Competence, Order, Dutifulness, Achievement striving, Self-discipline, and Deliberation.

Now, again, a lot of people look at this and say, OCPD must be related to conscientiousness, it seems like an obvious connection. But the findings in the research are actually… not as clear as that. Self-report measures of OCPD show large positive correlations with conscientiousness. So what this means is, when people have the disorder, they tend to rate themselves as highly conscientious.

But here’s where it gets tricky: interview-based measures of OCPD — so these would be when people are observing other people who have OCPD — these show a non-significant relationship. So outside observers see OCPD differently than people who have the disorder. So we see really little evidence of a relationship between OCPD and conscientiousness at the trait level.

But we really have to look beyond the general trait. The real story in this relationship is in the facets that I talked about before. Now, self-discipline, competence, and order are negatively correlated with OCPD, and the disorder is unrelated to deliberation and dutifulness. But it has a positive relationship with achievement-striving. So what might be happening here is that people are seeing a lot of achievement-striving, and perhaps forgetting that there’s much more to conscientiousness than just that one facet. People tend to equate achievement striving with the overall trait of conscientiousness.

So that covers conscientiousness, but what about the other traits I mentioned before, the other four traits in the five factor model. Well, we see, really, an unclear relationship with openness to experience, it seems like there is a negative correlation with the fantasy facet, but other than that it’s really not clear.

In terms of extraversion, there’s an overall negative correlation, but again, the facets are important: we see that the disorder is negatively associated with warmth, gregariousness and positive emotions. So people with this disorder would not tend to be friendly, not tend to be outgoing, and probably not have a lot of positive feelings. OCPD has no relationship with assertiveness, activity, or excitement-seeking. Right, so again, the facet-level detail is important to understand the relationship.

In terms of agreeableness, we do see a negative relationship here, so people with this disorder tend to be disagreeable and antagonistic. They have low trust of others, for example.

Now in terms of neuroticism, we see a positive relationship, especially in the facet of angry hostility. Now, this really isn’t that surprising, as high neuroticism is associated with all of the Cluster C personality disorders, and for that matter, it’s associated with all of the Cluster B personality disorders, as well.

So going back for a moment to the conscientiousness trait — this is the one that kind of surprises people, that relationship surprises people — so here’s what this kinda means, from the research findings, with conscientiousness: high-conscientiousness people are competent and self-controlled. They can handle situations and get the job done.

Individuals with OCPD are perfectionistic: their need for order and regulation is excessive. So it seems like it aligns with conscientiousness again, but it may actually interfere with other behaviors that would be part of conscientiousness.

So this reminds me of the phrase “perfect is the enemy of good”: the paradox here is that if somebody is too conscientious, they stop functioning in a conscientious manner. So individuals with OCPD tend to be ineffective at making decisions, and they have difficulty completing tasks. So when we look at the behavior, it does appear to be differentiated from conscientiousness; we have that overlap with achievement striving, but other than that, the two constructs really seem to diverge.

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