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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder vs. Type A Personality: What's the Difference?

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — October 7, 2019 — 2 min read
Most people have unwanted, or intrusive, thoughts now and then, according to the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Foundation. When those thoughts continuously repeat, trigger anxiety and interfere with one’s ability to function, OCD – which affects more than 1 in 100 people – could be the cause.

We may hear someone who is focused on a particular concern, hobby or organizational aspect of their life say, “I’m OCD.” Casual use of this term or the word “obsession” can be difficult for individuals with OCD because it feels as though it diminishes their struggles, according to the IOCDF.

Below is a comparison of OCD vs. the Type A Personality and how they differ.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Diagnosed psychological disorder
Type A Personality: Personality trait


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 
  • Intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts, images, or impulses
  • Feelings of fear, disgust, doubt, and shame
  • Repeated acts/rituals: washing, repeating, checking, touching, counting, ordering/arranging, hoarding or saving, praying
  • Interferes with work, social life or relationships
Type A Personality:
  • Described as a perfectionist, overachiever, workaholic, obsessive, impatient, angry or hostile
  • Fear of wasting time, uncomfortable relaxing, focused on future, tends to dwell on worst possible outcome of any problem or failure
  • Generally competitive and results oriented


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Research suggests a chemical imbalance in the brain, may run in families, be related to trauma, or caused by PANDAS (rare). Begins in childhood.
Type A Personality: Personality forms during childhood, shaped by your genetics and your environment.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, ADHD, anxiety, thyroid and digestive problems.
Type A Personality: Anxiety; and also high hostility, which is related to high blood pressure and heart disease.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, and medication.
Type A Personality: Relaxation Techniques such walking, breathing exercises, listening to music, and taking a break from screens.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: International OCD Foundation
Type A Personality: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, US Department of Health and Human Services

You can save or print this information with the infographic below.OCD-vs-Type-A-infographic.jpg

If either of these descriptions cause you distress or it causes problems in your work or relationships, you should seek assistance. Get help at 1-800-939-5911.

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