Do You Have OCD or Just a Type A Personality?

Type A Personality

Are you a hard-charging, detail-oriented perfectionist? Do you wonder if your drive to achieve is due to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or the so-called Type A personality? It’s true that hard-working, driven Type A folks may appear “obsessive” to people who have a more laid-back disposition. But it’s a far cry from OCD, which is a serious and potentially debilitating mental health disorder. Here’s how you can distinguish the two.


OCD, which affects about 2% to 3% of the U.S. population, is characterized by recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD experience intrusive thoughts, visuals, and urges, and they may perform certain actions as a way to soothe themselves.

These kinds of effects persist, looping in the mind over and over again. Therefore, those with OCD can experience disruptions to their everyday life, including with school, work, and interpersonal relationships.

These obsessive thoughts are ego-dystonic, which means the person doesn’t want to be having them, but they return over and over anyway. Or someone might experience compulsions that feel like they can’t be stopped, such as repeatedly washing hands, checking door locks around the house, counting, etc.

It’s true that hard-working, driven Type A folks may appear “obsessive” to people who have a more laid-back disposition. But it’s a far cry from OCD, which is a serious and potentially debilitating mental health disorder. Click To Tweet

Most people are diagnosed with OCD earlier in life, usually before the mid-30s and on average by 20 years old. Studies suggest a combination of genetics and upbringing—especially setbacks such as child abuse or other early traumas—as factors in its development.

It also may present itself alongside other conditions, including Lyme disease, epilepsy, and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS). Finally, there are multiple types of OCD—making it a slippery target for many medical professionals and patients alike.


A report in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) described the typical Type A personality traits as “highly competitive, ambitious, work-driven, time-conscious, and aggressive.” Most people associate Type A folks with a high-achieving drive. They may enjoy being in control, paying attention to detail, and succeeding in work and other areas of life.

But where did this personality type originate? You may be surprised to know that though the Type A personality was originally created by medical professionals, history has shown us they had a nefarious hidden agenda.

According to the AJPH report, it was first developed in the late 1950s by two American cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman. They hypothesized that this personality type contributed to the risk for coronary heart disease, especially for White middle-class men.

What is less well-known about this concept is that it was heavily influenced by tobacco companies. Back in smoking’s heyday, major cigarette manufacturers like Philip Morris were trying to prove that it was a personality type, rather than smoking cigarettes, that contributed to early death among smokers.

The cigarette industry insisted that psychological stress, thought to be generated and increased by the aggressive Type A personality, was the “real” risk factor in diseases like cancer. Today, we know that the tobacco companies’ decades-old claims aren’t ones we should buy into. But, despite its strange origin story, the mythology of the Type A personality has persisted.


What are some examples of OCD signs and symptoms? We will delve into each broader category under this umbrella: obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are intrusive and repeating. They can take the form of thoughts, images in the mind, or impulses. They are not based on logic, and they may even be scary or offensive, which then creates an internal anxiety or disgust. And they seem beyond a person’s ability to control or defeat them.

Types of obsessions include fear of contamination, disturbing sexual thoughts/images, excessive worry that something is left unfinished, fear of losing something important, or an extreme concern with a particular order, symmetry, or precision. The obsessions can even appear to be completely meaningless.

Compulsions, on the other hand, are the actions that are designed to quell these intrusive thoughts. The person will repeat behaviors, even though they seem to have no value. An internal urgency spurs these tasks, and there are often complex or rigid rules around how to perform them. They may eventually develop into complicated or lengthy rituals that interrupt normal life.

Many people are familiar with the compulsion of frequent hand washing or housecleaning, for example. Other tasks may be counting to an arbitrary number, repeating things for a specific number of times, precisely arranging things in the environment, or touching objects in a certain pattern.

Again, the common denominator is a drive that compels those with OCD to do things repeatedly or in a certain way to rid themselves of intrusive thoughts.


Many people can experience intrusive thoughts or even looping thought patterns, like when mulling over a serious issue to problem-solve or replaying a conversation. However, OCD is marked by obsessions and compulsions that aren’t based on outer logic and that persist despite someone’s best efforts to control them.

Still, it’s worth noting that the signs of OCD and their intensity are not necessarily linear or predictable. They may crop up intermittently and may get better or worse for a given time period. And because symptoms can vary, it’s important to know the unusual signs and symptoms of OCD, as well as ones that can be overlooked.

However, severe OCD symptoms—the ones that interfere with normal life functioning—must be assessed by a professional as soon as possible. If intrusive thoughts or behaviors seem to be uncontrollable, persist over time, and have taken over a person’s life or harmed relationships, it’s crucial to seek medical help for a proper diagnosis.


The good news is, that most cases of OCD are treatable. Effective treatments include psychotherapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). One effective type of CBT is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), in which a therapist guides the OCD patient through confronting the obsessions and compulsions head-on to take away their power.

For more intensive treatment, patients can try group therapy, or residential, inpatient, or outpatient programs. Therapeutic processes can help address problematic thinking and retrain the brain, while medication may help improve brain function overall. The goal is to get the OCD patient into a healthier state, in which thoughts and actions feel more manageable.

There are also natural interventions that can help. Because many researchers have hypothesized that OCD is associated with low serotonin levels, it’s a great idea to find natural ways to increase this important neurotransmitter. Maintaining healthy habits, like proper exercise and diet, is also important. And obsessiveness, along with a tendency to be worried, rigid, and inflexible, might be decreased through supplements for mood support.

Though OCD can be disorienting and frightening, for both the patient and loved ones, it is crucial to seek help. Left untreated, OCD symptoms can be devastating, leading to problems with concentration and memory, poor performance at work or school, substance abuse, depression, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and more.

Seeking treatment from a mental health professional who understands that OCD is a brain-based disorder is critical. Evaluations that include brain SPECT imaging can assist in making an accurate diagnosis of OCD and understanding any underlying factors that may be contributing to obsessive-compulsive symptoms. This way, you can get a more personalized treatment plan, so you can be the high-achieving person you want to be.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Hi, I absolutely believe I have OCD without a doubt and it has become debilitating in my life. I would like to get help. Thank you.

    Comment by Konnie Rosati — October 4, 2023 @ 3:30 AM

  2. OCD isn't just being really clean or organized, It comes with obsessive and intrusive thoughts or having to do something for a specific number of times.

    Comment by Carolina Andrade — October 4, 2023 @ 7:54 AM

  3. OCD isn't just being really clean or organized, It comes with obsessive and intrusive thoughts or having to do something for a specific number of times. I am neither OCD nor Type A.

    Comment by Carolina Andrade — October 4, 2023 @ 7:56 AM

  4. A lot of information was provided about the symptoms and treatment of OCD, however very little information was provided about Type A personalities and how a Type A personality is very different from one experiencing OCD. The difference between the two was acknowledged , however very few specifics were provided in order to distinguish between the two.

    Comment by Steve — October 4, 2023 @ 4:10 PM

  5. If you want to help people start taking insurance, only the wealthy can afford your treatment fees.

    Comment by Nicholas Filippi — October 4, 2023 @ 6:06 PM

  6. Hey there this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Comment by vorbelutr ioperbir — November 26, 2023 @ 2:08 PM

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