OCD Personality Disorder

Personality Disorders You Can Inflict On Your Characters – OCD Personality Disorder

Welcome to the world of personality disorders you can inflict on your characters. In this post we look at the OCD personality disorder.

In our ongoing series on personality disorders with which you can inflict your characters, we have chatted about the Paranoid, Narcissistic, and Anti-Social disorders.

While most fictional characters with personality disorders tend to be villains, we are starting to see a lot of heroes with them as well. The trend could possibly be traced back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s first novel featuring ‘the famous consulting detective’, Sherlock Holmes. The discussion as exactly which personality disorder Holmes portrays has raged, in literary circles at least, for decades. Perhaps he’s a good example of why personality disorders can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. He seems to shimmer between two, sometimes even three.

How many symptoms of a disorder must be present before a true diagnosis can be made? Or does it depend on the depth of the symptoms? For example, is someone who is neat and tidy always someone with OCD? Or does it depend on how much their need for neatness drives their interactions with other people, or things?

What is OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

The compulsion for orderliness, perfectionism, and control can, in extreme cases, deprive the person of the ability to be flexible, adaptable, or be able to compromise when it comes to interpersonal relationships. They become preoccupied with:

  • Details, lists, order, schedules, or organisation.
  • Perfectionism, an inability to delegate, over-conscientiousness, stubbornness, inflexibility in terms of morals or ethics outside of cultural or religious beliefs.
  • Putting work above relationships.

Men vs Women – Who Is The Most OCD?

Men tend to display OCD personality disorder more than women. And despite what you may see in reality TV shows, that includes those with another symptom of OCD – hoarders.

Fictional Characters with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Heroes

Hercule Poirot – According to his friend, Hastings, Poirot’s obsession with ‘The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.’ The picture Poirot gave of himself to the public in terms of his looks was rigid. He could not be seen without:

  • Dark hair – which he dyed as it turned grey. In the books he also resorted to wearing a wig and a false moustache as he aged.
  • Patent leather shoes – even though they were uncomfortable to the point of giving him great pain if he had to walk any distance, and distress if walking across fields, beaches, or wet roads was required.
  • A white handkerchief – used primarily to place on a bench and sit upon when outside. He was always reluctant to give his handkerchief to a woman in distress. Something Hastings was quick to proffer with no thought to the damage the handkerchief would suffer.

The rigidity of Poirot’s adherence to what he considered appropriate, and correct in terms of his wardrobe, unfortunately meant that for much of his career it was very dated.

His OCD showed in other ways as well, including being extremely punctual. Something he expected other people, and trains, to be as well. It would irritate him enormously when they weren’t. Considering some of his extremely wealthy clients, it must have been hard for him to stick to the self-imposed rule of having a bank balance of 444 pounds, 4 shillings, and 4 pence. Not a penny more, not a penny less.

Other fictional hero characters with OCD are:

Jerry Seinfeld – who is obsessed with cleanliness and neatness, not to mention having to be right all the time.

Adrian Monk – whose OCD is compounded by his many, many phobias – 312.

Sheldon Cooper – Sheldon is definitely OCD – his spot on the couch, having to knock 3 times, but there’s a lot more going on with Sheldon than just OCD, despite the fact that his mother had him tested!

Most fictional OCD characters are portrayed as being incredibly smart on a certain level, but not competent on a social level to varying degrees.

Fictional Characters With Obsessive Personality Disorders – Villains 

Dolores Umbridge – To say Dolores Umbridge has issues is putting it mildly. When OCD traits turn to the dark side, they really turn.

The debate as to whether Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is formed through nature or nurture is an interesting one. Is childhood trauma the underlying cause? Sheldon Cooper and Hercule Poirot could fall on the side of nature. Whereas Monk and the evil Dolores Umbridge could come done on the side of nurture.

It’s easy to see how childhood trauma could develop traits such as rigid adherence to rules, a desire for power, for complete control, or being ‘nice’ to the point of utter cruelty. If anything, or anyone, doesn’t fit their concept of perfection they will do what they can to change or eliminate them. Dolores Umbridge is the perfect example of this.

Other fictional villain characters with OCD are:

Harvey Dent – who is obsessed with coin-flipping. However, his main disorder is schizophrenia. To be fair, it’s likely that the butler, Alfred Pennyworth, is the only character in Batman who doesn’t have a personality disorder!

The Riddler a.k.a. Edward Nygama – Leaving riddles at every crime he commits is a compulsion. He tried once. He failed. It’s almost as if he must commit the crime in order to leave a riddle.

How To Use This Personality Disorder In Your Writing

Giving a character OCD can lift the character out of the ordinary. For example, instead of your American policeman having a problem with drink or marital problems, they could have a phobia about the colour blue. Which is an issue seeing as their uniforms are blue. You can use the disorder to deepen the creepiness or emphasise the cruelty of a villain. Perhaps she has a favourite few notes she whistles before opening a door. To the victim hiding in the closet, the approaching, repeated tune could be horrifying.

Look out for or our next personality disorder post – or sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss it.

The Last Word

If you have a compulsion to write novels but aren’t sure where to start, especially when it comes to creating 3 dimensional characters, the best way to learn is to sign up for a course with Writers Write. It’s the perfect place to learn.

Elaine Dodge

by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series and The Device HunterElaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.

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Posted on: 9th May 2024
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