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I don’t know how they could call being German a personality disorder

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:01 am

A person must be display at least four of the following to have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder:

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

Sounds like a lot of Germans, at least for some of those. I didn’t realize cultural traits could be qualified as a personality disorder.

5 Responses to “I don’t know how they could call being German a personality disorder”

  1. Colin Says:

    I think that the qualifying phrases at the end of many of the personality traits disqualify most Germans. It’s true that they are “preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules” but not “to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.” Similar things could be said about many of the other traits.

    While I don’t think that being German == having OCD, their cultural predispositions have had a real effect in the outcome of major historical events. For example, the meticulous record keeping of the Germans meant that many Nazis were successfully prosecuted after the war. By contrast, the sloppy or completely lacking record keeping of the Italians meant that it was almost impossible to prosecute any of Mussolini’s followers after the war.

  2. adrian Says:

    I think you have some points there, Colin. Some still “inflexible about matters or morality” still seem to apply to me at least.

    By the way, OCPD and OCD are different.

  3. Liz Says:

    “Personality disorders are defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as ‘an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it’.” (wikipedia, emphasis mine)

    The DSM-IV criteria is for Americans. I suspect that the ICD-10 criteria may be different (I am not familiar with them.)

    There are plenty of examples of sub-cultures whose norms fit the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for personality disorders. White Supremacists could be classified as having Dissocial Personality Disorder — as could radical pro-life-ers or PETA members, who kill people for their cause. Without switching the lens to focus on the individual’s culture, the criteria are pretty meaningless.

    I think Colin hit the nail on the head, the “disorder” part is when the rules become so preoccupying that they overshadow the point of the activity.

    Just to complicate the matter further, it is worth mentioning that personality disorders tend to be egosyntonic, making it really difficult to tease out the dysfunctional thinking and behavior from the “rationale” employed by a sufferer. Mental health professionals are probably the ones who should decide what is “culture” and what is disorder.

  4. adrian Says:

    Thanks, Liz. That’s informative (though unintentionally comparing Germans with extremist cultures seems a bit much).

    I was being somewhat facetious, I should note.

  5. Liz Says:

    I wouldn’t say that being “German” is anything like real OCPD. But that’s just me. Additionally, my point was that your metric was false — you can’t judge Germans by American standards, (according to the standard). I wasn’t comparing the groups; I brought up the extremist groups because I think that they are the most illustrative examples of sub-groups, within America, with cultural norms that meet DSM-IV criteria. However, I wouldn’t agree with your characterization, and so I said nothing about German culture. There was no comparison intended, just a comment.

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