The case of Rita, an obsessive-compulsive personality. Rita was a 39-year-old computer programmer who had been married for 18 years. She was always orderly and kept a very neat house. It was so neat, in fact, that she noticed when the books were in the wrong order on the bookshelves or if a knick-knack had been moved on a table or shelf. She vacuumed the house every day, whether it needed it or not. This resulted in the need for a new vacuum cleaner almost every year. Her husband thought this odd but concluded that she simply had a low threshold for what counted as dirty. She was constantly nagging him or angry at him because he did not seem to care as much as her that things be so neat, clean, and orderly. They did not have children because, according to Rita, children would be too much additional work for her, and she certainly could not count on her husband to do anything right in terms of taking care of children or the house. Besides, children would disrupt the order and neatness of her life.
Over the years, Rita added to her list of things she needed to do each day but never took anything off the list. In addition to vacuuming, she added dusting each day. Then she added cleaning the sinks with strong cleaners each day. She had to get up earlier in the mornings to get all of this cleaning done before work.
Her boss often complained that she was slow. The boss did not appreciate the fact that Rita checked her work over and over again before turning it in. Rita also had difficulties working as part of a team because none of the other workers met her standards. They did not check their work often enough, she thought, and were sloppy and imprecise. Her boss eventually had to isolate her and give her independent work because she could not get along with her co-workers.
Before leaving the house each morning, Rita checked the windows and doors, the gas, the water faucets, and all the light fixtures. After a few months of this, one check was not sufficient, and she began to check everything twice. Her husband complained about this, so she started making him wait in the car while she checked each sink, light, door, window, and so on. Her husband dutifully waited each day, but, as the months went on, the wait grew longer and longer. He was now sitting in the car for an hour each morning, waiting for Rita to finish checking everything in the house. One morning, after checking the house thoroughly, she went outside to find that her husband had left without her. That afternoon, she received an e-mail from him, saying that he could not take it any longer and had decided to divorce her.
Prevalence of Personality Disorders
Estimates of the prevalence of personality disorders.
Source: Adapted from J. I. Mattia and M. Zimmerman, "Epidemiology." In W. J. Livesley (ed), Handbook of Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. New York: Guilford, 2001. Reprinted with permission.
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