Neurotic disorders: obsessive character

Western technological society is replete with people whose identities have focused on the issue ”thinking and doing.” Our collective psychology is still imbued with the pathos of idealizing reason and faith in progress as a result of human actions, which differed from the thinking of the Enlightenment. Western civilization, in contrast to the societies of Asia and the third world, appreciate the scientific rationality and pragmatism of “can do” far above all other virtues. For example, many people invest their higher manifestations of logical abilities in the resolution of practical problems. Searching for fun and being proud of ”thinking and doing” is so normal in our society that we hardly think about the complex factors underlying the so honored and privileged position of these activities.

Where “thinking and doing” becomes a driving motivation for the psychological person and where there is a pronounced imbalance with the ability to feel, intuitively understand, listen, play, dream, enjoy the works of art, as well as other activities that are less extent controlled by reason or serve as a tool for anything, we are dealing with obsessive-compulsive personality structure. Many of the finest and highly productive people fall into this category. A lawyer who loves to invent and recite the legal arguments from psychological point of view operates with intelligence and activities. A participant of the ecological movement, engaged in political struggle with pollution, draws in her self-esteem, is driven by the same stimuli. Many people that work in extremely rigid organizations that meet the criteria for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, also manifest a tendency to “thinking and doing “, about the same degree and are often wearing a clearly protective character.

In addition, there are people relatively indifferent to the ”doing”, for which the highest value represents “thinking”, and vice versa.  The professor of philosophy at times have obsessional, but not compulsive character structure: they derive satisfaction and self-esteem of the thought process, without feeling the need to translate their ideas. Carpenters and accountants are often compulsive, but not obsessive type: they get their reward through performing rigorous specific tasks, often requiring a very slight mental effort. Some people, in no way inclined to compulsive rituals, come to the psychologists and psychotherapists with a request to get rid of obsessive thoughts, and some impose exactly the opposite complaint. Psychotherapists and psychoanalysts after Freud a century ago suggested a connection between obsessive and compulsive symptoms have developed a number of these two phenomena. And we easily lost sight of the fact that they are distinct - conceptually and sometimes clinically.

Following the tradition of psychoanalysis, we see obsessive and compulsive people in one place – because the obsessive and compulsive tendencies (intrusive thoughts, movements or actions) are often co-exist or alternate with each other in one person, but also because, according to the psychoanalytic studies of origin of both trends, there are found similar dynamics in their development. It should also be noted that the obsession (persistent, unwanted thoughts) and compulsions motivation (persistent, unwanted actions) can occur in people who do not necessarily have to have and obsessive or compulsive character, or suffer from symptoms of obsessional neurosis. And finally, it is not correct to say that all the obsessive and compulsive people surely suffer intrusive thoughts or actions committed under the influence of an irresistible attraction. Psychologists and psychoanalysts give them the definition of obsessive – compulsive, as their predominant psychological style is characterized by the same psychological defenses, which are involved in the formation of obsessive compulsive symptoms and lead to the formation of compulsion neurosis.

The structure of obsessive - compulsive character has long been known: it is considered to be  an ordinary, ”classical” case of the neurotic personality organization level. Psychologist and psychoanalyst Salzman summarizes the results of earlier observations on the psychology of obsessive - compulsive people as follows:

“People who have obsessional character structure were described by Freud as  methodical, stubborn, stingy, while others describe them as being stubborn, disciplined,perfectionist, punctual, meticulous, miserly, thrifty, prone to philosophizing and logic-chopping for minor reasons. Psychologist Pierre Janet describes such people in such a way: rigid, inflexible, they lack the adaptive capacity, stressed in good faith, like order and discipline, and show persistence in the face of insurmountable obstacles. They are generally reliable, they are people of high standards and ethical values, they are practical, accurate and meticulous with respect to moral claims. Under conditions of stress or high stress, these personality traits can evolve into symptomatic behavior, which can then have the character of the ritual. ”

Salzman would add that another prominent psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich portrays them as “living machines” due to their rigid thinking. Woodrow Wilson, Hannah Arendt and Martin Buber may represent examples of highly productive individuals of the diagnostic group, while Mark Chapman, whose obsession with John Lennon came to compulsive urges to commit murder, may be regarded as a person belonging to the edge of psychotic obsessive - compulsive continuum.

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Posted in Mental Health
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