Attachment insecurity and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder among inpatients with serious mental illness

Anika Wiltgen, Herman Adler, Ryan Smith, Katrina Rufino, Christopher Frazier, Christopher Shepard, Kirk Booker, Diedra Simmons, Leah Richardson, Jon G. Allen, James Chris Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is characterized by traits such as extreme rigidity, perfectionism, and controlling behavior, all of which have a negative impact on interpersonal functioning. Attachment theory provides a useful framework to elucidate the interpersonal dysfunction characteristic of OCPD; yet, there is a dearth of attachment research on OCPD in the context of severe mental illness.

Methods Attachment security and personality disorders were assessed in adult inpatients with severe mental illness. Propensity Score Matching (PSM) was used to match OCPD and control subjects on age, gender, number of psychiatric disorders, and number of criteria endorsed for borderline personality disorder.

Results Consistent with hypotheses, the OCPD group (n=61) showed greater attachment avoidance than controls (n=61), and the avoidance was manifested in a predominance of the most insecure attachment style, fearful attachment. Correlations between attachment anxiety/avoidance with specific OCPD diagnostic criteria revealed that attachment avoidance was correlated with four of eight OCPD criteria across the full sample. Within the subset of OCPD patients, attachment avoidance was significantly correlated with OCPD criterion 3 (is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships).

Limitations The use of self-report measure of attachment and the high burden of illness in the SMI population may not generalize to interview based assessment or outpatients, respectively.

Conclusions Findings attest to the severity of impairment in interpersonal functioning and attachment avoidance, in particular, is characteristic of OCPD patients. These results suggest that viable treatment targets include interpersonal functioning along with more classical features of OCPD such as perfectionism and obsessiveness in task performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-415
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Mar 15 2015


  • Attachment insecurity
  • Fearful attachment style
  • OCPD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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