The Continuing Story of Philip: An OCPD Case Study
By: Beth McHugh 2015
In the previous article on Philip, the highly-trained engineer who was locked into the world of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, we looked at how the disorder expressed itself in Philip’s daily work life.
This involved decreased production in the workplace due to Philip’s inability to delegate, to be part of a team, and most importantly for Philip, communicate appropriately with those who worked both above him and those below in the hierarchy of the company who employed him.
Philip wondered why his work colleagues were slow to respond to his requests, often putting his needs behind those of others who are either lower in the pecking order, or who have made their requests after Philip’s. Despite this being a common problem in Philip’s work experience, because he has a personality disorder, he does not have the skills to question himself as to whether he could be part of this ongoing communication problem. Instead, he quietly states that he doesn’t understand why he cannot get his staff to respond as quickly as he would like. What Philip doesn’t know is that the people with whom he works do not take him seriously because he is seemingly disrespectful. His wife Sara reports the same atmosphere at home.
It then became obvious in therapy that in addition to OCPD, Philip has a form of high-functioning autism (previoulsy called Asperger’s under the DSV-IV-TR but now combined with all spectrum disorders). In short, Philip has a dual diagnosis: OCPD and high-functioning autism. The latter expresses itself in what looks like a lack of manners, but in reality Philip does not have the ability to understand normal human communication and regularly offends his family, friends and work colleagues by saying inappropriate statements. Philip has a robotic greeting mannerism, particularly on the phone, which he uses on every occasion regardless of the person he is speaking to and the nature of the interaction. He has been trained or has learned this one “greeting phrase” at some point in his life, but has no idea that it is not appropriate to use this statement for both business and personal communication.
Meanwhile, things continued to degenerate at work after Philip was given extra responsibility and a new title. Because of job cuts, Philip’s workload had increased. Because of his disorder, Philip found it almost impossible to delegate and, even when he did so, he still had to check everything was done to his meticulous standards. To deal with this, Philip had a policy of not answering phone calls unless the caller rang at least three times. Because of his spectrum disorder, Philip had no hesitation in revealing this information to people he trusted. He freely admitted that his view on phone calls was that “if they only ring once, then it can’t be that important”. This method of “communication” left Philip’s co-workers frustrated and angry and even less likely to assist him when he issued orders. Naturally, most of his co-workers believed Philip to be arrogant and had no idea that he actually had a mental illness.
Philip had the same attitude to the many emails he received each day. He would glance at the title and decide whether he would open it or not. Even opening an email would not guarantee action on the contents. At one point, one of his colleagues located in another city became so frustrated by the lack of communication between the two men, which impacted on the latter’s own work, that he got in his car and drove for four hours to “sort out the problem”. On his arrival, the colleague got into Philip’s computer while he was out on site and proceeded to tag the emails that he had sent to Philip. Within half an hour, Philip returned to find his colleague, normally an even tempered man, sitting at his desk angrily stabbing at Philip’s computer. He told Philip that he had found over 200 unopened emails and that he was tagging his own emails and wanted them dealt with within 72 hours or he would go to the general manager. After completing this task, which took over two hours, the colleague got back in his car and made the four hour trip back home, hopeful that things would change and his point was made.
Of course, the colleague had no idea Philip has OCPD but merely thought he was profoundly incompetent. It says much of Philip’s ability as an engineer that he was actually able to maintain his job. And because of his condition, nothing did change.
Philip still refuses to answer calls on the first attempt, he is behind on his emails, he becomes obsessed with first one project and then another, finding it hard to actually complete anything, especially on time. His latest problem is that he has failed to lodge the relevant paperwork for necessary expansions of the company’s work, a job which should have been completed six to eight months prior in order to guarantee government approval and continuity of work. Many in the workforce now stand idle because of Philip’s failure to see the bigger picture, which is to keep the company ticking along at a regular pace. Because of his problem with focus and keeping on task, Philip has now put unwanted pressure on the company during a time of economic downturn. In fact, he has put the jobs of staff and contractors on hold and possibly at risk due to his problems with planing and delegation.
His wife continues to implore Philip to have therapy for their marriage,
but Philip also needs assistance with time and management skills. Unfortunately
no-one at his place of employment recognises the true nature of Philip’s
illness, and his ongoing work performance puts his job in jeopardy.
While little can be done to change Philip’s personality disorder,
he certainly would benefit from structured relaxation and time-management
skills. Philip also needs assistance from a psychologist specializing
in spectrum disorders to improve his interpersonal skills at work, which
would then flow on to his personal life.