‘Many psychiatric conditions fall on the extreme end of a continuum of thoughts and behaviors that, in moderation, are typically adaptive’

Report: …obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). It not only involves a desire for cleanliness, but also a preoccupation with details, orderliness, cognitive rigidity, and miserliness – an inability to discard objects and a reluctance to spend money (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In particular, cognitive rigidity, or the unwillingness to compromise, and the aversion to discard resources, is an example of the overlap between mental representations and sensorimotor modalities. That is, individuals with OCPD are reluctant to relinquish their beliefs as well as their belongings. Furthermore, they are precise with respect to how items are organized, such as the exact arranging of furniture, precise positioning of cushions, preference for set locations for belongings, distaste for untidy rooms, and care with their clothes Such tidiness and particularity with the positioning of one’s possessions suggest that this condition may be a extreme expression of the grounded procedures…

Many psychiatric conditions fall on the extreme end of a continuum of thoughts and behaviors that, in moderation, are typically adaptive. Indeed, people often find it hard to give them up because such symptoms can come with undeniable benefits. For example, although OCPD is often debilitating with regard to personal relationships, it can be advantageous for career success: OCPD was found to be positively correlated with status and wealth, as measured by socioeconomic status, supervisory responsibilities at work, home ownership, and spacious living conditions… This may be because of the
fact that individuals with OCPD show less temporal discounting than those without the condition – that is, they are superior at running the cost–benefit analyses that leaves them better-off in the long run (Pinto, Steinglass, Greene, Weber, & Simpson, 2014).

Keeping track of what one owns has clear benefits in general, but it is especially useful in times of scarcity or crisis, and when preparing for possible adversity. For example, highly successful navy submarine personnel were found to score highly on OCPD measures and adherence to rules and regulations (Moes, Lall, & Johnson, 1996). Indeed, grounded procedures are essential in the military, where every item is carefully inventoried and tracked: there is no room for error in assessing equipment when lives are literally at stake.

Grounded procedures involving resource concerns, whether expressed in normal or exaggerated forms, are especially adaptive under conditions of widespread contagious disease, as is the case for the current COVID-19 pandemic. When individuals need to stay away from others who pose a risk of infection, social relationships no longer constitute a source of support. In the early days of the pandemic, stockpiling supplies was maligned in the media as “panic buying.” But accumulating materials goods, and monitoring their use and availability, are adaptive when there is a constant threat to one’s health. Indeed, in uncertain times it is sensible to run a life’s inventory, and ensure that all that is precious is in its rightful place.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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