As a general rule, we all like the feeling of having everything under control. This feeling makes us feel good and motivates us when performing our daily tasks. However, there is a difference between this and having this feeling become an obsessive need.

Something similar is what happens with the anancastic personality . Throughout this article we will talk about this type of obsessive personality, as well as its main features, what factors can cause it and the possibility of treatment through psychotherapy.

What is the anancastic personality?

We understand by anancastic personality that type of personality which is characterized by a pathological concern for order and perfectionism. In the same way these people are distinguished by the need for control both of themselves and of their environment and a lack of flexibility and open-mindedness, even if all this interferes with their day-to-day life or with their work and social efficiency.

For these people, decision making can become a slow and even painful process. The reason is that they have such difficulty deciding on the priority of their tasks or how best to organize themselves that they may not start the task at all, because of the need to perform it perfectly.

Behavior within the ananastic personality is also characterized by sudden outbursts of anger or rage in those circumstances where the person feels that he or she does not possess control of his or her physical or interpersonal environment. However, this anger does not usually manifest itself in an aggressive way, but through constant negative mood swings or ruminations.

As far as interpersonal relationships are concerned, individuals with ananchistica express their affections in a highly controlled and forced manner, and may feel very uncomfortable in the presence of other emotionally expressive people. Their everyday relationships are characterized by being formal and serious, which can lead to uncomfortable situations for others who perceive them as rigid and excessively hostile.

This personality type can be considered a disorder , since it is a lasting pattern of internal experience and behavior that deviates from the person’s cultural norms. This pattern is enduring and inflexible, as well as constant through personal and social situations.

The main consequence of this type of personality is related to a significant deterioration of the person both socially and at work or in other areas of functioning, which can lead to strong feelings of distress and frustration.

Main features or symptoms of this personality

As mentioned in the preceding point, the anancastic personality is chiefly characterized by an excessive concern for order and perfectionism. However, there is a whole variety of traits that define these people. At least four of the following traits must be present in order to determine that an anancastic personality pattern exists:

  • Excessive concern for details, rules, lists, order, organization and/or schedules to the point of affecting the main activity or task.
  • Perfectionism that comes to interfere with the completion of the task .
  • Excessive dedication to work and productivity, excluding leisure activities and friendships
  • They are excessively conscientious , scrupulous and inflexible in matters of morality, ethics or values.
  • It is impossible for them to get rid of worn-out or worthless objects that are neither practical nor sentimental.
  • They are reluctant to work with others and to delegate tasks unless others do things as they wish.
  • They perceive money as an asset to be accumulated, not spent; therefore they tend to be greedy or stingy in the eyes of others.
  • They show significant stubbornness and rigidity .

Traditionally, ananctic personality is diagnosed once a person is an adult, with the most severe symptoms manifesting themselves between the ages of 40 and 50.

In very few cases is it perceived in childhood or adolescence due to the constant changes in development and personality characteristic of maturation. However, in those cases in which symptoms similar to the above are perceived, these must last for at least one year for it to be considered a disorder as such.

Finally, it tends to appear with greater incidence in men than in women and is estimated to be present in approximately 2.1 to 7.9 percent of the general population.

How does it work?

So far, studies have not been able to clarify exactly what the cause is or how the anancastic personality develops. However, there are a large number of hypotheses and theories that attempt to answer this question.

The vast majority of theorists agree on the influence of biopsychosocial causal factors. This means that among the causes that favour the development of this type of personality are biological and genetic factors, as well as social factors such as the type of interaction with other people and family members, and psychological factors such as personality, temperament and coping and stress management skills .

This means that there is not a single factor responsible for anancastic personality, but that a complex combination of both personal and environmental factors may be , probably, the basis for the development of this disorder.

Can it be treated?

First of all, we have to take into account that this personality does not always affect the person’s day-to-day life and that only those patients in whom it does pose a problem, wear and tear or interference with social, family or work development will require assistance or treatment.

In the event that the patient, or someone close to him/her, requests professional help, the treatment for the anancastic personality is based on intervention through psychotherapy in the long term. It is necessary for this therapy to be carried out by a professional with expertise in personality disorders, more specifically in obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD).

In the most severe cases, medication can even be given to help reduce the most problematic and debilitating symptoms , as well as to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety that, in some cases, can appear with this disorder.