Cracked Up To Be is about the aftermath of something BIG, but as I read the book, I was struck with how much Parker was already dealing with before that event. She was obsessed with being perfect. No one could do things right, so she had to do them herself. It enraged her when anyone suggested she should lighten up and relax her standards.
According to the DSM-IV, the diagnostic criteria for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder are as follows:
A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. Symptoms must emerge by early adulthood, be present in a number of settings, and manifest in four or more of the following ways:
- preoccupation with lists, rules, order and organization (to the point that the major purpose of the activity is lost)
- perfectionism that interferes with task completion
- excessively devoted to work to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships
- overly conscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible on matters of morality, ethics, or values
- inability to discard seemingly worthless objects, even if they have no sentimental value
- reluctance to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his/her way of doing things
- adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others
- shows rigidity and stubbornness
Now, Parker's clinical presentation is quite complex. First, she's got this pattern of rigid, perfectionistic behavior, as characterized by (in my opinion) symptoms 2, 3, 6, and 8 above. Symptom 4 is debatable as well. And there's no doubt these patterns of behavior and thinking were causing significant conflict in her relationships. After the inciting event, she's got other symptoms, too, including the aforementioned panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms (like repetitive snapping), substance abuse, and some depressive symptoms (which may be explained by something else, but I won't spoil this book for you!). If she went to see a mental health professional, that person could administer a measure like the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM Disorders to sort all the diagnoses out.
Please keep in mind: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder IS NOT THE SAME THING AS Obsessive Compulsive Disorder! OCD is an anxiety disorder--an Axis I disorder--and it involves having obsessions and compulsions, including rituals like the ones Jake Martin has in Heidi Ayarbe's Compulsion, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is a personality disorder, an Axis II disorder. If a person has obsessions or compulsions, OCD is probably more appropriate to diagnose than OCPD.
In addition, people with OCD tend to seek therapy because they're distressed by their symptoms, while people with OCPD seek therapy because of conflict in relationships caused by the perfectionism and rigidity.
Parker does have a somewhat unusual profile--people with OCPD are actually at less risk for substance abuse than those with other personality disorders, because of their need for control. However, it's clear throughout Cracked Up To Be that Parker's obsessed with being perfect, and she even says she has to mess her life up "perfectly" and completely.
Cracked Up To Be is an excellent book to read if you're wondering how to make a potentially unsympathetic character understandable, palatable, and relatable. Have no doubt: Parker can be hard to take. But Courtney Summers does such a beautiful job of showing the reader how Parker is suffering--even when Parker is unable to admit it to herself--which I think takes real skill and discipline. You may not agree with the choices Parker makes and you might cringe at the way she treats people, but you understand it, and you root for her to find her way through. Also, OCPD does not define Parker; she's a lot more complex than that, and Cracked Up To Be makes for a fascinating character-study.
The treatment for OCPD is effective psychotherapy. OCPD is considered one of the more treatable personality disorders, and for obvious reasons, individuals with this disorder are often relatively high-functioning (apart from conflict-filled relationships and inefficiency).
Have I answered your questions about Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder? For those of you who have read Cracked Up To Be, do you agree with my "diagnosis"?
It's Wednesday, Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog day, so head on over to Lydia's blog to see how she answers the question, "what do you do when you lose your writing mojo?" Laura gave her answer last week, and I'll be up next week.