Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Common in Parkinson’s

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) often have personality features that mimic those found in depression, anxiety, and even obsessive compulsion (OC). Behaviors such as extreme punctuality, perfectionism, rigidity, harm avoidance, and unwillingness to seek out novel experiences are common in all of these illnesses. New research has begun to explore whether or not any of these personality types are common in people with PD and, if so, whether any of these traits act as predictors of PD, or merely comorbid symptoms. To look at the relationships between PD and personality traits further, Alessandra Nicoletti of the Department of Hygiene, Public Health, and Neuroscience at the University of Catania in Italy recently conducted a study involving 100 clients with PD and 100 without. She evaluated the personality traits of all of the participants and found that OC was present in 40% of the PD participants and 10% of the non-PD participants.

Nicoletti noted that OC personality and Parkinsonian personality both present with similar cognitive and behavioral traits. She believes that even though there is an overlap in symptoms, it has not been shown that OC personality predicts later Parkinson’s. However, some research has suggested a predictive quality in OC personality for future OC. Nicoletti believes the shared traits present in both personality types are the result of similar neurological circuitry, rather than genetic predisposition to Parkinson’s.

The second most common personality type was depressive, accounting for 14 PD participants and four control participants. This personality is characterized by avoidant behaviors and negative affect, which can also be present in individuals with PD alone. Nicoletti added, “Considering the well known high prevalence of depression among the PD patients, we are aware that in some case distinguishing between these two conditions can be difficult.” She hopes that future work will examine this personality type and others more thoroughly in order to establish whether they provide an early indication of Parkinson’s risk or they merely exist as comorbid conditions.


  1. Nicoletti, A., Luca, A., Raciti, L., Contrafatto, D., Bruno, E., et al. (2013). Obsessive compulsive personality disorder and Parkinson’s disease. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54822. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054822

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  • malin

    April 22nd, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I have to get a good friend this information because her mom has Parkinson’s and has been exhibiting a lot of the signs of OCD as well as depression. Looks like there is a strong possibility that all of this could be interrealted, and if the doctors treat it as such then maybe there will be some improvement in the quality of life that has really gone downhill for her in the past few years. I don’t know that her treating doctors are aware of this relationship or if they have ever thought about but it is certainly worth trying to open up some of the lines of communication for them.

  • Dawn

    April 22nd, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago. As a younger man I do not recall the OCD tendencies that he now presents, nor do I recall him with a significant amount of depressive symptoms. I take a role in observing his behaviors, especially as it relates to his medication management. I think it is extremely notable that most of the medications cause issues such as depression, OC tendencies, even hallucinations, paranoia, and aggression, as well as many others. I would be curious if in the study, medications and their side effects were considered.

  • Ron

    April 22nd, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    Quite understandable that you’d have personality issues with Parkinson’s – and the personality issues may be what promote the depression. Trust me it isn’t easy. I exhibited OCD symptoms for quite sometime and although I was never really diagnosed with OCD it did make me depressed at times.

    So a situation with Parkinson’s plus personality issues plus depression is not a happy one to be in. The severity if all these together can by itself defeat you mentally.

  • Blakely

    April 23rd, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    Are there currently any medications that could simultaneously treat both, or at least help alleviate the symptoms of one while treating the other?

  • LaRae

    November 21st, 2020 at 7:55 PM

    is there anything that can be done about obsessive compulsive behaviors in purchasing multiple and unnecessary items?

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