The Evolutionary Logic of the Obsessive Trait Complex: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder as a Complementary Behavioral Syndrome

Steven Charles Hertler


Freud noted that the obsessive traits of orderliness, parsimony, and obstinacy incontestably belonged together. This observation has been unfailingly justified, but unsatisfactorily explained. Being a highly heritable pattern essentially unaffected by parental influence, it is counterfactual to continue to explain the obsessive trait constellation as a pathological signature of harsh, authoritarian parenting. Alternatively, the present paper, building upon a previously promulgated evolutionary etiological model, describes how obsessive traits work in unison to enable survival within harsh northerly climates. What appears to be a loosely federated inventory of pathology, after the application of evolutionary reasoning, becomes a coherent behavioral package, adaptive suite, or behavioral syndrome. All three of these terms, taken from behavioral biology, suggest that traits strategically covary, such that the adaptive value of each trait is enhanced by the presence of the others. In this vein, the union of anxious tension and conscientiousness drives the obsessive personality to labor incessantly. The fruits of obsessive labor are then conserved through parsimoniousness, hoarding, vigilance, and niggardliness. And so, obsessive personality is a coherent behavioral package in that the drive to work towards the acquisition of necessities is paired with the drive to conserve and defend them.


behavioral syndrome; coherent behavioral package; evolution; obsessive-compulsive personality disorder; strategy; suite of adaptations

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ISSN: 2193-7281
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