“My friend is an enigma. He’s super intelligent, lots of fun and very well off because. He’s always been bent on making lots of money. He can be very charming, and a good conversationalist. I can trust him and like him but I have never let our friendship go further because Mark is unbearably withholding and stingy. He’s visited my home at least 100 times over the years for dinners and many parties. It never occurs to him to bring a bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers or make any contribution. I guess he feels I don’t deserve being treated generously. Reciprocating is not in his dictionary.
With all his money, he chooses to live in a tiny one bedroom condo that should have been demolished years ago. He denies himself so many pleasures like joining me and my friends for dinner so he doesn’t have to share in paying the check. Instead he pretends that he’s dieting and skipping dinner. He often attends nice functions in totally inappropriate leisure outfits because he won’t buy good clothes. He cannot understand why I won’t let our friendship become a love relationship, completely ignoring that he’s emotionally unable to share anything. With all his faults, he is a man of integrity, and I could count on him if I had a health crisis. Is there any chance that he could ever change?” S.V.
People displaying the symptoms you describe may suffer from minor of major Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). They are often psychologically stingy and tend to be rigid and inflexible. They often have problems with being on time, not taking into account that they rob others of their valuable time when they are late. Many of them are workaholics as well as high achievers since they tend to be really focused and are fiercely devoted to their projects. But when it comes to being generous to themselves or others, emotionally or otherwise, they almost always lack the gift of giving. They may even withhold praise from others because they cannot admit that others are worthy of their compliments. Their gestures of caring or praise are equally rationed because they feel the other person doesn’t deserve their kindness or love. To them, sharing with others means that they have less. As a consequence their ability to form close personal or social relationship is impaired. People with this personality disorder insist on being in control always which further undermines a potentially successful relationship.
Can they change? Can OCPD be cured? The disorder is more common in men than in women and these people have difficulty changing without professional help. As they get older they sometimes realize that they “can’t take it with them” at which point they may make some adjustments. Sometimes they ask themselves “Why can’t I have a beautiful apartment? Why don’t I have a devoted and loving partner? Why do I drive an old beat up car?” In their head they know that they could have all of these pleasures in life but they are stuck emotionally and not able to make the necessary changes to give to themselves and others.
If they are willing to seek help, there are successful treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often effective. Specific medication such as Serotonin uptake inhibitors (like Prozac) may help reduce their obsessive, compulsive behavior. The issue that is most difficult to break is based on the fact that these people believe that their obsessive behavior is quite normal.