OCD Center of Los Angeles California
OCD Center of Los Angeles

Memory Hoarding in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

    

I was surprised to discover that Webster’s dictionary defines “hoard” as a kind of temporary fence put up around a structure being built, presumably with the intention of protecting it in a fragile state.  Dictionary.com had a more familiar definition: “to accumulate for preservation, future use, etc., in a hidden or carefully guarded place.”  Both definitions refer to the behavior of creating certainty around an uncertain state.

Squirrels hoard acorns to make sure they don’t starve during the winter.  Armies hoard weapons to ensure they never run out.  And some people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) hoard objects of uncertain value, usually with the belief that the object’s value may be revealed at an important point in the future. A classic example is the OCD sufferer who won’t throw out old newspapers for fear that he may wish to reference an article at a later date.  Some people hoard various items of little or no real value for fear that they may need them some day, or fear that they may not be disposing of these items correctly and could cause unwanted consequences.

Not all people with OCD hoard.  In fact, not all hoarders even have OCD.  However, many people who suffer from OCD appear to engage in a form of mental compulsion I have come to call memory hoarding.

Memory hoarding is a mental compulsion to over-attend to the details of an event, person, or object in an attempt to mentally store it for safekeeping.  This is generally done under the belief that the event, person, or object carries a special significance and will be important to recall exactly as-is at a later date.  The memory serves the same function for the mental hoarder that the old newspaper serves for the physical hoarder.

People with memory hoarding OCD exhibit two major errors in information processing.   The first error is the distorted belief that they will need this memory someday, and that it would be catastrophic if the memory weren’t 100% accurate.  Second, people with memory hoarding also have the distorted belief that memories can be treated the same way as inanimate objects.

The value of a newspaper article can be debated, but the contents of that article will remain constant.  A photograph can capture a certain image, and that image will remain constant as long as the material upon which it’s printed holds up.  But memories do not obey the same properties.

Not only is a memory a complex amalgam of all of your senses (sight, hearing, smell, and so on), but it is also a function of the emotional state and cognitive processes of the person forming the memory, both at the time the memory is being formed, and when it is being recalled.  Therefore the very act of forming or recalling a memory must, by definition, distort it. When you reflect upon an event, you are necessarily filtering the stored data of the initial memory through the present state you are in.  So the belief that a memory can be hoarded makes the memory hoarding compulsion a guaranteed disappointment for the individual with OCD.

Mindfulness Workbook for OCDIn general, the clients we have seen who engage in memory hoarding compulsions are concerned that moments in time will pass without them fully understanding, remembering, and appreciating them.  The uncertainty surrounding whether or not they will be able to adequately reflect upon and evaluate the significance of specific events, people, or objects causes discomfort which they hope to avoid.  Someone without OCD may best understand this concept as akin to that “last look” we all take the moment we leave an apartment from which we just finished moving all the boxes.  You stop, you consider that this is the last time you will be this person in this place, and then you move on to the next chapter in life.

Someone with OCD who is engaging in memory hoarding symptoms is likely to feel trapped in a state of never fully being able to take in the true value of this moment.  The twisted irony of memory hoarding is that the person trying to perfectly remember things frequently misses out on those very things because they are caught up in the mental compulsion trying not to miss anything.  When we don’t allow ourselves to be present in the moment, we are losing a great deal of the value of life in the process.

This irony is consistent throughout the OCD spectrum.  The compulsive hand washer scrubs furiously over and over and yet still spends most of their time feeling dirty, no matter how much they wash.  The washing actually informs the brain that dirt is on the offensive.  The memory hoarder similarly feels a perpetual state of incomplete memory formation, despite all of the time-consuming and emotionally draining work they put into trying to form memories perfectly.

As in other manifestations of OCD, the form may change but the function remains the same.  Here are some forms of memory hoarding we have noticed in our clients:

  • Over-attending to, and dwelling on, an event of perceived importance while the event is taking place (i.e. a wedding, a graduation, a birth, etc.)
  • Over-attending to the details of a significant moment (an important conversation, a kiss, a bite of food, etc.)
  • Over-attending to the details of a location and what it feels like to be in it (a room, the inside of a car, etc.)
  • Over-attending to memory triggers of significant life periods (i.e. a movie from your childhood, pictures from an earlier relationship, etc.)
  • Trying to perfectly remember the physical details of a lover, friend, or family member.
  • Mentally replaying an event multiple times to gain certainty that it was remembered correctly.

Treatment for memory hoarding is obviously not going to look the same as treatment for physical hoarding.  The goal isn’t to remove memories.  Rather, the goal is to be able to accept memories as they are and choose their value willingly, not compulsively.  Thus, the practice of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy should be employed in the order of its name.

  • Mindfulness – Fully and willingly accept that you have thoughts which appear on the surface to pose a threat to your ability to fully and perfectly form or recall a memory.  Recognize that these thoughts are not good or bad, but simply exist.  Accept imperfect memories as they are.
  • Cognitive (Restructuring) – Identify what distorted ideas you may have about your memories, and what the logical, rational, and evidence-based consequences are of having an imperfect memory of a given event, person, or object.
  • Behavioral Therapy (Exposure with Response Prevention) – Intentionally seek out scenarios where you feel the urge to memory hoard, and resist the compulsion by moving through the event without over-attending to any specific detail for a significant amount of time.  Leave an event, person, or object without checking to make sure it has been fully understood, remembered, and appreciated.  Interrupt mental reviewing with more meaningful, attention-demanding activities.

It’s important to understand the meaning of “over-attend” in this context.  One person’s version of savoring the moment in a healthy way could mean getting trapped in an obsessive-compulsive cycle for someone with OCD.  The trick is to draw a distinction between enjoying a moment, and mentally seeking reassurance by asking yourself if you are completely enjoying and remembering a moment for sure.

Part of this phenomenon may have to do with an OCD sufferer’s difficulty accepting the permanence of the passing of time.  Or perhaps memory hoarding is just another form of trying to do the right thing in the right way 100%.  In any case, if the ultimate objective is to value and enjoy experiences in your life, then your best bet is to let those experiences happen without OCD telling you how to enjoy and remember them.

The OCD Center of Los Angeles is a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related anxiety based conditions.  In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment.  To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.

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49 Comments to Memory Hoarding in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  1. Why would a person memory hoard something that was extremely painful?

  2. Melissa McDougald on February 15th, 2011
  3. Hi Melissa, good question! Despite it seeming to be irrational, this is definitely something people do when they memory hoard. The question is not whether the memory being “hoarded” is good or bad, but whether it is perceived as important. All hoarding behaviors come down to a belief that the thing being hoarded has some unique value that cannot or should not be let go of.

    It is not uncommon to see someone put great effort into capturing the essence of an event they see as negative so that they may be able to recall exactly how painful the event was later. There is often a kind of compulsive justification that takes place. In other words, something causes someone a great deal of pain and they tie this to a mental ritual (such as memory hoarding) in attempt to make the extreme pain seem legitimate or worth it.

  4. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 15th, 2011
  5. Hi,

    What you said there is a “unique value that cannot or should not be let go of…a kind of compulsive justification that takes place… in an attempt to make the extreme pain seem legitimate or worth it” is dead on. I did not know this was an actual “disorder”. I know it is not in the DSM, even though hoarding is. But, people have often asked me why I “hang on to things” or “wow, you remember everything”. But, then I get extremely uncomfortable if I start to forget details of an event, person, place, emotion.

    Very interesting and nice to know there is actually something I can do to combat this.

  6. Rose on March 1st, 2011
  7. I “hoard” the memories and find myself replaying the event over and over, doing the conversations in different ways or changing the event to how I wish it would have come out. but I do this almost to an extreme. When I have any down time like driving or trying to sleep for example its like its all I think about… there are some days that I dont do this but I find more often than not this is what I do. Its more prominant with bad memories but if a memory is profoundly good I do a simmilar thing… I try to catch it and scolled myself from doing it but I find it just goes to a different memory.I also reherse conversatons that never happened or never will happen in conection to perticular moments. Im woundering if this is an OCD that Im doing and if there is anything I can do on my own to help it, I dont have money to go to a dr. I also see some of the signs in my 12 child and I want to help him before it get as bad as mine.
    Sinserely,
    Hilda

  8. Marie on June 29th, 2011
  9. Marie, sorry for the delayed response, this one slipped under my radar. Everything you described sounds like a mental compulsion to me. Replaying conversations is sometimes called mental review or retracing. You get caught up trying to change the unchangeable to what it “should” be rather than accept things a as they are and stay in the present. The other things you describe definitely sound like ocd. It is treatable with CBT. You mentioned not having funds for treatment. I would start by reading some books on ocd and joining an online discussion board like OCD-Support. There is also a lot of good info at http://www.ocfoundation.org.

  10. OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 3rd, 2011
  11. I almost fell out of my chair reading this article. Since childhood, and for fifty years, I have been afraid of forthcoming fun events because I knew I would be forever trapped reliving them. As a fun event draws near I have nauseating anxiety about how devastating it will be when the event ends–thus am unable to enjoy the event.

    My husband grew tired of this constant state of anxiety and actually left because of it. Now I spend every waking moment reliving our married life together: it is a room whose four walls are grief, pity, regret, and anguish, and it has no exit. Perhaps I can find someone locally who subscribes to your findings and would be willing to treat me. I feel hope for the first time in my life.

    Tracy

  12. Tracy Dyer on September 18th, 2011
  13. I’ve had this memory hoarding for 35 yrs. i spend my whole day writing. When i am studying i try to go 5 mins in a row without writing. Add to it all I am jewish and for 24 hrs a week there is no writing, which knocks me out of equilibrium for 24 hrs, and then again when i can start writing again. Total mental torture.
    I have always wondered if during those 24 hrs i have a different brain mechanism, as I can go sometimes for 1 hr, witrhout having anything i want to write.

  14. HENRY on January 8th, 2012
  15. Hello , I suffer exactly from this type of ocd . Is there a book outhere or any other site talking about this type of ocd ??

    Thanks!

    Charles

  16. Charles on December 17th, 2012
  17. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any other resources that specifically address Memory Hoarding.

    That said, it is important to remember that all OCD symptoms are essentially variants of the same process of over-attending to our thoughts and feelings, over-valuing them, and over-responding to them with unnecessary behavioral compulsions.

    When you find yourself feeling compelled to perfectly and completely remember a specific event, remind yourself that the thought “I must remember / know this event perfectly” is just an irrational thought that you brain is having. In other words, you have the option of not paying attention to that thought, not taking it seriously, and just letting it sit there in your head without responding to it in any way.

  18. OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 20th, 2012
  19. This article is excellent. I have had this problem of trying to recall the exact image of certain objects or the whereabouts, the EXACT whereabouts, of things. If I can’t remember the image in a perfect way I have a always had the compulsion to check that thing and refresh my memory. It is exhausting. I did not know others dealt with the same problem. Great information. I have to follow the great advice above stating ;

    “When you find yourself feeling compelled to perfectly and completely remember a specific event, remind yourself that the thought ‘I must remember / know this event perfectly’ is just an irrational thought that you brain is having. In other words, you have the option of not paying attention to that thought, not taking it seriously, and just letting it sit there in your head without responding to it in any way”.

    This truly is golden advice!!!

  20. Jesse on July 13th, 2013
  21. Hi Jesse,

    Thanks for your comments. You are not alone, as many people with OCD go through this same compulsion. I’m glad the article, as well as my advice to Charles, were of benefit to you. Take care.

  22. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 13th, 2013
  23. Even as I read this now I am trying to hairs memories, I can’t begin to explain the compulsions and obsessions I do. Ever since I was about 6 I have counted letters in a sentence, there has been many different ways of doing it over the years and for the past 7 years I have begun to memory hoard, I have to sit and spend a long period of time going over a bit in a film and repeating what happened in my head and often the counting starts and I forget what I was thinking and have to go back (if I’m in a place) I first started thinking about to remind me of the event I was relaying, it causes so much stress with me and boyfriend, who had severe OCD, whenever I’m reading I have to go back to a sentence and repeat it and act it out in my head and I can spend hours doing this, also as I’m having a conversation it often happens for example as I’m describing this I’m going over in my head exactly what I need to say and I keep repeating it, it often goes into lists and I have to remember everything on the list, and if I forget I sit there for hours trying to think of it, I have also found I am a hoarder of material things, and I often think I have to keep an object incase I need it in the future, my room is starting to overflow and it’s worrying, this memory hoarding is taking over my life and I don’t know why to do anymore, I can’t have a normal conversation without thinking back to what they’ve said and repeating it, even now I’m doing it and trying to list and repeat the things I’ve said, I think I genuinely need help but my doctor puts it down to stress all of the counting and memory hoarding!
    Megan.

  24. Megan on August 12th, 2013
  25. Hi Megan,

    Thank you for commenting.

    I think the most important thing for you would be to realize that your memory hoarding is a behavior, and that you can choose a different behavior.

    When you find yourself wanting to mentally review or mentally repeat something, your goal is to choose not to do so. At first, this will likely mean that you will experience a strong spike in your anxiety. But with practice, you will learn that you are able to tolerate the anxiety, and that it often (almost always) decreases. This will be easier for you if you are able to remind yourself that you do not actually “need” to compulsively hoard memories (or things for that matter), and that you are strong enough to tolerate the discomfort without giving in to the urge to mentally review and repeat.

    I’m not sure if the doctor you mention is a physician or psychotherapist, but OCD is not just about “stress”. I encourage you to seek help with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD.

  26. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 14th, 2013
  27. Hello,I’m diagnosed with OCD.The thing that bothers me the last 4 years,putting aside all the other compulsions,is my memory retention on academic material.I’ve always tried to remember perfectly,learn perfectly everything,have perfect recall.This triggers a great deal of anxiety leading to avoidance behavior.Then I try to make up strategies for perfect retention,over analyze again an again,try to bring back the memories intact.Then things get worse,I get cut off socialy,the anxiety increases,the avoidance behavior increases as well.It’s like,if I was a normal person,I would MAYBE plan a good learning strategy and get over with it,but with me,my mind is all about the little things,about how I’ll be a failure if I don’t do this perfectly in an extremely planned and thorough way etc.

    Is this related with OCD and memory hoarding?
    Thanks

  28. Andy on August 19th, 2013
  29. Hi Andy,

    It is worth noting that there is a difference between working to remember something because of specific goal (i.e., passing a test), as opposed to working to remember something solely to reduce the anxiety one experiences related to the prospect of not remembering. People with memory hoarding are attempting to force themselves to remember because they feel they must remember, even if the thing they are struggling to remember has no particular importance (i.e., “what is the exact emotion I am feeling as I watch my son’s little league game”). Working to remember something is not the issue – the individual’s motive in working to remember is the issue. A memory hoarder spends countless hours trying to remember due to anxiety, not to pass a test.

    That said, you sound like you are struggling with a lot of perfectionism. This might be a sign of OCD, or perhaps a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), which despite the similar name, is an entirely different condition. And just to complicate things more, someone can have both OCD and OCPD.

  30. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 21st, 2013
  31. Thanks for the answer.

    I didn’t think that it would be possible to have both conditions. According to the doctors I’ve visited the OCD part is obviously there. But the truth is I’m also obsessed with lists,schedules,systems of order,to the point of not leaving my house for days,weeks or more just to satisfy the need for order. At the same time all this just triggers anxiety since I always doubt my memories and my ability to recall material. Very recently I decided to give up and accept that I cannot retain memories perfectly and I don’t and can’t have much control over most things. That came because I’m in a point where I just can’t take it anymore. I’m also trying to limit the involvement of my visual memory when learning,since everything visual leads to self doubt. Or it may be another scheme of my OCD taking over my life. We’ll see.

    Thanks again for the reply

    Andy

  32. Andy on August 21st, 2013
  33. Hi Andy,

    It sounds like you have made a good step in the right direction by realizing that you can’t control everything. It is great to hear that you are actively making an effort to accept reality as it is, rather than trying to control everything. I think you’ll find it liberating to let go of the need to control.

    As for your attempt to “limit the involvement of (your) visual memory”, I caution you to be careful that you don’t compulsively attempt to control your memory. Memory just happens, and in most cases, it doesn’t warrant any effort to have it or to not have it. If your “learning” is related to school or work, just do the work, and just let your memory naturally occur. Don’t try to limit or control it – just let it happen.

  34. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 27th, 2013
  35. Thank you very much for your answer.Your last paragraph is the most helpful thing I’ve ever heard,this is the root of my problem,but no one ever told me to just let memory naturally occur.It may sound silly of me to not be able to realize it on my own,but my low self esteem made me think that this is what I should do(control my memory).Someone telling me “memory just happens” was something I could not say to myself without having doubts about it’s validity.And you were right,by trying to limit visual memory involvement,I was obsessing on that,this is what I’ve been doing the last few days.I guess acceptance of imperfection is the first step,now I’ll have to let go on every level.

    Thank you very much,I’m sorry for taking so much space with my comments on your site,but you were really helpful.

  36. Andy on August 27th, 2013
  37. Hi Andy,

    I am glad to hear that the article and my comments were helpful. Think of memory as being like digestion or breathing. It doesn’t need attention – it just happens naturally without any intervention on our part. Take care.

  38. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 28th, 2013
  39. Hello Dr, first I would like to thank you for this wonderful article. I find myself relating to it immensely, and wondered if you wouldn’t mind answering a question of mine- Over the summer I was on a wonderful vacation with several friends. One of the nights entailed four of us looking up at the sky of stars- we even saw a big blue shooting one! Yet I found myself, in the midst of the beauty, trying to take everything possible in, over-attending to various details to create “full” memories. Some of these included (and forgive how ridiculous they may sound): how young we are (we’re 18/19, just appreciating youth, etc, taken to a stressful extreme), the environment and surrounding (it was right by the beach and villa we stayed at, as I looked around to try to take in every palm tree, etc), and other aspects of the moments. Is this OCD? I have shown dozens of other OCD symptoms throughout my life, such as pure-o, superstitious ones, etc, yet have only diagnosed myself (which I know is a BIG no-no but everything lines up so perfectly). The most stressful (and we’re talking stressful) compulsions are mental ones for me. The little tics and such I do are not severe at all and I have great control over those. I’m just wondering- could my OCD spill into appreciating life/memory/others? OCD attacks things we like, I figure, and if I have an OCD mind, perhaps that happened? I’ve also “OCD’d” (I say) when looking at a girl I like, trying to take in every feature of her face and beautiful eyes (this ultimately makes me feel like a creeper upon later inspections of the memory). I understand this is exactly what you described, but I guess a piece of me is unsure if it counts as OCD, as this is the only article I’ve found about memory hoarding through my scouring of the web (despite how immensely I relate to it). Forgive me for my long-windedness, and thank you for your patience.

  40. Anthony on September 11th, 2013
  41. Hi
    I can never explain the sense of relief I have just felt reading some of theses comments. For years I was not even sure if this memory hoarding was ocd. I have minor ocd when it come to touching doors and checking rituals etc. But the memory hoarding has been really getting me down for quite few years now. I did not even know there was a name for it. Its very hard for family members to understand how horrible this is. I get so irritated when I can’t photographically remember something. It does not even have to be anything important. It usually is not. But if I don’t get it right I get fear that I can’t move on and something bad will happen. Or it just feels like something is missing and my life won’t be right until I do it right. I have to lock myself in room so I can concentrate on a memory . I get very upset if I’m disturbed by anyone. Someone mentioned a moment in a film or just in day to day life. Does not matter about importants of moment. Its just if it gets in my head I can’t get it out and have to go over it. I get weeks even months when its not so bad but always comes back to the degree I have it now. Feel like I’m wasting my life but I can’t stop it. I really feel for you people. Can’t believe I’m not alone with this. It has made me feel better that its a recognised condition though. Hope I can get help.

  42. David on September 21st, 2013
  43. Hi Anthony,

    Thank you for your comments. While I cannot provide a diagnosis via blog, all of the symptoms you describe sound very much like Memory Hoarding OCD. It is not unusual for people with OCD to have their symptoms morph over time, and your report that you have previously exhibited other symptoms of OCD is not surprising.

    Your goal should be to be present with what you are experiencing, rather than trying to compulsively ensure that you create “full” memories of that experience. Your memories will occur free of any conscious input or effort on your part, and if you make an effort to focus on remembering, you are likely to remember these experiences more for the compulsive memory hoarding than for the experience itself.

  44. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 30th, 2013
  45. Hi David,

    Thank you for your comments. I’m glad to hear our article helped you.

    That said, I want to encourage you to challenge the idea that you have to concentrate on ensuring you have a perfect memory of anything, and that you can’t stop it. Having a perfect memory of something is not a requirement – it is just a lie your OCD has been telling you. Nothing bad would happen if you were to accept an imperfect memory and then get on with your day. Again, your OCD has you convinced that something bad might occur, but that is just your OCD talking.

    I encourage you to seek out a therapist who specializes in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as this will be the best approach for you to move past your memory hoarding.

  46. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 30th, 2013
  47. I always check my memory which is making me to think, i have to remember things which i need.by which my social and professional life is affecting and cannot concentrate. I am repeating in my mind to check my memory of phrases or thougts or important things and mentally checking one by one. i acknowledge by moving my right leg forward in a sign of finishing perfectly

    From few months,I was in a habbit of repeating, reciting thoughts, positive phrases, universal formulas in life and in this process adding more phrases, which i think is important to remember. By this i try to check these phrases mentally to ensure i remember perfectly. In the process of remembering i close my eyes and in between remembering phrases, if i get distracted by other thoughts or object or colors or anything, Then i start reciting from beginning. One day i added upto 15 phrases and was practicing to remember multiple times in a day. Made me less memory and my mind gives an urge or says to remember many times.

    But I am in control. when i forget all things and concentrate on other things am fine but these things comes back again.

    why? what is this? what are good behaviors. how to be good and concentrate on important things in life.

  48. Sam on October 9th, 2013
  49. Hi Sam,

    Thank you for your comments.

    You ask what these behaviors are and why you are doing these things. The simplest answer is that these behaviors are compulsions, and you are doing them because you have OCD. A slightly more complex answer is that you are trying to ensure that you have a perfect memory. But you don’t need to have a perfect memory. That’s like saying your food must taste perfect or the color of the sky must be perfect. Your memory doesn’t need to be perfect – it just needs to be whatever it is. Memory just happens, and it doesn’t require any assistance from us.

    You ask what are good behaviors that will help you to focus on the important things in life. But it is not so much what you need to do, as what you need to stop doing. You would greatly benefit from not doing any of the behaviors you are currently doing in an attempt to control your memory, namely:

    ~ repeating things in your mind
    ~ checking phrases and thoughts
    ~ moving your leg forward as a sign of having finished your checking perfectly
    ~ reciting thoughts, phrases and formulas
    ~ adding phrases you believe are necessary to remember
    ~ closing your eyes during these memory rituals

    All of these are compulsions, and all of them are reinforcing the distorted belief that you must remember everything perfectly. Leave your memory alone and it will work fine by itself. And if it forgets something temporarily, so what. Your memory of that thing will return…or not.

  50. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 15th, 2013
  51. Thank you for your reply. I put all my effort to recite thoughts, repeating things in mind ,positive affirmations that I feel to remember things because of fear of getting unhealthy feeling of sickness, but in real it is not.which i feel is not true. I always have doubt of things which i want to remember. That is making me to mental check because of confusion, but rechecking always do not give me satisfaction and I need to reassure mental that I have checked and no need to check, but this does not lasts long.

    I am in a position that i am assuming myself,that I cannot be have perfect memory retrievals. As a every Human , I get distracted between mental checks and its natural and not to get worried by adding different additional behaviours by which it will effect social and proffesional life.

    So, I like your golden rule that, memory happens naturally and does not need monitoring.

  52. sam on October 17th, 2013
  53. Hi Sam,

    Yes, if you follow that golden rule, and make no effort to control or manage or monitor your memory, it will do its job just fine by itself.

  54. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 21st, 2013
  55. Can u help me? I am suffering frm OCD

  56. Hari krishna on December 7th, 2013
  57. Hari Krishna,

    Your question doesn’t give me enough information to provide you help. I encourage you to seek treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD. Take care.

  58. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 9th, 2013
  59. Hi

    Im suffering exactly from this type of ocd . I found your mindfulness techniques great but the thing is when I look on internet for treatment all we hear about is ERP or ERP with CT and it seems to have 1000 differents way to do to CBT ( Ct first followed by erp or erp first followed by ct or erp / ct the same time ) . So when my ocd kick in theres 1000 differents theory pup ups in my head and I end up doing nothing but the rituals . Do you have any tips for me ?

  60. Charles on December 12th, 2013
  61. I’ve suffered from HOCD, fear of harming others/self, and fear of going crazy for about 4 years now. I’ve gone through many changes in my life and have felt different ways throughout my life. For example, in an effort to prove to myself I’m straight, I feel like I need to recall how I was attracted to women in a specific earlier time in my life. If I do not, I feel like I’ll actually forget my true identity and become gay. I’ve also gone through many times in my life where I met my favorite band for example, and their music means the world to me; this was also a crucial time where I was suffering very heavily from OCD and I was still with my ex-girlfriend. It feels as if I do not remember this specific event/time, my identity and what is made of the me back then will fade away, and I will lose myself.

    It’s gotten to the point where I’m checking if I remember where I was born, my name, and to see if I can recite my entire life from the start; through all the significant phases of my life, and how I felt in all the situations. To my distress, when I try to do this, I can vaguely remember anything at all, as to where I could just bring back all the places, faces, pain and feelings at will, in great detail. What made me, me. It feels like it’s all lost, or there’s just a huge memory block and one day I’ll just forget everything significant I’ve gone through. How do I deal with this? Is it all OCD, or is it really possible that I can just forget these crucial events and important pieces of information? Is it just blocked by OCD, or really gone forever with an inability to retrieve it? Maybe one day I’ll forget my name. I don’t know

  62. Julian on December 12th, 2013
  63. Hi Julian,

    Much of what you write sounds like memory hoarding, with the rest being other variants of OCD such as HOCD and Harm OCD.

    The bottom line is that you don’t need focus your mental energy on remembering anything – memory just happens. It is a cognitive event that requires no energy from us. You cannot suddenly forget your sexual orientation. Likewise, unless you have some sort of illness such as Alzheimer’s, or a traumatic brain injury, you will not one day suddenly forget everything significant that has happened to you.

    Conversely, you have limited control over what you remember. The good news is that you don’t need to remember everything. What makes you “you” is your behaviors, not your memories. For example, helping an old lady across the street is far more important that remembering that you did so.

    You ask “how do I deal with this”? My answer is simple – accept that, at any given moment, your memory is what it is. Don’t over-attend to it, and don’t over-value it. Live your life as if your future memories of today were unimportant. Focus on how you experience “now” rather than how you remember “then”.

  64. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 25th, 2013
  65. Hi Charles,

    Mindfulness works quite well in concert with ERP, which is a specific type of CBT. The best tip I can give you is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Self-treatment via internet searching is not likely to be very effective.

  66. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 25th, 2013
  67. Although I sometimes I wish I didn’t remember certain events or things, mostly I’m grateful. I am a writer and a teacher of memoir and creative nonfiction. The ability to access a variety of memories (even the painful ones) is an incredible asset for a writer Additionally, memories can be an avenue to empathy. Unless a person’s memories impair their daily functioning, I don’t see the problem.

  68. Jane Andrews on January 7th, 2014
  69. I’m not sure if I suffer from this but it seems I do. I constantly have major anxieties when I’m in a relationship. And currently when I talk yo my girlfriend over the phone or in person or even text or IM, I have to replay the conversation to make sure I understood everything she said, did she sound upset? Was there something wrong based on her tone of words? I look for the affectionate words and loving words towards me which make me feel better when I replay the conversation….I look for signs of trouble to see if there’s any issues so I can fix it. I do this with texts as well, I have re-read it numerous times, and make sure I understood it, make sure she wasn’t upset etc…its exhausting being me. I also have to check her comments on her social networks, comments on my pics or just conversations with me or other people, I have to dig and try to find hidden meanings to all our conversations…I can’t enjoy my relationship because of this problem I have.

  70. gerson on January 8th, 2014
  71. Hello again, Doctor. It’s Anthony again! I’ve made progress toward this. One more question though- is this an “underground” and legitimate OCD? Would it be acknowledged as a possibility by a therapist in Illinois? With all due respect, of course. I thank you for your wonderful help.

  72. Anthony on January 9th, 2014
  73. Jane,

    No offense intended, but I really don’t think you get it. The issue is not memories, but rather the need to compulsively focus on remembering them. Imagine you were leaving your home today to go to work. But instead of just walking out the door, you felt compelled to remember every single thing in your living room exactly as it is. Now imagine doubting your memories of what you are looking at, and feeling that you needed to look at everything in your living room for 45 minutes, just to ensure that you really understood everything that you are looking at. That’s memory hoarding.

    And now take this basic idea, and apply it to your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Imagine believing that you needed to perfectly remember every feeling you ever had about your spouse, or every emotional response you had at your daughter’s piano recital – and doubting every attempt you make at forcing yourself to remember these things. Imagine that hours of your day-to-day life were spent focusing not on experiencing life, but rather on trying to remember everything.

    It’s not the memories themselves that are impairing the functioning of those with memory hoarding issues, it is the compulsive process of trying to remember. I encourage you to read the comments that people have posted in response to this article. Then you might better understand that the memories themselves are not problematic, and that the OCD is extremely disruptive to people’s lives.

  74. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on January 9th, 2014
  75. Hi Anthony,

    This is not an “underground” form of OCD, and any therapist specializing in the treatment of OCD would recognize it. The problem is that most therapists are clueless about OCD. Many people, including many therapists, think OCD is just about hand washing or checking stoves and door locks. But those are just the tip of the iceberg.

    I encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD, as this is the approach that has consistently and repeatedly been found by researchers to be the most effective treatment for ll types of OCD.

  76. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on January 9th, 2014
  77. Hi Gerson,

    While I cannot provide a diagnosis via blog, I can say that the symptoms you describe may indicate memory hoarding. That said, it is worth noting that you only mention memory hoarding issues related to to your relationship with your girlfriend. If you only experience these sorts of compulsive behaviors in your relationship, then it is quite possible that there is some other issue that needs addressing. I encourage you to discuss this with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD, as they will be able to help you determine if this is OCD or some other issue. Take care.

  78. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on January 9th, 2014
  79. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 15.I have been to see many doctors and I am convinced that only one had seen the form of OCD I have. He said I probably don’t want to “split hairs” as far as analyzing it. However, it seems that my OCD has morphed into memory hoarding. I did well in exposure therapy. My concern is about comorbidity of disorders. The best way I can describe it is that there is a morality “thought police” so I have to keep track of my memories. This limits social functioning. I am 33 and would appreciate any thoughts you have on this.
    Jon

  80. Jon on January 27th, 2014
  81. Jon,

    Actually you don’t need to keep track of your memories. Your OCD will try to convince you otherwise, but that is the nature of OCD. Your goal is to accept that you will have the “morality police” in your head, but to pay them no attention. So the next time you have the thought that you need to keep track of your memories, choose instead not to keep track of them. Purposely choose to throw caution to the wind, and risk the consequences. You will initially be uncomfortable, but you are stronger than you think, and you will be able to tolerate those uncomfortable feelings until they decrease.

  82. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 4th, 2014
  83. Hi :) this article and the comments have helped me tremendously already, but I do still feel the need to ask for some ‘specific’ advice. I constantly check and analyze my thoughts and memories/experiences, and recently I’ve done the same for a film that I watched. This particular film held great importance to me and I had to wait quite a while to see it. Now though, I am constantly concerned that I didn’t experience it to the fullest, watching it for the first time, and that I’ve somehow lost the ‘essence’ of it and of course I’ll never be able to get that experience back, of how I felt first.
    So I’ll sit and try to recall exactly how I felt and what I was thinking at the time and then wrap it all up into one, so I can see the whole picture.. But I’ve done that so much now that I have a terrible fear of the whole thing being lost forever because of this wall of fear I hit when trying to think about it. I just want to break the cycle.

  84. Stephanie on April 15th, 2014
  85. Hi Stephanie,

    Everything you report about your efforts to recall the film perfectly and fully sounds exactly like memory hoarding – you are attempting to hoard your memory of the film.

    Your attempts to recall everything related to the film are compulsions, and will only make things worse for you. A better alternative is to accept that human memory is imperfect – we are not computers. Furthermore, you don’t need to remember how you felt watching it, and every second you spend trying to recall your experience of the film is time that you are not experiencing the current moment.

  86. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 22nd, 2014
  87. Amazing, I suffer through this every day. I have never been able to explain to someone what it’s like, but this page not only summed it up, it also made me realize just how impossible it is to truly remember everything.

  88. Bill on May 2nd, 2014
  89. Thanks for your comment Bill. It is gratifying to hear that our article was helpful for you. And you are absolutely correct – it is impossible to truly remember everything (and fruitless to even try).

  90. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 2nd, 2014
  91. Hi Doc. Am lookimg for some direction in diagnosing and treating my mum. She’s 83. Over the last two years, she’s developed frequent impulses to recall or find out names of random people. Distant relatives, friends, public figures, etc. These impulses occur any time of day or night and she wants to know the name immediately or else she begins to feel distressed and unwell, and is unable to carry on normal activities till someone helps her find out the name. Sometimes these urges are prompted by something she may have seen or heard or spoken about recently but often these urges come to her out of nowhere without her even thinking about the concerned people. She even admits that often there is no importance of that person to her, and yet she can’t help not finding out the name. The kind of names she asks are not just those she may have known earlier and subsequently forgotten, but also those that she would have never known in the past. She has started maintaining a diary where she notes down these names and keeps referring to them repeatedly. She cannot last a day without at least one such episode. I’ve taken her to a few psychiatrists and psychologists but there is no conclusive diagnosis. Also, i was told that therapy would not work on her as she is too old. Would very much appreciate any light you can throw on her problem. Thanks for your time.

  92. arvind on May 8th, 2014
  93. Hi Arvind,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I cannot provide a diagnosis via email, and I strongly suggest that you not try to diagnose your mom. That said, I think it is important to note that your mother is 83, an age at which many experience cognitive decline, including memory issues and dementia. I encourage you to have her diagnosed by a neurologist to see if some of her memory concerns are due to age-related cognitive decline.

  94. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 9th, 2014
  95. Thanks very much for your prompt reply. You’re right, she does have some memory issues and we’ve been to neurologists who say it could be early dementia. But no literature on dementia mentions my mom’s condition as a common occurrence among dementia patients. Which is what prompts me to look for a diagnosis, and treatment, elsewhere. Would you at least be able to say that it doesn’t sound like anything to do with OCD?

  96. arvind on May 9th, 2014
  97. Arvind,

    Thank you for your follow-up comment.

    All of the things you mentioned about your mom focus on memory, which is a key issue of dementia. And at 83, it wouldn’t be “early” dementia – it would be plain old dementia. And no, I am not willing to say it doesn’t sound like OCD. Your report of your mother’s symptoms is the definition of hearsay. Rather than having me try to understand your mom’s symptoms, as filtered through your interpretation, I encourage you to get your mother a full neurological workup by a gerontologist.

  98. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 12th, 2014

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