Mental Hoarding OCD | The need to remember
How is your memory? Do you remember the important things? Do you remember the bad things have happened in your life? Do you remember small little details that really don’t matter, but your brain remembers it anyway? What if you felt the need to remember everything, and when I say everything I mean EVERY-THING. The details, It can be conversation, the way the room looked, how fast you are driving, something your boss told you, how many notifications came up on your phone, really anything your brain puts power and value to to tell you to remember. If you don’t remember everything your brain may convince you that something bad may happen. It could just be an uncomfortable feeling because of something that you don’t remember. It could just be that nagging feeling that there’s something that you forgot that you may be obsessing about because he just simply can’t remember.
It’s not just an annoying thought or feeling, it’s anxiety, it’s anxiety of the unknown, anxiety of the uncertainty. If you feel like you must remember every detail about a situation, a place, a conversation, or somebody’s life, and you feel anxious if you missed something, or if you simply just cannot remember; you may struggle with what is called memory hoarding.
So what in the world is memory hoarding? We think of the word hoarding, it’s a collection of things, a lot of things, often things that have no value or much purpose. This is the same with somebody’s memory. Our memories are actually not the best. Just by nature our mind is designed to remember things that it deems important. This is why remember negative experiences in our life, he wants us to learn from these experiences. But how often are we remembering the good? How often are we remembering the small little details? My guess would be not too often.
Memory hoarding is when an individual feels the need, the urge, anxiety to be able to remember every detail about the way they may be living their life. It can be something that was said to them. It could be a facial expression. It can be the way that their driving. It could be even the feeling of wanting to know something about someone else. They may spend a lot of time really focusing on every single moment of the day to make sure they don’t forget something. Really hyperaware of their situations. But, as we know it is impossible to remember everything and this is where the anxiety likes to live. It lives in those moments and those things that you can’t remember.
You may be thinking? Why in the world would somebody want to remember every detail about something? But here’s why, they may feel the need to review their memories to see if they hurt someone’s feelings are not, to know if they harmed somebody or not, to make sure they did not make any mistakes, to make sure you can review and see if there are good person, sometimes to make sure that the memory that they have is true or not. That it really happened.. They need the memory to help them know if the way they were feeling was accurate or not. Sometimes they don’t know why they need the memory they just know the feeling comfortable if they don’t have it. Sometimes it is just plain old, I might need to know this information in the future so just in case I’ll remember it.
This lives in the person’s mind. Hence it being a memory. A mental ritual. Which is essentially problem-solving and ruminating. They may feel like they need this memory so badly because it’s very all or nothing. If I don’t have is my life is ruined. I do remember it out prevent something bad from happening in the future.
Here are some common compulsions or individuals do. The compulsions are things that help you gain certainty in the perceived fears or threats that come to your mind.
Obviously one of the bigger ones would be focusing very hard and straining in order to commit something to your memory.
Carrying around notepads or using your phone to write down notes and details about everything.
Sometimes carrying this around with you anywhere you go just in case you need to recall this memory. People may have bags and bags full of paper of different details and memories just in case.
Reassurance seeking. Individuals may ask others with the memory they are having is accurate or not. They may ask them if they saw the same thing that they did.
Taking pictures or video. A good way to remember detail to take a picture of it. Their phone can be riddled with thousands and thousands of pictures that can be reviewed at any time.
Doing specific random things in order to remember an event or detail.
So what’s the treatment? Treatment is called exposure and response prevention. Your goal would be to reduce the compulsions you are doing down to a point where you are no longer doing them. You may be risking that you’re going to lose a memory. You actually want to lose a memory. You want to risk whatever that perceived threat is in your mind on purpose to test out the theory to see if it’s true or not. For instance if my brain says I don’t remember the thing my teacher said so if I don’t write them an email to verify I may not go to college.
Using exposure and response prevention we would definitely not send that email. You would actually work really hard to not have that memory. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable or anxious if needed. Allow that feeling to go down all by itself without controlling it. Using a lot of maybe maybe not statements to say “I may or may not go to college we will see.” And have you risk this.
When the brain is mentally replaying situations, your quickly responding with uncertainty answers or agreeing with the threat. Something bad may or may not happen. I’m willing to take that risk and not have this memory right now. Closing times where you feel like you need that memory and you’re starting to focus, distract yourself do something so you can’t remember on purpose.
You are essentially facing your fears and responding differently to them. The compulsion’s are the things that are going to keep you trapped. But you must respond differently to the upsetting fears you have. Act like you don’t care. Get in the mindset of not wanting that memory.
Treatment For Mental Hoarding
Fear of Forgetting a memory OCD
Recovery of OCD
We talk so much about what to do when you’re in your OCD. But what about when you’re not in your OCD? What is life look like after OCD treatment? You finally feel like you’ve overcome a lot of your OCD symptoms. So what now?
Now it’s time for you to live life. To enjoy the things that OCD has robbed you of. While I want anybody going through treatment to focus their efforts on enjoying life. Many may see this as an all or nothing approach. I cannot enjoy life until OCD is gone. Stay away from this kind of thinking. There are moments where higher symptoms may come in moments where symptoms will be gone. You can live life and enjoy regardless.
What I find is that individuals who are at the end of treatment and are not feeling many symptoms describe it as kind of a strange feeling. There almost not sure what to do because the anxiety has been there guiding light for years. This told and what to do, how to think, and how to behave. All of a sudden individuals are now set free and needing to learn to live life without these anxiety prompts.
Life after OCD means learning to live in trust in yourself. Trust that anxiety was a liar this entire time. OCD completely lied and had no value. Often individuals need to learn who they are without their OCD. It feels uncomfortable. It actually takes a lot of effort to understand yourself without OCD. Just like doing and exposure individuals learn to tolerate this feeling without their OCD. It’s almost like losing a buddy that’s been with them for so long. Even though it’s wreaked havoc on their life some may feel lost without it. This is where trusting in your self goes a long way.
Individuals learn to live life again. Do things they never done before. Enjoy life and follow your value system. It is absolutely okay to feel uncomfortable after OCD treatment. This feeling will pass the more you start living and enjoying life. Ultimately you are living your life the way you want to, not the way OCD wants you to. You might start identifying goals that you want to achieve, what you want to get out of your life.
You may need to start working on self compassion. It is not your fault that you have OCD. We don’t focus on the time lost were missed because of your OCD. We focus on what you’re going to gain. Start working on any residual depression that comes your way.
We also know if you have OCD then you have OCD. So life after OCD treatment turns into maintaining the progress that you have made. Meaning, you are willing to do treatment strategies and exposure and response prevention anytime you have an intrusive thought. Anytime you feel like OCD is rearing its ugly head. So life after OCD really means life. Feeling relief, gratitude, excitement. But not forgetting about what treatment looks like and maintaining progress.
If I wanted to get really fit, I started exercising and eating healthier. I get to a point where I’m happy and content. I’m living my life. Do I stop exercising? Do I stop eating healthy? If I do I may end up in the unhappy rut I was in before. Where I might not have to try as hard to stay in this happy zone, I still need to do something to maintain the progress.
This is just like your OCD. Remember where you come and what you’ve done. Enjoy life. Have some self compassion, talk about all the successes that you’ve done and where you’re going. Focus a lot of your time on gratitude. The things that you are grateful for every single day.
Freedom from OCD
Existential OCD involves intrusive, repetitive thinking about questions that cannot possibly be answered. Individuals will think about really any question. Most don’t have answers, but they feel the need or urge to find the answer right then and there. Often feeling anxious until they do. Let’s go through the treatment for existential OCD and what it looks like to those experiencing it.
It is also difficult to identify existential obsessions, as they can seem like the questions many of us think about often and then carry on with a shrug of the shoulders. Existential obsessions can also be confused with the kind of thoughts encountered by people while they are depressed, constantly going through pessimistic thoughts about how pointless life can seem. And, existential OCD is much more difficult than that.
Typically people with existential obsessions spend hours going over and over these questions and thoughts, and can become highly anxious and depressed. They may be seen as suffering from concerns or existential fears as they seek help, or they may be misdiagnosed as suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Existential OCD is most likely, however when a person fights ongoing distracting, repeated, constant, anxiety-producing, doubtful thoughts of this nature.
In the general population and the media, many individuals have a somewhat stereotypical view of what OCD is all about. Individuals with OCD are seen as individuals who either wash their hands too much or are super-organized and perfectionist. It can be difficult, therefore to identify the forms of OCD that do not resemble these typical stereotypes. The truth is there are a lot of forms that OCD can take.
Even if you don't have existential OCD, at one point in time, you could have had existential obsessions, spending hours contemplating why you have your particular thoughts and wondering precisely what these thoughts might mean. This is yet another form of intimidation that follows obsessive thoughts, and never leads to any real responses. Your obsessive suspicions can not be argued, reasoned, examined, or challenged while you have OCD. This is particularly the case for Existential OCD.
Existential OCD includes distracting, persistent thinking about questions that may not be answered and that in nature, may be metaphysical or scary, or both. The questions generally revolve around life's meaning, intent, or fact, or the nature of the universe or even the existence of one's own. In a university philosophy or physics class, these same questions could come up. Most individuals, however may quit such classes or read about these subjects and move on to other thoughts.
The aim is not to escape or stop the "response prevention" aspect of ERP, so you are taught to comply with your existential thoughts and not try to evaluate, challenge, or disagree with them. You are also discouraged, as this is another way of escape, from finding reassurance from others or even yourself. Sadly, avoidance may become a learned habit that becomes very automatic over time. Unconsciously, without even thinking about it you can avoid your triggers.
What does existential ocd look like
Existential OCD help
Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.