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
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.