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Memory Hoarding in 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. 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.


    • Suppose i was hurt by a person’s words? I tend to hoard that memory.

      I tend to replay it at the back of my head. for me its like a defensive mechanism, i’ll never trust people like them again. Or during a convo if a situation similar to that memory arises(in any conversation with anyone) i get defensive and i’ll lash out. and when i want to vent all my anger out i tend to replay it at the back of my head until i feel its over and i can let go.

      Hope you understood a little

      a memory/moment hoarder.

      • Hi Layla,

        Thanks for your comment.

        Memory hoarding occurs when a person purposely and compulsively tries to remember something for fear that must remember it perfectly and forever. That is not what you are doing. You are having involuntary thoughts about past events that were upsetting to you. We all have these types of memories.

        • My problem is that when I hear certain words that were used by a bully when I was being bullied (when I was young) that I have a flashback to the event where he used those words. Is there any treatment for this? It is driving me insane. I don’t have PTSD or anything like that. I am just inundated with flashbacks.

          • Hi Ben,

            You say you are “inundated with flashbacks” when you hear certain words that were said to you by a bully when you were younger, but that you don’t have PTSD. Well, this sounds exactly like PTSD, and nothing even remotely like Memory Hoarding.

            I encourage you to seek treatment with a PTSD specialist. There is no reason to continue suffering. Take care.

        • What if I move my memory hoarding on someone else and i’m afraid he doesn’t remember? Mostly and stupidly this happens cause I didn’t take a video when I wanted to (because I was afraid to not live the moment) but then I don’t have a clear memory of that and I think I should have took a video cause now i’m afraid the whole night will be forgotten by that person or more importance will be given to other days with pictures or videos and there will be clearer memories of those? (This is a “modern problem” and I hate having it) please answer

          • Alice,

            Obsessing about someone else not remembering things perfectly is pretty much the same obsessing about your own memory. I encourage you to allow your friend to remember whatever he remembers, without viewing the quality of his memories as being important. They are his memories, and it is not catastrophic if he forgets something, or remembers other things with greater clarity than you would like. Forgetting things is a normal part of the human experience.

      • My son memory hoards wwe every move, every wrestler every logo totally obsessed with it, but why is memory so bad at homework?

        • Layla,

          Your son’s interest in wrestling may not be Memory Hoarding, and may not even be OCD. People, especially young boys and men, often have “obsessive” interest in things like sports and movies, and not all obsessions are OCD. Maybe he just likes wrestling stuff. It would only be Memory Hoarding if he felt compelled to remember everything about wrestling with perfect detail, and if this was causing him distress. If his interest in wrestling is causing you distress, that’s your issue, not his.

    • I’ve got OCD, and sometimes I replay memories that hurt me a lot, simply because if I don’t get them right, I feel like I didn’t learn something from it. Even when I try not to think about it anymore, I can’t stop, and they keep going back, simply because I didn’t get them right the first, second or third time. Sometimes the memories are not even mine. When my boyfriend tells me about his past relationships, or my friends talk about some significant event for them, I tend to get really upset because I can’t remember those events and all I can do is imagine them, which will always be uncertain and not at all perfect. At the same time, I get sad remembering good things, because I can’t live them again and my memory is imperfect – or worse: what if I forget something important? Some important detail? What if a conversation that I’ve had with someone is not correct in my mind and I mess up telling about it later? This is really frustrating and has affected my grades in college as well.

      • Natalia,

        You ask a question that gets to the heart of Memory Hoarding – you wrote “What if a conversation that I’ve had with someone is not correct in my mind and I mess up telling about it later?”

        My answer to that is quite simple – if your memory of a conversation is imperfect, and you mess up telling about it later, absolutely nothing bad will happen. There is no great catastrophe in not re-telling a story perfectly. It is simply not important.

        The bottom line is that nobody needs to remember conversations or events perfectly. And if anyone tries to force themselves to do so, they will make themselves miserable.

  • 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.

    • The first paragraph makes more sense to what I’m dealing with rather than the second part. I want to reassure myself daily constantly that I’m not having bad thoughts that have any reality or important significance to them in a negative way. Always mostly about my loved ones please help me understand as I sit here with tears trying to live like I used to without ocd which I believe is pure o…the last sentence in the second paragraph about trying to recall how painful an event is in an attempt to make the pain legitimate or worth it is actually opposite I relive my thoughts and memories good or bad to RULE out and reassure myself the bad thoughts do not mean anything of importance.

      • Julia,

        Trying to figure out if your thoughts are “bad thoughts”, or if your thoughts mean something important about your character or intentions is a sign of Harm OCD. I encourage you to read our series of four articles about Harm OCD, starting at

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (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

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Hello , I suffer exactly from this type of ocd . Is there a book outhere or any other site talking about this type of ocd ??



    • Hi Charles,

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

      • It’s hard to just let it go..
        It feels like it’s a nail in your brain and it won’t stop. I tell myself all the time that not remembering a person’s name or a movie is not important. But my other side of the brain just won’t let it go…

        • Sounds like Memory Hoarding. Your job is to allow the thought to be there in your head with no resistance whatsoever. When you give in to the thought (for example, choosing to try to remember a person’s name or a movie in an effort to resolve the thought), you only make things worse. Let the thought sit there in your head unanswered. It is unimportant.

          • Hello,

            I am desperate…i suffer from severe ocd. My problem is i frequently get thoughts and realisations that i value as extremely important and that it is crucial that i remember them. I subsequently engage in attempting to relive the thought and repeating it in my head many times. Could you please advise if there is a subtype of ocd that my problem fits into? It makes me feel hopeless when i research ocd and do not find any information specific to my sort of problem and symptoms.

            Thank you.

          • Tom,

            Don’t get hung up on finding a “type” of OCD that perfectly matches your symptoms. These “types” are not clinical terms – they are just colloquial terms that the OCD community has come up with over the years to describe specific constellations of symptoms. The bottom line is that it’s all OCD, and the treatment is the same (i.e., Exposure and Response Prevention, aka ERP).

            That said, the symptoms you describe sound very much like Memory Hoarding, which is what the article above is all about. Your concern that you remember your thoughts is the key obsession of Memory Hoarding.

            If you would like to discuss online ERP treatment for your symptoms, you can reach us at via the contact page of our website.

          • Dear Tom,

            Thank you very much for your reply – you are doing a great thing here. It wouldn’t let me reply to your response message so i clicked reply on the message above mine. You have given me a sense of reassurance that OCD can take an infinite number of manifestations and to not worry about self diagnosing myself with a ‘type’.

            You said that my symptoms are consistent with memory hoarding, i’d like to give one more detail please – Nearly all my thoughts that i view as ‘epiphanies’ do not have any external trigger whatsoever – that is i could be lying down with my eyes closed and then have a thought/ revelation/ epiphany that i feel i have to take action to remember, through reliving the thought. Would you still put this down as memory hoarding? And also more importantly – is the fact that in my case these ‘important’ thoughts are not triggers of anything external quite unusual?

            Many thanks,


          • Tom,

            There is nothing unusual in what you report. Whether triggers are external or otherwise is irrelevant.

  • 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!!!

    • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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


    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • I always check my memory which is making me to think, i have to remember things which i 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • That’s exactly what I do! It’s so mentally draining and exhausting which then causes confusion (asking myself if the thought or memory is important) when I know it’s not. Sometimes I have to remember every thought that comes to mind accompanied with fear and anxiety. I’m on Zoloft 150mg, at times my ocd is under control and not as debilitating…but the monster always comes back!! Glad to have found this Thanks ?

  • 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 ?

  • 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

    • 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”.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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 all types of OCD.

  • 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,

      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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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).

  • 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.

    • 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 assessed by a neurologist to see if some of her memory concerns are due to age-related cognitive decline.

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • Hi Dr Corboy,

    I think I might have the memory hoarding type of OCD that you are describing. (I have been diagnosed with OCD but I have only recently heard about memory hoarding.) One of my obsessions is conversation. I can remember even long conversations verbatim (if I forget a piece I’ll fill in the blanks with something reasonable), and I frequently recite these conversations to my psychotherapist. These long conversations I replay and recite to my therapist could be from ten or twenty years ago, or last week. All my brain does all day long is mentally review past conversations, and rehearse future conversations, mainly the one that will take place at my next therapy session.

    One of my biggest fears is that I will forget the good feeling that I had during these sessions, and forget what he told me. I now carry a notebook with me, and I compulsively write down everything I want to say to him – and it just gets longer and longer as I prepare for two weeks, it can take 40 minutes to get through it in session. And I write down everything he says. I’m afraid of what it would be like to not have him in my life so I feel like I need to memorize what he looks like and everything he says.

    And now I can’t stop re-reading what I wrote and seeing that I wrote it all wrong. But there’s no “edit” button. I obsess a lot about having said the wrong thing, which fuels the rehearsal, so that I don’t say such a stupid thing next time. It’s ridiculous. I’m reading your book and I’m trying to figure out what to do to stop this and act normal.

    • PJ,

      Thank you for your comments. While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog, I can say that everything you write sounds like OCD. You are doing numerous “memory hoarding” compulsions that will only make things worse, including:

      ~ Mentally reviewing past conversations
      ~ Rehearsing future conversations
      ~ Carrying a notebook and writing down everything you want to say to your therapist
      ~ Reciting past conversations to your therapist for 40 minutes

      If your therapist has not noted to you that these are compulsions, and has passively allowed you to spend the bulk of your session time reciting conversations and discussing conversations, there is a good chance that he is utterly clueless about OCD.

      Having the thought that you need to remember everything perfectly is not the same as doing a compulsive behavior in order to remember everything perfectly. You say you are hoping to figure out how to “stop this and act normal”. The answer is in your question – stop the behavior, which means stop doing the compulsions noted above.

  • Hi Dr. Corboy,
    Thanks for your feedback. It was great to hear your thoughts. I want to ask you about another compulsion. I’ve always called it “the narrating”. I have an urge to try and remember the mundane details of everyday life by internally narrating a description of my own actions. So my thoughts frequently sound something like, “So I ran out of iced tea, and decided to go to the store. As I drove down the street, I saw a man walking his dog…” And it goes on and on. “So then I thought to myself, oh, I better get some gas.” Instead of thinking, “I better get gas” like normal people do, my brain goes, “So then I thought to myself, I better get some gas.” The idea is that this could possibly turn into a story that I need to tell somebody (mostly my therapist, who I am very obsessed with), and so I had better start memorizing this story now. When I catch myself doing it, I say, “Stop this. This is not going to turn into a story that anybody needs to hear. If something interesting does happen at the gas station and I really need to tell my therapist it, I can start working on that script after it has happened. But nothing interesting has happened yet, so this is completely unnecessary and ridiculous. Stop the narrating.” And so I stop. It’s not hard to stop doing it. The problem is that I’m going to start doing it again five or ten minutes later. I can stop doing it easily enough but I can’t prevent it from starting up again. Mental compulsions are very hard to beat. It happens automatically all day long, and it doesn’t matter how hard I try not to do it, my brain just keeps doing it. I’ve read that mental compulsions are way harder to beat than physical compulsions. I can keep redirecting my attention all day long, but it’s not making any difference. What do I do? And is “narrating” an example of memory hoarding? Before I heard of memory hoarding, I labelled this obsession “urge to tell / confess”. I’m not sure what it is.

    • Hi PJ,

      It sounds to me like your “narration” is an aspect of your memory hoarding. By your descriptions, you are narrating in an effort to remember specific details, which certainly sounds like memory hoarding. That said, I think it is important that you not get get caught up in the identifying which sub-type of OCD you have. It’s all OCD and it responds to the same treatment. Don’t obsess about the name/category.

      On the other hand, I also think it is important that you be clear about what constitutes a mental compulsions. You say the narrating thoughts happen automatically”, which suggests that they are an obsession, not a compulsion. The compulsion is when you tell yourself to “Stop this”. Remember, an obsession is a thought that comes unbidden, and a compulsion is the effort to control or eliminate that thought. So the key question is whether the narration is occurring involuntarily, or if it is something you do purposefully.

      If these narrating thoughts happen automatically, you will be best served by accepting them, while making no effort to stop them. Accept the narration. It is not the problem. The problem is your effort to control it.

  • Hello,

    I wonder if you could help me figure out what is going on with me. I’m not sure if it’s OCD or something else. I seem to have something almost the opposite of memory hoarding: If I experience an event (like an awkward conversation) and I wish it had gone differently, I will go over it again and again in my head–not the way it actually happened, but imagining the ways I wish it had played out.

    For example, I went to the doctor for a checkup 7 months ago, and I guess I was embarrassed (being in the paper gown and all) and it must have triggered me, because pretty much every day for the past 7 months, several times per day, I will talk to myself, saying the things I wish I had said to him. And it feels good because I am giving myself the satisfaction of having the experience I wish I’d had–except for the fact that it seems like a crazy thing to be wasting mental energy on. If I estimate it mathematically, I’ve probably re-imagined this dumb conversation about 2,000 times by now.

    I’m not sure if this is just regular rumination or what. The fantasies are very vivid, and they always follow the same type of pattern where I act out the conversation the way I wish it had gone. I would love to be able to devote my brainpower to something more useful! Thank you for your help!

    • Hi BB,

      Thanks for commenting.

      I don’t think figuring out if this is “memory hoarding” is particulalry important – it’s just a term for a symptom of OCD. The key is that you are having an obsession (“What if I should have said something else to the doctor”) and compulsions in an effort to alleviate the distress of that obsession. You report that the re-hashing of the conversation provides a sense of relief, which further suggests that this is OCD.

      Your job is to accept your discomfort about the doctor visit, and stop compulsively reviewing the event in an effort to come up with a better history of your conversation with the MD than the real history, which is that the conversation was less than satisfactory. The key to beating OCD is accepting the unwanted obsession, and doing nothing in response to it. I encourage you to read our article on Mindfulness Based CBT for OCD to get a better grasp of this process.

  • Hello there,

    I have this exact condition. I am surprised I haven’t found the definition of this kind sooner. I’ve always thought that I had an “OCD” – and that was it. I know that there are many lesser manifestations of it, but it is mostly as described in the article; specifically, I feel the need to write, that is, I am hoarding my thoughts.

    So it’s not strictly the stuff on the outside that I am hoarding, it’s coming from within me. Thoughts are generated and I feel that I have to do something with them. For years I’ve been compulsively writing my diaries, but not in a nice deliberate way as some do, but just to get thoughts out of my head for risk of forgetting them.

    I get anxiety if I can’t store my thoughts somewhere. I resort to trying to remember everything until I get a chance to sit down and write it, be it on my mobile phone or a computer.
    I feel mentally exhausted because I often can’t enjoy anything without thoughts pouring out that I feel I must write. While at the computer, it’s a little easier, as I just quickly clean it all out, but when it is really inappropriate, I regurgitate words in my head, often thinking up elaborate short-hand ways to have smaller lists that can expand into the full material that I needed to remember.
    If I forget a thought from my list, or somehow it just “evaporates away” as I am thinking about something or as I am about to write it out, it causes much frustration. I hold on to the exactness of thoughts, even the order of the words. Even as I am writing out things out of my memory, I have a (false) sense of imperfection; that I haven’t quite captured it 100% as when the thought first came to me. All these thoughts feel so important!
    For years I’ve been sort of just living with this issue, and managing to live my life to some degree. In the digital world, it’s easier to hoard information. I work with computers and my job is developing software, so the amount of detail and information I am constantly exposed to can be overwhelming. So the hoarding extends to any work-related stuff, excessive double checking, hoarding browser history (excessive bookmarking, excessive number of tabs to read later), lots and lots of notes all over the place. The issue is easier to manage on the computer, but in the last few years I have been trying to sort out this problem, and the anxiety got worse. I think it got worse because I do not accept this condition, and I am more aware of the problem more than ever, and now when I need to write anything “to keep” or something on the side, I question if it’s my OCD. So even writing, even as quickly I can on a computer, is no longer a solution. So I feel lost as either action – to hoard or not to hoard – causes me anxiety. I am not happy to hoard, and I am not happy to let go when finding myself in the grip of my condition. The condition as well as the need to solve this is bearing down on me such that I’ve made very little progress in my life and career in the last few years.

    I have come across something called HyperGraphia, I think it is related to Memory Hoarding. Have you come across HyperGraphia?

    Over the past year or so, I’ve been thinking I might have every related mental condition there is! I don’t think that’s likely, but symptoms do seem to overlap. I think I might have ADHD as well, possibly manic depression also. Fear of forgetting/hoarding/OCD, hypergraphia, perfectionism…who knows what else.

    I’ve tried various things, and lately I am putting my foot down to try and sovle this, but there is this underlying belief, or possibly many, that I can’t fully disassemble. Frankly, I am exhausted and just put off by the idea of digging. I’ve written 15 years’ worth of diaries, and as much as I have grown lately and understood a lot of what’s going on under the hood, I can’t take any solutions off the ground. I get thoughts that feel good – related to handling an occurence of the OCD – but then I feel like writing it down! That is, I get OCD about solving the OCD. I sometimes go for a week or two of writing thoughts, then deleting them. I am aware of how ridiculous this is, of being compelled to write, often nonsense, being in that iron grip of the mind, then a few minutes later, the signifiance of it all diminishes, so I just delete it all. But had I been normal, perhaps I wouldn’t have needed to do delete it; it’s as if I am sweeping the problem under the rug. Perhaps I could have accepted what I’ve written, irrespective of whether it was OCD-related or not, and kept it; and perhaps found it of some value even. But there’s so much frustration, that when the anxiety eases, I don’t care about the value of it, I only care about how I feel and that in this present moment there is no OCD and attachment to anything I’ve written down.

    I made many emphatic promises to myself that I will tackle this “from now on” or “tomorrow”, or “time for change” and … it keeps striking me down.

    Very lengthy – part of the problem 🙂


    • Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your comment.

      While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, everything you write strongly suggests memory hoarding. It is important to note that this term is just a colloquialism for a set of OCD symptoms focusing on the desire to be certain about one’s thoughts, and that they have forgotten them. OCD in general is about the intolerance of uncertainty, and memory hoarding is no different. In order to better manage this problem, you will need to accept uncertainty as a normal part of life, rather than as something that can be 100% controlled.

      Additionally, I know of no specific research linking hypergraphia to OCD. Generally speaking, hypergraphia is repetitive, uncontrollable writing, just for the sake of writing that is sometimes seen in schizophrenia and epilepsy. Conversely, your writing seems very much to be a true “compulsion” – i.e., a behavior done with the specific intention of reducing your anxiety. Nothing you have written here suggests hypergraphia.

  • Hi BB,
    I do that too. I call it the “corrected replay” (what I actually should have said), as opposed to the regular “replay”, which is what I actually said. I know what you mean – the corrected replay is more satisfying, it does feel good. It’s a nice fantasy.

  • I have PTSD and I feel like I hoard memories–not just of the trauma, which I understand why I would do that, but of my time with my therapist. Also with some other people in my life. In each situation , I will read emails over and over-including the ones I send and in the order they’ve been sent…to replay the conversations. I feel like I can’t hold on to what’s been said if I don’t reread…reread. I also replay in my mind significant therapy moments and I’m terrified of forgetting them or feeling like I’ll lose the importance of them and maybe have to “relive” the event which is impossible, I know.

    I found this page trying to figure out why I obsess on memories that aren’t from my original trauma. I want to share this information with my therapist because I’ve never told him I do this. Its embarrassing and it makes me feel sick inside ( like I am sick/bad)….is there a way I can look at this to help ease the yuckiness inside so I might say something?

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment.

      First off, you are not “bad”, and you needn’t feel embarrassed. You didn’t ask for this problem, nor for the trauma that preceded it.

      Everything you mention sounds like straightforward memory hoarding. You specifically note your compulsive need to re-read emails and mentally replay conversations in an effort to “hold on to what’s been said”. That pretty much perfectly sums up memory hoarding.

      Keep in mind that terms such as “memory hoarding”, “OCD” and “PTSD” are less than perfect in how they describe the intricacies of the human mind, and that people can have symptoms of more than one condition. OCD and PTSD are both anxiety-based conditions, and it is not uncommon to experience both of them. I encourage you to discuss this issue with your therapist.

  • I have been diagnosed with ocd. I don’t trust my memory and am always trying to check and make sure it is correct. I panic when I can’t remember everything exactly . Is it possible for memory to combine different things that happened together? Or can my ocd use real vivid memories and throw in “fake feelings or thoughts”? I keep going over a memory that I had just pop into my head one day. The memory is so real but I question if it really happened as I remember it. I spend days going over it and I can’t be sure that it happened that way. Drives me crazy and I cantvlet it go

    • Hi Andre,

      What you are describing is quite common in Memory Hoarding. You are spending so much time and energy focusing on your memory in a fruitless attempt to get certainty, and as a result your sense of certainty is actually getting worse. This happens with all types of OCD – the more compulsions you do, the worse the obsessions become.

      It is also worth noting that memories are quite fluid and unreliable. False memories are easily implanted. There is also the possibility of “misremembering” – where a person’s memories become jumbled and inaccurate. The bottom line is that there is no need whatsoever to remember everything exactly, and attempting to do so is a compulsion that will only make you more distressed about your memory.

  • I have OCPD (not OCD). As long as memory serves me I have been saddeled with regret. I’ve worried about the past my whole life—if I had only avoided this, invested in that, not gotten so god awful drunk, gotta sober sooner, taken that job, etc. I really draw the “if” out of life. Recently I’ve become obsessed with creating alternate trajectories to eliminate certain incidents that I feel have, are, and will negatively impact my life. These other lives, the ones where I can blot out an incident or add one, leave me feeling that if I could have just avoided an injury or taken action when I had all the info imagine how happy I’d be. Then I mourn an imaginary life. I can think of little else.

    All I think of is what life would be like now, past, and future if any one of these incidents could be elided. If I could focus this misery and self-pity energy elsewhere what would I be doing? What would I have done? I fully understand this is irrational and fantasy, but I cannot escape it. No matter what narrative I try to convince myself of I cannot outrun the thought of what could have been. I know terms like acceptance and forgiveness, but believe in “what if” so strongly it deafens all else. Is going back to these memories and creating factionalized lives a component of memory hoarding?

    • Hi Josh,

      Based on what you have written, I don’t believe Memory Hoarding is an issue for you. It sounds like you regret things that have actually occurred. This is a normal part of life – we all have regrets, and I suspect that many people (most? all?) at some point think about things they regret by imagining alternatives. In Memory Hoarding, an individual obsesses about trying to remember things exactly and perfectly. You appear to be trying to manage your regrets by thinking of what could have been, if only you had acted differently. That is very different.

  • Hi
    I have been diagnosed with ocd I have suffered from checking compulsions, and intrusive thoughts about loved ones and religious figures. Obviously the thoughts are not thoughts I like or am proud of. I consider them bad thoughts. I spend a lot of time ruminating in my head, trying to explain thoughts, apologize , escape thoughts, and even remember thoughts.

    So to stop the ruminating in my mind, I started writing thoughts in a notebook. I would remember thoughts, explain them , apologize for them. I thought it was helpful. It stopped my from ruminating in my head. But now I want to rememenber and write down all my thoughts. Not really memories. Just thoughts I deem important. It can be on any topic. Is this memory hoarding? I am not trying to remember memories. Just any thought, especially thoughts that I want to explain that I don’t like or mean. But no topic is excluded. It is frustrating and exhausting. I see a therapist. She says the writing of the thoughts is a compulsion. And I need to stop. But when I don’t write them down. I get so much anxiety and just feel overwhelmed. Like I will forget something important. Is this memory or thought hoarding ? And how do I stop it? Basically I am writing all of my thoughts it seems like. I really would appreciate any help or advice. Thank you!

    • Hi Will,

      Your therapist is correct – writing down your thoughts is a compulsive effort to control your discomfort, and the best long-term strategy is to stop doing this behavior. Yes, you may feel anxious in the short-term, but in the long-term you will discover that there is nothing catastrophic about forgetting most things.

  • I am a very functional person and work professionally. I was however in a very tumultuous relationship last year and I experienced a lot of stress. I am constantly reviewing memories of the relationship. The problem is, I have developed some disturbing behaviours. I have become fixated on constantly reviewing conversations with others, and even reviewing the thoughts in my own head. I go over and over sentences in conversations and analyse each and very word sometimes, including the thoughts in my own head. I feel I often have to repeat these sentences or words a certain number of times and not say it the last time on a bad number, otherwise something bad might happen. I know this is completely irrational but I have the feeling of wanting to “hedge my bets” and not risk repeating a sentence or word on a bad number. One of my biggest battles has been a fixation/obsession on one sentence, the sentence being “it’s not uncommon”. I constantly repeat this sentence over and over until I have said it that many times that it has lost meaning and I feel I am going crazy. I feel that I haven’t completely understood this sentence sometimes, and even when I do repeat it and understand it, I then stop for a while but later become anxious that I haven’t fully understood the meaning of the sentence and start saying it over and over again in my mind. How on earth do I stop doing this? As stated above socially and professionally I am holding down my job fine and going out with my friends without trouble, but I am disturbed by my behaviours. I am seeing a clinical psychologist about this but they are not really giving me any pragmatic advice about how to stop this problem.. Please help.

    • Hi A,

      Reviewing and analyzing thoughts and conversations are very typical examples of Memory Hoarding. Likewise, repeating phrases in order to avoid bad numbers is a common feature of numerous sub-types of OCD.

      You don’t need to understand anything perfectly or 100%. Your job is to accept uncertainty in all its manifestations, for there is no real, true, 100% certainty in anything we think or say.

      I am not surprised that your psychologist is not providing pragmatic advice – most psychologists and therapists are completely clueless about treating OCD.

      The way to manage your thinking better is to resist the urge to seek certainty though compulsions. This is hard to learn on one’s own, and I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who knows how to treat OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If you would like to discuss treatment with one of our staff therapists, please contact us via our website at

  • So, this started about 3-4 weeks ago. It started with me keeping track of events that were going to happen or events i had to do. example ” book a hotel ” or ” eat pizza tommorow ” It was normal and i could control it, i could stop whenever i wanted to. Then it got out of hand. Now i keep repeating stuff over and over and over again and i can’t controll it. It’s not anything special and it’s not that i fear the future, i just keep repeating future events. I also have some kind of weird feeling in my stomach and i keep sweating. What is this and has anybody other than me experienced this? What can i do to make it better or even make it completely go away, should i seek help?

    It’s really irritating

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Phillip,

      In general, being organized about things you need to do is a good thing. But when you need to repeatedly keep track of things, including unimportant things like “eat a pizza”, that sounds like OCD.

      The feelings in your stomach and the sweating sound like symptoms of anxiety. This is common in OCD.

      To “make it better”, resist the urge to keep track of things and don’t write down anything more than once. And don’t keep track of, or write down, mundane things like “eat a pizza”. Instead, tolerate your discomfort, and get busy doing things that you would normally be doing if you weren’t spending time compulsively keeping track of things. Take care.

  • Hello, I have reoccurring negative memories that actually happened. Then I scold myself even saying out loud ” someone just kill me” and often tell myself how stupid I am. I am not suicidal . But I suffer the feelings of humiliation and regret and shame. I try to tell myself to stop and shake off the memories but they come back with a song , a smell, a word ect. Is this ocd memory hoarding? Please help thank you.

    • Hi Cheri,

      What you are describing does not sound like Memory Hoarding, which generally refers to OCD in which one compulsively tries to remember things perfectly in an attempt to eliminate uncertainty. Often times, the things the person is trying to remember are relatively unimportant.

      Conversely, you are not not “trying” to remember things – you are actually remembering them quite naturally. In other words they just pop into your mind with no effort. And the things you are remembering are not unimportant, but rather events that seem quite important to you. I do not know the details of the events that are upsetting you, but your response to these memories may be a function of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I encourage you to seek an assessment with a therapist who specializes in PTSD. Take care.

    • Hi Lily – Any form of OCD can occur at any age. We have treated kids as young as 5 or 6, and have also treated people who have had their initial onset of OCD in their 60’s.

  • Hi, im unsure if i have this. My mind replays conversations CONSTANTLY wether they are important or not. It could simply be a converstion about going to the shop. They can be from that day,week or month. It drives me mad as i never feel within the now, i thought everyones brains did it until a few friends said they didnt. I find it very hard to clear my mind when im trying to relax because of these replayed converstions. Sometimes i think how a conversation may go when i meet someone, make a phonecall, make an appointment, confront someone – its like my mind plays out its own senerio of what could be said. I literally have to tell myself to stop thinking about it when its all going on and i realise ive been miles away going over a convo or making one up. Please help im so confused and dont know how i can overcome this 🙁

    • Hi Natalie,

      It is difficult to gauge from your comment if your mental replaying of conversations is something that you are doing volitionally, or if it occurs by itself. If the mental reply occurs by itself, it is likely an obsession that requires no response. Just let your mind do whatever it wants. On the other hand, if you are mentally reviewing conversations in an effort to get clarity or resolution, then you are doing compulsions, which will not help matters.

      The bottom line is that you can’t clear your mind by will, and any attempt to do so is a compulsion that will backfire. I encourage you to read our article on Thought Suppression, which addresses the futility of trying to control your thinking.

      As for whether or not your mental replaying of conversations is Memory Hoarding, the real question is whether of not you are consciously and volitionally replaying the conversions with the intent of remembering them perfectly and totally. If that is your goal, then this would be Memory Hoarding.

      A far better approach is to accept the presence of the thought, and get on with doing whatever it is you want to do.

  • Hi

    I have a different behavior, I’m not sure if u could mark it down as OCD.

    If I take on a task(e.g reading a novel) I never get to finishing the book because I’m enjoying it so much that I just don’t wanna finish it. I’ve read so many books but I don’t recall getting to the end of a single one. with movies it’s different, but when watching series it’s the same story. It’s almost as though I’m preserving the feeling…I’ve taken the task of painting a room and I just enjoy painting it so much that I dont want to finish painting it, and I just want to do it so perfect…

    • Hi Precious,

      This does not sound like OCD for one simple reason – people with OCD never enjoy their compulsions. Just the opposite – they are tortured by them. You claim to enjoy the way you respond to these situations because you want to preserve the pleasure by extending them indefinitely. I do’t see any sign of discomfort in anything you write. While this is an unusual response to enjoyable situations, it doesn’t sound like OCD.

  • Hi,
    Thank you for the great article and your replies to comments. These actually made me not feel alone while my family and friends have a hard time understanding what’s going on in my mind.

    Well, my problem is that I think I’m experiencing some kind of existential crisis alongside or maybe even caused by my memory hoarding problem. I ask myself what was this moment worth living for if I’m going to forget it later; for example when I’m watching a TV series I rewatch episodes and somtimes try to memorize the lines because otherwise my mind would consider watching it useless. In reality though, as you mentioned above my mind is so busy with the compulsion that I miss out on the things I try to capture and it causes a lot of distress in me.
    I’ve been having this problem since 2 months ago and I think watching a series that I like triggers this OCD in my case; because this has happened to me before when I liked a series too much.

    • Hi Poppy,

      I am not surprised that your family and friends have a difficult time understanding your experience. The average person’s understanding of OCD starts and ends with concrete washing and checking behaviors, neither of which occur in Memory Hoarding.

      Further, your symptoms also appear to have a flavor of a subtype of OCD that is sometimes called Existential OCD. You seem stuck on the idea that our life choices are meaningless and useless if we do not remember them perfectly. I question the accuracy of this position, and believe that many life choices are not particularly meaningful or important. What one watches on TV does not need to be meaningful – it can just be a pleasurable diversion.

      I encourage you to enjoy watching TV for the mere sake of enjoyment, instead of scrutinizing your memory of the shows you watch, and without analyzing the meaning and importance of watching television. And if you forget something, remind yourself of two wonderful words…“so what”.

  • Great article. Thank you!

    I constantly pause and rewind movies to better understand, “properly enjoy” the scene. Sometimes I pause and mentally repeat what character just said or explain his words to myself. It’s like I’m trying to preserve the moment, get maximum pleasure out of it. And while this behavior somewhat satisfying it is also tiresome and exhausting. Obviously the best exposure and response prevention for me would be to let it go and watch movie without pauses and mental retracing. I tried this and it felt bad. This sense of loss, of missing out is preventing me from enjoying the movie. And the ONLY reason I watch movie is to get pleasure. So ERP won’t work in my case?

    • Hi Denis,

      Generally speaking, compulsions seen in any type of OCD (including Memory Hoarding) are experienced by the sufferer as a negative. The individual does not want to do the behaviors, but feels they need to do them out of fear of experiencing great anxiety if they don’t do them.

      You however present an interesting problem in that you report liking the sense of “maximum pleasure” that your Memory Hoarding provides you, despite the fact that you find it “tiresome and exhausting”. It seems to me that you will need to make a choice as to what is more important to you – getting maximum pleasure from movies you watch, or not being exhausted by the compulsive process by which you attain that pleasure.

      If the pleasure is more valuable, then you don’t need to do anything. Conversely, if escaping from a process that leaves you exhausted is more important, then you will be best served by Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). But don’t expect ERP to fast and simple. It will take repeated exposures over time, and it will lead to a reduction in the pleasure that you receive from your current Memory Hoarding behavior.

  • I was wondering if these tendencies fall into this. I tend to go over finite details of convos. I’m always replaying convos & scenarios in my head, trying to recall every single detail & sentence said. I MUST know the truth. When in arguments, I always point out technicalities– ‘TECHNICALLY, that’s not what you said/you’re changing your stories’ are frequent retorts. This usually gives me the idea that they may be lying b/c what they said doesn’t match with what they’ve previously said. I get super agitated when this occurs. This leads to asking for advice during those times & I will show people EXACT convos I’ve had b/c I don’t want to skip on any word/detail that could be important for the advice given. I’ll try & word things the exact way they were said in the order they happen & will stop & rewind to add a detail, no matter how small, if I remembered something. I also have a hard time letting things go b/c of those very reasons–causing me to further play those situations over & over again to figure out if I’m right/they’re wrong, they’re right/I’m wrong, or if they’re just lying. It’s INCREDIBLY frustrating. I feel guilty b/c it affects relationships of all sorts. Thoughts?

    • Zuri,

      Yes, the symptoms you report sound very much like memory hoarding.

      The core issue here is your notion that you “MUST know the truth”. Actually, there is no reason that you must know the truth. In fact, you would be far better off if you were to accept uncertainty instead. Your replying of conversations in your head s a voluntary mental compulsion is only making life miserable for you. The next time you notice that you are doing this, I encourage you to stop and instead allow yourself to life in uncertainty.

  • Hello,
    My son, now 7 years old, has many OCD tendencies and is being overseen by a neurodevelopmental psychiatrist. He has several official diagnosis, ADHD, ODD, SPD, OCD is not yet diagnosed but has been mentioned. He “memory hoards” numbers, song names, what his fingernails look like once removed, the appearance of each bowel movements. Often he wants other to “remind him” of a number, or what something looks like. He once kept asking me to remind him page numbers in one of his pokemon reference books so I gave him a sheet of paper to write them down. The page is covered with numbers. We had to remove the clock from his bedroom because he would repeatedly wake us up all night long to remember numbers for him. I was thinking of giving him a notebook to write down things he wants to remember, but didn’t know if that would make him obsess about these things more, making it worse? Any thoughts or recommendations?

    • Hi Christina,

      Having not formally assessed your son, I am not comfortable providing a diagnosis here. That said, you mention a number of possible diagnoses that may be a factor in his behavior, including OCD. My advice is simple – have him assessed by a pediatric psychologist who specializes in OCD. You can go to to seek information about psychologists near you.

  • Hello,

    The forms of memory hoarding mentioned are all akin to what I’m dealing with. For example, I can’t enjoy books and movies anymore because I always repeat every significant scene in my head and try to “perfect” it. I also went to Japan last year but didn’t get to truly enjoy it because I kept thinking about how I could make my memories there count. I stared at the scenery for as long as I could to get a strong feeling out of it but I can’t. I also replay happy memories in my head in an attempt to brighten myself up. I analyze them and try to remember what made me so happy in that moment and I try to find the formula to that happiness. Sometimes, yes, the memories feel distorted as time goes on. Lastly, as mentioned in your article, I also have obsessions about tasting food just the right way. I can’t enjoy eating anymore. But I don’t have physical compulsions such as washing my hands or turning switches on and off.

    My question is, does memory hoarding alone make me OCD? I wanted to look for help for a long time but I also wanted an excuse to go to a psychiatrist. I didn’t want to appear needy when I don’t appear to even have a real illness. Please give me some advice.

    • Hi Nicole,

      Everything you write sounds very much like Memory Hoarding. And yes, this is a variant of Pure Obsessional OCD (Pure O), which is very definitely a “real illness”. You would not be “needy” by seeking help for a problem that is impacting your life. That is what therapy is for.

      You say you do not do physical compulsions, which is quite common for many people with OCD, especially those with variants of Pure O. However, you are doing many mental compulsions, which are every bit as destructive and time consuming as physical compulsions. I encourage you to stop doing mental compulsions, and to instead allow your self to have whatever experiences you have, without trying to “perfect” them. The only thing getting in the way of your happiness is your effort to find “the formula to that happiness”. There is no formula. The closest I can think of is “live life without trying to control it”.

  • Hello, I really appreciate this article, a few circumstances in my life triggered this problem with me over time and I’ve been suffering from it for the past three years. Does mental OCD include trying to remember what I forgot and getting frustrated over missed trains of thought as well? I’m always feeling like i’m missing something or something is not right, but I wasn’t like this before. Seems like it all stems from a need to not lose control.

    • Hi Manny,

      The symptoms you describe sound very much Memory Hoarding.

      You do not need to remember things that you have forgotten, or that you have remembered with less than 100% certainty or clarity. Unless the situation is genuinely important (i.e., the house is on fire and you are trying to remember where the car keys are located), you would be better off accepting the lack of memory.

  • this was so important for me to see and realize as a symptom. i just recently started considering the fact that i might have ocd and it’s been really tough to recognize and stop my harmful behaviors.
    if i’ve been having an ongoing text conversation with a friend, i stop to reread everything that’s been said so far every so often and go over the whole conversation at the end of the day, usually several times, making sure i was acting and responding appropriately, replaying what was happening at the time i sent a particular message and the feelings i got from the response…i get so caught up in doing this i often lose any enjoyment i got out of talking to my friend and end up avoiding conversations with them later because it’s too stressful.

    • Hi Matt,

      I agree – your re-reading sounds like Memory Hoarding. I can’t think of any good that comes from re-reading your texts. I strongly encourage you to stop re-reading them. While this may cause short-term discomfort, you will likely experience a long-term reduction in your discomfort. I also encourage you notto avoid conversations. Avoidance is just another type of compulsion.

  • Hi, my problem is that i constantly ask people who i’m having a conversation with to repeat insignificant details of what they are saying because of the feeling that what they have said may be important and the uncomfortable feeling of being unsatisfied and on edge when i don’t hear / miss-hear something someone has said. I never can really feel ‘present’ in a conversation because i am always listening intently in case i miss something and have to ask them to repeat it. It is interfering in my social life and only developed 3-4 months ago. Is this linked to the subject of the article, is there any way it can be helped?thanks

    • Hi Emma,

      What you are describing sounds exactly like Memory Hoarding.

      The best way to manage your uncertainty about what people say is to accept the uncertainty instead of doing the compulsions you are currently doing (i.e., asking people to repeat themselves). The simple truth is that you don’t need to have perfect knowledge of what people say. As you have noted, much of what you are over-attending to is “insignificant”. I’ll go one step further and say that much of what everybody says actually is insignificant. That includes you, me, and everyone else in the world. In other words, you don’t need to know with certainty what people say.

      • I think my family member is going through the same type of thing. When we are watching th or if he overhears a conversation and he didn’t quite h sweat and what was said we have to repeat or rewind until we know exactly what was said. Also, if there is music playing we have to use the Shazam app to find out what the song is, even if we know it, we have to have it recorded. He also needs to j ow what all the actors names are and often has a vision of someone come into his mind and we have to figure out who it is or if someone in the street looks like an actor we have to figure out who the actor is. Does this sound like OCD?

  • I just stumbled across this article and it felt so close to home!! When i was a kid i experiences a really tough childhood due to my mothers partner and we were cut off from all family etc so i had no one to talk to about it. This is when i started trying really really hard to remember everything that was happening and every punishment i was given and every horrible thing that was said to me. I dont know why but i felt that it was imperative for me to remember.

    I think this has now translated to my everyday adult life. I absolutely OBSESS over remembering things. Conversations, trivial errands like paying a bill will play on my mind every single day like a black cloud until it is done. Anytime i think of anything even remotely worth remembering i feel the need to write it down.
    I started a new job a couple of days ago and i have to open a store of a morning and after the first day i went home and replayed exactly what to do and retraced my managers steps so much that i couldnt sleep that night worrying i would forget it and there would be consequences.
    What bothers me most is that when i do this it affects my ability to think clearly in my normal day as i am too focused on this

    • Hi TJ,

      Simply put, things like conversations, trivial errands, and the minutiae of our daily lives do not need to be remembered perfectly (or at all in many cases). It is OCD that is telling you that remembering these things is important.

      The best solution to this issue is to accept uncertainty, without taking any steps to force yourself to remember these things. This may initially induce a fair amount of anxiety, but if you do this consistently, the obsession to remember will decrease over time.

  • Hello,

    I’ve read the article and think that i’m memory hoarder. However, i replay the hurtful memories simply because ….they are satisfying. The sadness that i feel doesn’t bother me but the opposite. Is this unusual?

    Thank you

    • J.,

      This does not sound like memory hoarding.

      In memory hoarding, the individual attempts to perfectly remember things in an effort to alleviate anxiety about not remembering them. You appear to be choosing to recall memories as it provides you with satisfaction. There is no satisfaction in memory hoarding – it is all about anxiety reduction.

  • Hello
    I have a problem with my memory. It is destroying my life please help me. I will explain it with an example-
    Suppose I went for a ‘sing a song’ event in my locality, and came back after finish it. Fine. After some time , it may be hours or days or weeks, a thing come to my mind that the blue shirt man sing which song. And the torture starts. Until I don’t remember the song my life become hell. Until than every moment I think about this. My daily routine stops, my confidence become very low. I don’t like anything until I remember that song.
    I think you understand my problem. That can be any word also, any phrase also. To get rid of this problem I often think of suicide. What is this problem. I beg to you to help me. I am in trouble.

    • Kirsan,

      You do not have a memory problem – you have an OCD problem. There is no reason whatsoever that you “need” to remember what song a person was singing. Your mind is telling you that you ‘must” know, but the name of the song is completely unimportant.

      When these demands for memory appear in your mind, I encourage you to ignore them and get on with doing whatever it is you would be doing if you didn’t have OCD.

      Killing yourself because you cannot remember what song was being sung would be a gross over-reaction to an utterly insignificant issue. That said, if you are genuinely suicidal, please take yourself to your local emergency room immediately.

      • Hi, I have had OCD for as long as I can remember. It has morphed into various forms over the years. At the moment the strongest form is memory hoarding. The nature of this is that I have to recall precisely an event that I witnessed a few days ago when it suddenly pops back into my head due to some kind of outside trigger such as something on TV for example. It is usually something that happened at work but it is always something unimportant. For example, I work in a school and something will trigger a memory but that memory will not be accurate. It could be two children fighting over a particular toy or two children hugging each other. However I can only recall one of the children in the situation. Then the torture begins as I desperatly try to remember the children who were involved. I know it sounds stupid but it takes over my life that I can’t remember. I feel worthless, desperate, panicky, stupid and have a sense of self punishment for being so inadequate. I go over and over what I saw in my head in a desperate attempt to see all their faces again but in vain because the memory is not there. I feel so desperate and useless.

        • Hi Elaine,

          Everything you write sounds like Memory Hoarding. You are not “inadequate” or “worthless” or “desperate” or “stupid” or “useless” – you have OCD.

  • not sure if I am a memory hoarder but I do have a really hard time throwing things away. I have a class schedule from 10 years ago that I still keep in my diary. Drawings I made when I was 7 (now I’m 20). A ton of diaries I wrote since I was 7/8. When I’m in a situation I try to take in as much as I can so I can think about it later. Eg. details of someone’s face (where their moles are exactly at). When my bf is in front of me I don’t Rly hear what he’s saying bc im trying to remember all this. Then I regret because I don’t remember what he said. At random moments I’ll think about the last memory I had with each person and replay the whole memory of what happened in my head. But if I don’t remember exactly what they said I don’t get upset or anything. I used to go home and write in my diary whenever something exciting happened. Every single detail. So I would remember everything that happened when I read it 5 years from now. I don’t do that anymore bc I realize when I do that and read back, I’d feel sad because it’s just a memory now. I tell myself to not hold on to memories so much but sometimes it’s hard and I find it hard to walk away from people I have so much memories with):

    • Sarah,

      While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, I can say that much of what you describe is consistent with Memory Hoarding. Of particular importance is the fact that your over-focusing on remembering every detail is actually interfering with your experience of life (i.e., you actually sometimes don’t remember what your boyfriend said because you were so busy trying so hard to remember every detail of the the situation). In other words, your compulsive effort to remember everything is actually leading you to be distracted from the things that are actually important (i.e,, a conversation with someone important to you).

      On the other hand, the things you collect, such as your childhood drawings may have sentimental value. The bottom line is that there is no need to remember everything, and I encourage you to attend more to what is important, rather than demanding that you remember everything. After all, some (many!) things are not particularly important.

  • Hi, I constantly try to exactly remember insignificant conversations for a while after they happen. I worry that I made a social error or something. I have to replay the conversation until I am sure of exactly what was said because I fear that the other person will think negatively of me. I’ve always has ocd and cared a lot about what others thought about me, but I have never had this problem with memory hoarding conversations. I have so many conversations stored in my brain now and sometimes they will pop up and sometimes I’ll have to go through them until I can remember the conversation. I don’t know why I need to remember every detail because the other person probably doesn’t remember or care.

    • Hi Jamie,

      You note that you don’t know why you need to remember every detail of your conversations, and the answer is simple – you don’t. And it doesn’t matter if other people remember or care about the conversations. Regardless of their memory or interest, there is no reason why you “must” remember conversations with such detail (or at all really).

      Your concern about what others think of you suggests that you may have some Social Anxiety, which is quite common in people with OCD. Both conditions respond quite well to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

  • Since my son was born I started writing down all of his first experiences, milestones, and memories with him. When he began to talk I started writing down the words he said and the dates he said them. Now it’s turned into two years of writing down every single word he has said, how he says them and why he says them as well as writing the memories. If I miss a memory or detail, it drives me crazy and the memory or word he spoke rattles around in my brain until I write it down. Is this memory hoarding?

    • Hi Tara,

      This certainly sounds like Memory Hoarding or something like it. Unless you can provide a good reason why you (or anyone) would ever need to have a record of every word ever spoken by someone, you should assume that this is a compulsive behavior. I encourage you to stop writing down your child’s words, and focus instead on enjoying your child in real time.

  • I’ve been experiencing the things listed in this article my whole life and I never really considered to be “abnormal” or anything along those lines. I never realized what OCD truly was until recently and I’ve found that a lot I can apply a lot of the symptoms to myself. It bothers me a lot when I don’t remember a specific detail of an event when I think about it later or talk about the event with someone else. It did not occur to me that this was due to OCD and sometimes it gets in the way of my daily functioning, but I did not realize how significant these thoughts were until I learned about their origin. Is it necessary to eliminate this kind of thinking or is it something that I can learn to cope with?

    • Hi Heather,

      Only you can decide if your over-attending to your memory is a problem that merits treatment. It sounds to me like your memory issue impacts you moderately, but perhaps not enough to qualify as a problem. If it is a problem for you, seek treatment. If not, then don’t.

  • Dear Tom,
    .Hope you are well, its brilliant that you give up time for all the above advice,.Im having a particularly bad time t the moment with going over past events continually. I occasionally travel to places i visited with my parents over 30 yrs ago and i have to try and remember how i felt in these places and whether they have changed . Sometimes they are the same and i virtually go back in time to when i was a child. I ask my folks about the places and i try to remember everything about the trips we took! I try to remember everything associated with the places otherwise i feel anxious and depressed. I also have to remember past events, such as what year did we go on holiday to France etc etc.I have done this for over 25 years on and off and even make long lists of dates and what happened. I also think i have hocd and go over childhood events , when i was bullied, or trying to remember whether i ever felt anything for the same sex, Sometimes i think i felt i felt something in the past but im sure that it was just anxiety (probably due to my hocd then) so i could be obsessing about past anxieties and obsessions/worries, Any advice would be greatly welcome! Thanks so much!

    • Hi Julian,

      A few thoughts…

      This sounds exactly like Memory Hoarding.

      You note that “I have to try and remember how I felt in these places”. Actually you don’t need to remember these things. I can think of no legitimate reason why you or anyone else on the planet needs to have perfect recall of how they felt 30 years ago.

      Asking your parents about their memory of these events is a compulsion that will only make your OCD worse.

      People with OCD often have various obsessions, so your HOCD obsessions are not unusual. And the fact that your HOCD symptoms focus an recalling how you felt and thought in the past is perfectly congruent with your Memory Hoarding.

      My advice is simple – stop trying to remember things and find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

  • Hi, I’ve been suffering from what I believe to be OCD for 15 years. My main issue is managing my day through a detailed list in my head, then at the same time of every day I do a recap/checklist/planning which used to take hours when it peaked. I worked on it, last year I started writing most things down which made it easier, now this part takes 10 15 min.
    Problem is that I still can’t fix my over analysis and processing of all my anxiety/negative thoughts.To those 10 min, I add an hour maybe of analysis so I can accept my fears. My main thoughts currently are about the system/ocd itself, the fact that I’m trying to leave my job (analyzing my chances, my options, my weaknesses etc) and also, the most painful, harmful self esteem hits from an ex gf, she said something about my looks that I didn’t like and I’m still using coping mechanisms for it and waiting for compensation from someone else ‘as good’, and naturally I do everything in a PAINFUL systematic way, just like the rest of my ocd behavior.
    Note that all these things I mentioned. the listing and the anxiety come with the memory hoarding to make sure I didn’t drop some ‘important” detail .
    Any advice that can help

    • Maroun,

      Analyzing your daily experiences is a waste of time that will only make you miserable. The bottom line is that you do not need to have a perfect memory of what has occurred. Likewise, you do not need to have the future perfectly planned out. And analyzing your fears and negative thoughts is equally problematic, as you have discovered. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

  • Hi, I currently suffer with touching and counting ocd, if I don’t touch something in even numbers until it feels right im afraid bad things will happen and the good people I have in my life which are very few will leave me. I sometimes have to to count in 8 sets of 4 and I try and avoid odd numbers. This increased since I became single from being engaged which was the right thing for me however it’s flared up my ocd. From t us I have stared hoarding items which should be thrown away which relate to good memories that recently have happened, im afraid if I throw them away it will make bad things happen to the good memories and good relationships in my life. I know in my head that what I am doing is illogical however stopping is very hard. Thank you anonymous female, mid 20’s

    • Anonymous,

      Keeping things for which you have fond memories is not Memory Hoarding, which is when a person consciously attempts to remember things in their mind because they believe they need to remember everything. However, what you are doing sounds very much like OCD, specifically in that you are making compulsive behavioral choices in an effort to prevent bad things from happening. This essentially a type of Harm OCD.

      Believing that saving old items because doing so will prevent bad things from occurring is a perfect example of the “magical thinking” that many people with OCD experience. The simple truth is that your saving of these items has absolutely no impact whatsoever on whether or not bad things happen. There is no magic contained in those items, nor in your saving of them. My suggestion is that you throw away things that you say “should be thrown away”, regardless of your thoughts that doing so will cause bad things to occur.

  • I am a 31 year old, married woman with a 3 year old daughter. I have recently been diagnosed with depression, but I feel that a lot of this is caused by obsessive need to remember every thing, from what I’m doing and how I’ve done it, to as simple as trying to remember everything that has been said to me, and what I have said, down to the last detail, and its almost catastrophic if I can’t, I replay the situations back exactly as they happened in my mind, which is causing me a great deal of anxiety and stress. I know that some part of this is down to my depression, but I do have an obsessive nature, for checking things over and over, for example, if a door is locked, I need to check the handle a number of times, so I feel this is how memory hoarding has become a part of my life.I have been reading the comments on this board, and felt the need to comment, as I can relate to a lot of what people are saying, as I really didn’t realise that, that what I was doing, was something that a lot of others do and it is good to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way.

    • Laura,

      Everything you write sounds like Memory Hoarding. And while I understand that you might attribute these symptoms to depression, they sound far more consistent with OCD (of which Memory Hoarding is a fairly common symptom). And the fact that you have other common behavioral symptoms of OCD, such as checking doors, locks and handles, strongly suggests that you have OCD.

      The good news is that Memory Hoarding, like most OCD symptoms, responds quite favorably to a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with CBT. Take care.

      • I never really looked at it that way before, I always just attributed this behaviour to depression. It’s the obsessive nature of my symptoms that I am finding the worst, as I can’t seem to let myself live in the moment, I am always trying to remember what has been said or done, which is causing me to become distracted, therefore missing what is going on around me, which panics me even more, when I try to remember something from a situation when I have been distracted and I can’t, this is the vicious cycle that I am in. Thank you for your advice and I will look into some type of CBT that you have mentioned.

        • Laura,

          When looking into CBT, I strongly recommend that you only seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Many therapists claim to treat OCD with CBT, but unless they have specific training and experience with ERP, you will likely be wasting your time.

          • Thanks for your further comments, I will most definitely look into someone who specialises in exposure and response prevention. I do feel that I am making significant improvements, but do still have the occasional setback, instead of trying to remember everything, I am now occasionally thinking about when I have exactly done something, that I do remember doing, so for example, I remember opening the blinds at home, but don’t know exactly when I did it, which does still bother me, but not as much as it used to, as I remember doing it, just not when I did it.

  • I have an obsession with repeating definitions of new words. That goes for 2 years now. One day comes some word and then this word can stay in my mind replaying over and over with no reason till new word definition is more important than previous. And it never stops. The mind has always urge to repeat, from early morning till I fall asleep.
    It makes me nervous, anxious, makes headaches, because I do not know how to stop it and being relaxed with peace in my mind. It is frustrating, can you give me some advice?

    • Denis,

      It is unclear if your repeating of definitions is conscious or not.

      If you are consciously choosing to remember these definitions, you are doing a compulsion, which will only make things worse for you. Besides, there is absolutely no reason for you (or anyone) to consciously choose to remember the definition of new words. If you are consciously choosing to repeat definitions, my advice is to stop doing this. Yes, I know that sounds simplistic, but in the case of compulsive behavior, the solution is to change the behavior.

      On the other hand, if the repetition is occurring with no volition on your part, then all the effort in the world to stop it will not work. If this is the case with you, then I encourage you to accept that your brain likes to repeat definitions. Resistance to naturally occurring, non-volitional thoughts is futile.

      All that said, I suspect that you are consciously repeating these definitions. If you are still not clear about whether your repateting of words is conscious, I encourage you to consult with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

      • Thanks for answering, I assume that I conciously repeat words, but sometimes with no control to stop this behaviour. I am kind of attached to these words, but do not know why. It can be words from my mother language, from Engllish, German, some qoutes, some hard names or surnames or just random words that I hear or see over the day. Is it possible that some medications can help with my compulsive condition? I really need some peace in my mind.

  • I understand the memory hoarding thing completely..many commenters here seem to misunderstand the definition..I have a problem with accepting the 2000’s and 2010’s due to the unfriendliness of society and other societal changes and the behavior of people in general..i collect music videos and movies of the 80’s and early 90’s to keep my past moments and memories alive..But i’m obsessed with this collecting as I absolutely hate the twenty first century..I collectively hoard the good days of my past and constantly reflect on them daily and am always googling to find others who have the same same feelings I have concerning the present vs 30 years ago..i can’t seem to let fo of the 80’s and 90’s and i’m always diggiong out old pictures to share with family ..This is part of the reason i’m so infatuated and obsessed with the Christmas season every year..desperately trying to bring in to my life , situations of the past,with ntion that I can somehow create in y life those same feelings of contentment and happiness that I lack now..I also take video and pics of EVERY event in my life hoping to recapture that same identical feeling later as though i’m ‘there again” do I let go?

    • Ricky,

      What you describe does not sound at all like Memory Hoarding to me. The intention behind Memory Hoarding is the desire to know with certainty that the individual fully understands and remembers an event or place. The focus is on the individual’s discomfort with uncertainty. In your case, your intent is to evoke the feelings of happiness or pleasure that you associate with an earlier time in your life.

      A simple rule of thumb is that those with OCD are obsessed with “what if…” thoughts. For those with Memory Hoarding, their obsession is basically “what if I don’t remember things perfectly”. I don’t see that in any of the things you describe. You seem to remember things just fine, and your real issue seems to be that you are not content with the time in which you are living.

      I encourage you to become more accepting of the era in which you live, and to make the most out of your life in this particular time. After all, there is precious little you can do to change the fact that you live in this particular time. I suspect many people are dissatisfied with many aspects of this era, just as many of their parents were unhappy with the times that you look back on so fondly. The era in which you live should not be the source of meaning in your life, which is ultimately up to you and how you choose to live your life.

  • Hello, thank you for your post. I have never heard of this before but came across your post through a Google search. I always thought I may have OCD tendencies but mostly making sure things are even or the volume of the TV is on an even number.
    I have recently been so stressed I can’t sleep and I’m not sure if OCD is what I am experiencing. My two greatest fears are losing something no matter it’s worth and forgetting memories.
    I am constantly checking behind me to make sure I didn’t drop anything and will go out of my way to pick up a scrap piece of paper I dropped even if I will be throwing it away. I just need to ensure there is nothing of value to me on it.
    The memory fear has gotten very bad recently to the point I am extremely sad that I cannot perfectly remember the past. I am even getting anxious that I don’t forget the experience of watching one of my favorite TV shows.
    Do these sound as a result of OCD and do these fears typically go together?

    Thanks again for this post it was very helpful to know that these emotions are not unique.

  • Hi, I have a knack of trying to remember who said what. For example, if I remember someone saying “I don’t give my baby a pacifier cos with my previous children, I lost so many pacifiers that it got so expensive to replace them.”

    I hate being able to recall something someone said, without being able to match a face to it. So I would end up trying to figure out who said that. Usually I would disguise that as a minor issue like asking casually “oh, does your baby take a pacifier?” ; in order to know if it was this person.

    Usually I do end up finding out who that person was and then I feel better – until the next random thought comes up.

    Recently, I backed up my laptop and saw many old faces of previous colleagues. And it bugged me that I couldn’t remember the names of many of them – so there I went to ask some people I knew if they knew what their names were.

    I know that I would make my life easier if I just don’t bother about that thought “who said that?” or “what was his name again?”

    But I don’t know how to get rid of a thought once it gets into my head. Any ideas? Is it possible to forget a random thought? Should I just wait it out?

    • Pris,

      The goal is not to “get rid of a thought”, but to accept its presence without reacting to it with compulsions. All of your surreptitious reassurance seeking is just one big compulsion. And as you heave learned, compulsions don’t work in the long term – they just make OCD worse.

      There is no legitimate need to get rid of a random thought.

  • Hi
    I’m a Mom and realised that when I have playgroups with other moms, I have a hard time remembering who said what to me. Our conversations tend to be interrupted and small talk in all sorts of different directions. So sometimes when I’m home, I remember something someone said, but I can’t remember who said that. So I get so curious and start asking my friends if they said that particular thing (for example: one lady said she enjoys snacking on dates). And I can’t remember who said that, so I get so compelled to find out who said that.

    Usually when I’m in a proper 1-1 conversation or with close friends, this doesn’t bother me, cos I usually know who said what. But when I’m in a group of acquaintances, I find it hard to figure out.

    And it’s the curiosity killing the cat feeling that bugs me. Is this memory hoarding? Or is this a matter of curiosity? How can I deal with this issue?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    • Hello again Pris,

      It’s called “small talk” for a reason – it is not important. Hence remembering it is likely not too important.

      As for “curiosity killed the cat”, you seem to be forgetting the message of that proverb, which is that curiosity can cause problems.

  • I have a 3-year old and twins who are 11 months. Life is so stressful and chaotic that whenever I have a good moment with the kids (without being plagued by other OCD issues or without being too stressed), I often start to have feelings about how I am missing all of their lives and good moments. Or I feel that I’m missing too much time with them (b/c of OCD, work, whatever) . Or missing experiencing who they are fully at a certain stage, b/c it changes so fast — it feels like a blur.

    My response is to try to remember good moments with the kids to feel better, or to look at photos to be sure I can remember how they looked at age 2, 1.5, etc., and to reassure myself that I didn’t miss as much as I feel. To reassure myself that I remember what they were like before growing on to the next stage.

    Does this qualify as memory hoarding in your view? What’s the best solution? Resist compulsions as with other OCD?

    • Joe,

      Your feelings are probably quite normal for a hectic father of three kids under the age of three. But Memory Hoarding is not about feelings, it is about attempting to make one’s self remember things perfectly. That said, it does sound like you are trying to force yourself to remember. But memory does not require assistance – it happens quite naturally by itself, just like breathing or blinking. And while there are techniques that may improve memory, I cannot imagine you will be able to force yourself to remember something as abstract as “good moments” or who your kids “fully are at a certain stage”. I encourage you to simply enjoy these moments and experiences with your children, rather than focusing on trying to remember them.

  • when i finish a good book (I’m an avid reader) i sometimes make myself recall details in the book and try to remember major events in the book sometimes immediately after i read them weeks or months later. I sit there sometimes before doing anything else trying and feeling the need to recall major events in the book. I’ve also done this with some memories i replayed them again and again and i even asked someone in the memory if i had a certain part accurate. Is this ocd memory hoarding?

    • Gaby,

      While the behaviors you describe certainly sound like Memory Hoarding, the real question is whether these behaviors are causing you distress or impairment. You do not mention that these behaviors are causing you any problems. If they are not creating difficulties for you, then perhaps you just enjoy recalling these memories of the books you read.

  • I ten to do this with a lot of my trains of thought or just little things im trying to remember. You hold into the thought and if you suceed on moving on then you have to try and remember. Like your brain is saying what was I just thinking about so you’ll try your hardest to remember and when you do you’ll want to note it down well that’s how it feels for me anyway. so I’ve just got scraps of paper on my bad side table with almost like mental notes of what I’ve been thinking or stuff that you may have not seen in a while like films or books music or even ideas or plans to go places or do things. It can get quite bad at times would you say this is related to me

    • Christian,

      What you describe sounds like textbook Memory Hoarding.

  • Hello,
    I had never considered memory hoarding to be related to OCD before reading this (not that I know a lot about OCD). It was enlightening.

    I’ve always done that, all my life. I do that nearly every day with childhood memories (for four years old onward) and conversations that include actual thinking. I do that with exams too, although I let these memories go after about a week. I remember for exemple that last year I had found three errors in my exam – with two of them not remembered until two days after the test.
    Recently I do that because I feel guilty for not remembering things, and in my childhood it was because I always felt that they could serve in the future (that it was a possibility that I could die for not remembering something).

    None of that ever seriously bothered me – the real problem is that I don’t stop at reviewing, I have to analyse them, and do it again, and again, and again. And after that, I always try to imagine what would have happened had this or that been different, just to make the original memories go away, because I’m tired to feel the same shame at a memory that’s from more than 10 years ago.

  • I have this real bad. Ever since I was little. I am a real stickler on remembering memories. But when I was younger it got so bad one time I was counting every little reflector in the middle of the road. And have to write down every mailbox number as we past by. I would also feel like I have to write down everything I think of. Even if it’s a word or thought or feeling or something, and it would drive me crazy at night cause random words and subjects would pop in my head and I’d be up all night writing them down. Is fill notebooks full of gibberish on every inch of paper. And would sometimes see maybe a small dot on a page and have to fill it in with my pencil. And my eye would catch a glimpse of a space between the coils of a notebook and I’d have to mark it. And sometimes if I do it multiple times, I’d have to number it. I’d just drive me crazy. It’s gotten better for a few years. But know I’m going through some stress and it’s gotten worst again.

    • Hi Haley,

      Yes, everything you write here sounds exactly like Memory Hoarding.

  • Hi..i think memory hoarding is something that i m suffering from…
    I keep remembering my childhood and highschool memories in an attempt to remember if I was happy back then…
    Plz help

    • Abhishek,

      There is nothing to be gained by analyzing whether one was happy in the past. You cannot change the past, nor can you recreate it. A better solution is to stop analyzing your memories, and to focus on experiencing your life right now.

  • I can’t stop trying to remember every single conversation I have and in this article it only specified about remembering important events. What do I do?

    • Will,

      I think you have misunderstood our article. It does not say that memory hoarding only involves important events. It says that those struggling with this issue believe that the things they are trying to remember are important.

      Here is the exact text to which I refer:

      “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.”

      What to do is this: stop trying to remember conversations. Most conversations not important, and if something is truly important, you will likely remember it anyway. Accept that your memory is imperfect.

  • Hi,
    I recently was touched uncomfortably and I find myself trying to recall exactly where and how I was touched, number of times and all the conversations during the event, and trying to judge the severity.I will try to modify the event to how i should act to avoid the situation. I even re-act my sitting position because I felt I have exposed myself and want to know how much the person has seen. This seems to have triggered and aggrevate the symtoms below.
    I replay saying embarassing and behaving abnormally during interviews, and even trying to remember a exact maths problem i solved during work last time.
    When chatting with friends, I mentally replay what I just said exactly to check if its correct or rational, especially when giving negative opinions about people and situations. This often makes me lose track of what others are saying.
    Am I facing memory hoarding? Or PTSD?
    Thank you…

    • MH,

      Considering you experienced a significant negative event that was the trigger for these thoughts, and considering that you do not appear to be trying to remember these thoughts as a result of a need to know that you have remembered them perfectly, I think it is unlikely that you are experiencing Memory Hoarding. That said, I do believe you might benefit from seeking counseling to help you process this event and your response to it.

  • Hi
    I am not sure if I am a memory hoarder but I need answers to something. I have OCD and intrusive thoughts which makes me keep processing the “bad thoughts” I have. I keep responding, checking or having a lot of thoughts and It makes me really tired. I have researched a lot about the OCD and I know I shouldn’t respond to my intrusive thougts, that everyone has them and responding only reinforces for the brain that something is wrong. I also know that the more you react to the thougts and think about them, the more of them you get. I know all about it and it almost went away when I realized how it all works and it a vicious cirle.
    The other day I got a bad thought which upset me and I reacted to it, I’m not worried about the thought anymore now. The problem is that my brain keeps remembering it and remind me of it every second hour and it has now been 2 days I’ve been constantly reminded of it. I don’t want to remember it and try to let it go but I feel like I am constantly being reminded of my obsessive non-stop-talking-thougts in my brain even when I don’t try to remember. It makes me crazy and I feel really frustrated.

    – An OCD suffer

    • Thea,

      The memory of the thought at issue sounds to me like an obsession – i.e. a thought that comes unbidden into one’s mind and causes distress.

      Memory Hoarding is a compulsion – i.e., a volitional action in which one purposely chooses to do something in an effort to reduce or eliminate the anxiety caused by an obsession. In Memory Hoarding, the compulsion is the willful choice to try to remember something perfectly.

      What you are experiencing does not sound like Memory Hoarding. I see no evidence that you are trying to force yourself to remember, which is at the very heart of Memory Hoarding.

      That said, it sure sounds like you have OCD, and I encourage you to seek treatment with therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD.

  • I find that this problem tends to occur most when I begin to have frequent conversations with someone enough to the point of romantic attraction.

    I’ll want to remember minute details, such as inside-jokes, possibly the clothing worn, or the location.
    This also hold true with text-based conversation, and as a result I tend to find that my phone’s picture folder is stuffed with screenshots of text.

    This usually leaves my reactions disjointed, or inorganic when attempting to continue talking with this person, as I’m trying too-hard to imitate previous chemistry, and worrying more about remembering the conversation, as opposed to having the conversation in the first place.

    I’ll also make short-hand notes of events if I can’t capture them, and hoard them on pieces of paper.

    I’m not sure as to whether I fear not being able to continue making this person happy with similar conversation, and potentially losing them as a result, or if I fear not being able to recall the moments myself.

    I experience this with “Academic information” as-well, but this appears to have assisted me academically.

    However it has almost crippled my ability to form a meaningful relationship.

    • Callum,

      A few thoughts…

      1) There is no reason whatsoever that any human being needs to remember details of conversations, texts, etc. with 100% accuracy.

      2) Ditto for saving screenshots of texts.

      3) I can see how perfect recall would be an advantage academically. But as you note, your efforts at remembering and duplicating past communications/experiences/feelings is interfering with your life and your relationships.

      4) I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

  • I originally wrote a long paragraph here detailing all the related things i do but i ran out of space, but now im super stressed that i wont be able to accurately portray my experience and it wont be real. that’s not the only way it manifests tho i do lots of memory hoarding things i just dont have room here. i need to tell someone lots of detailing past experiences, saving, fixating, details, recording, doubting, and even recreating ones i think are false (or maybe they are just false?). a lot have to do w past abuse (i also have ptsd) but not all. i have other ocd subtypes too

    i have trouble talking to my therapist or psychiatrist about this bc i might not get the details right. i have to precede everything i say by stating that i cant remember right or avoid it altogether. I’m afraid to post this comment cus i know i forgot stuff too. im afriad of being invalidated and maybe i dont even have ocd. i do tho. i keep researching all the symptoms for hours even tho ive been dxed. if i see a specialist they may just say i dont have ocd and if im wrong then im just a bad person and imagined it all & im too busy, & if im treated then ill have to forget things n wont know the truth

    • Emma,

      A few thoughts…

      1) You do not “need” to portray your experience accurately, and failure to do so has no bearing on the “realness” of your experience.

      2) You do not need to tell someone your experience in “great detail”. You may think you do, but you don’t. If people don’t fully grasp your story, it is not a catastrophe. This includes your discussing your concerns with your therapist.

      3) Researching OCD symptoms “for hours” is a compulsion, and is virtually guaranteed to make your symptoms worse not better.

      4) I fail to see how being incorrect about having OCD would make you a “bad person”.

      5) None of this is meant to “invalidate” you – it is meant to challenge the cognitive distortions you have about memory and communication that are a key aspect of your OCD.

      6) If your therapist specializes in treating OCD, I encourage you to discuss this matter with him/her, even if you do so imperfectly. If your therapist is not an OCD specialist, they are almost certainly ill-equipped to properly treat your symptoms, and I would encourage you to seek treatment with a specialist.

  • I have diagnosed OCD and can’t delete the pictures from my phone for fear of forgetting. The idea of missing a memory and forgetting I forgot it makes me panic and I just cannot delete my photos. It used to be okay, but then I got up to 30,000 photos of screenshots for tv shows and songs that i just cannot forget. Do you have any advice on how to get myself to delete these pictures? I am currently stable on 200mg of Zoloft and .5mg of Risperidone. Please let me know!

    • Kat,

      Your hoarding of pictures in an effort to ensure that you do not forget anything is a compulsion. It is actually the very fuel that keeps your OCD going. The only effective solution is to delete these pictures and live with the anxiety that you experience. The good news is that in doing this, you will discover that nothing catastrophic occurs (i.e., forgetting something is not a catastrophe), and that you are able to tolerate the discomfort.

      There is no special advice for deleting these pictures. I encourage you to read our article Exposure Therapy for OCD and Anxiety, as it addresses in simple non-clinical terms how you would benefit from this.

  • This helps me understand some things about my ex-wife. The compulsive photographing. Anytime I hauled something to the dump, broken furniture or whatever, she had to photograph it from every angle. I always wondered, “why do you want half a dozen photos of an old chair?” but it’s starting to make sense now. She would fill up hard drives with all these photos of junk. I had to keep buying larger and larger hard drives because she could never delete anything. The OCD is the reason she is now my ex-wife. I tried to sympathize and understand. I thought I could help her, but in the end it made the relationship impossible.

    • Tim,

      I am loath to make a diagnosis on the basis of the report of an ex-husband, as such reports are innately subjective, biased and unreliable. That said, if your wife indeed spent as much time as you indicate taking pictures of seemingly unimportant objects, she could possibly have OCD.

  • Hi,

    So I’ve noticed every time I fall in love and it doesn’t work out, whether because of distance or wrong timing, I cannot help replaying the moments we shared together to the point of I have to think about the exact words they said to me and what I said back and how they hugged me and got how long and it is interfering with my daily life all I can do is replay memories which makes me sadder and makes it hard to move on.

    Please help!

    • Kate,

      This may be OCD…or it may just be that you have a hard time getting over breakups. Let’s face it – breakups suck, and many people without OCD become somewhat obsessive when a relationship fails. If the only time this happens is during and after breakups, I would suggest that your experience is not OCD.

  • I’ve suffered from this problem for several years now. I suffer from intrusive thoughts which make me check over old files at my place of work. It is only really ever to do with work e.g. I will be enjoying a day out with my daughter and then a trigger will compel me to recall a detail about a customer file I have worked on in the past. The trigger can be that I just saw someone who looked like one of our previous customers. Because I cant recall the detail I feel the need to check the file. it is usually a historic file which is several years old. I have in the past even gone into work after hours to check files. although I have managed to control this for now somewhat. My fear is that because I cannot recall the detail I didn’t do what I was supposed to do and now at some point in the future the customer will realise my mistake and sue my employer for his/her substantial losses. I can leave work happy that all is well and then am almost always hit by a worrying thought either later that evening or the next day when I am at home trying to unwind.I have also noticed that these troublesome thoughts usually arise before I am due to spend time with my family.

    • Geoff,

      This all sounds like classic Memory Hoarding. Checking old files is a compulsion and it is sustaining your obsessions. Stop giving in to the urge to check the old files, or any other related compulsions, and you will likely see a significant reduction in your obsessions. They are only strengthened by the compulsive checking.

  • I am afraid of remembering, since memories are recreated whenever you think of them, thinking of them destroys the original memory, and it’s gone forever, replaced by the memory of you remembering the memory; also I once saw a play and really enjoyed it, and came back the next night and had a horrible time due to where I was sitting, and while I was feeling horrible I realized that what I saw and felt the first night would be overwritten by how I felt then, and then I thought about how anytime I thought about anything associated with a particular actor or tv show I would feel bad, and then that led to me thinking about other things that led to me associating a bad thought with the act of remembering itself, and now I think, “Whenever I remember any event from my life at all, I’ll think of this and it will never stop and I’ll never be happy again!”Once something is associated in your mind with something else you can never never think of one without the other. I avoid seeing anything I’ve seen before, because that would add a new association to a previous memory. I sometimes want to try and recall a childhood memory that pops into my head, but am afraid I will overwrite the original memory.

    • Em,

      You are spending way too much time analyzing memory in general, and your personal memories in specific. Also, trying to avoid experiencing things for fear that doing so will alter your existing memories is a compulsion that will only make your OCD worse. I encourage you to instead accept whatever memories occur, change or disappear, without analyzing them. Memories do not require analysis or permanence.

  • Hi! This info is so helpful. I have been googling for days because my 5 yr old
    Daughter is displaying symptoms of this all of a sudden. It had coincided with her first real bout of separation anxiety. This has just happened since returning to school after the holidays. She is in full day 5 day preschool and while she had a bit of hesitation returning at this same timing for preschool, this year she had a very intense surge in separation anxiety – crying and having to be taken from me at the door (so sad!) She says she misses me but also is very scared that I won’t be able to see everything she sees and that she won’t be able to remember everything (it tends to be physical/visual – pee or poop or the way something looks) and now it’s transfered to her concern of remembering everything. It’s interesting that it coincides with her first real separation anxiety and that the concern is my seeing it/remembering it. My question is – could this ever be a phase? I wonder if its linked to her realization that I won’t be by her side every moment and dealing with that as part of separation anxiety? I plan to consult a therapist but would love your insight. I just feel for anyone dealing…

    • Concerned Mama,

      It is not particularly unusual for kids with OCD to also have Separation Anxiety. After all, OCD and Separation Anxiety are both anxiety disorders. Yes, I think there is a possibility that your daughter’s obsession with memory could be a “phase”, but there is no way to determine that via a blog. I encourage you to have your daughter assessed by a pediatric psychologist.

  • Also how long does the anxiety last if you don’t do the compulsion does it ever go completely

    • Boo,

      Anxiety is a fact of life, and if your goal is to get rid of it, you are setting yourself up for failure. A better option is to accept anxiety, and to learn better ways of responding to it.

  • Hello
    My name is Kacey and I’m 21 years old.
    I’m really glad I have found this article as there were some aspects that I definitely could relate to which has reassured me, thank you!
    I struggle on a daily basis with dealing with my memories.
    I had a happy childhood, we didn’t have much but we had all we needed. There are certain things I wish my parents did more for me and my siblings, but I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant I could go back.
    I can’t describe in words how my brain uses my memories, almost like flicking through book pages, different times in my life. I get very emotional very quickly. I think maybe it’s because I wish I could appriciate those times more? Its when I start to tell myself that I’ll never be able to go back that I have a breakdown. I know I’m only young but I’m not enjoying my life now, because I feel like I’m stuck in the past.
    I have a very good memory (in my opinion) every detail, smell, sounds, like I am watching a film of my past.
    It’s starting to affect me in work, especially my early morning shifts but I always put it down to tiredness. It’s difficult to write in words how you feel, I just want to talk to someone who…

    • Kacey,

      Nothing you write suggests memory hoarding, which as our article points out, focuses on the sufferer’s obsessive need to remember things perfectly and completely. Your comment focuses on the fact that you have strong emotional responses to your memories of your childhood. You report having a very good memory, while those with memory hoarding obsess that their memory is not sufficient or accurate.

      If, as you report, you feel unhappily “stuck in the past”, I encourage you to seek a consultation with local therapist.

  • Is it memory hoarding when you search ocd forums and then I go back to look, and if I can’t find it i get severe anxietype I have been diagnosed with pure o

    • Boo,

      This sounds like anxiety, but not necessarily memory hoarding, which is when one obsesses about remembering things perfectly, and makes compulsive efforts to remember those things.

      That said, I see no reason for you to go back and review OCD forums, especially if doing so leads to more anxiety.

  • I have a question, I pretty sure I have this just never could find the name. My problem is I try and remember really useless things like how many cigarettes I smoked the order I smoked em in and location. I also try and remember every conversation I have word for word and I’ll sit there in silence till I think I’m right on the exact conversation. Same goes with every day activities and remembering like how many sodas I drank during the week, food o ate, and shows I watched. I know all that stuff is useless to remember but i still do it knowing that it dont matter. What can I do to stop this?

  • I have these points throughout any given day – where I get “hung up” on a phrase, or a memory that is just slipping beyond my recollection (like the edges of a dream, I can’t really figure out what I’m trying to remember), or a song lyric that I can’t place in the context of the song it came from, or a nostalgic memory that escapes me.

    A related problem is that I stack these things. There are four – six of these moments throughout the day, so, by the end of the day, I have these half-dozen “moments” that I’m still trying to sort out, and it causes some low-to-medium level anxiety.

    I know, rationally, that most of these events involve trivial information, but I place importance on trying to remember them, and on trying to sort them out.

    It seems that there’s one common denominator: I can’t simply let my mind wander, because, if I do, I get frustrated that I can’t remember the topics I was just thinking about (in a “stream of consciousness” fashion). It’s almost like I want an “instant replay” feature in my brain (like a Black Mirror episode), but I know that’s not possible.

    But still I try.


    • Brad,

      Yep – sounds like Memory Hoarding.

      My advice is simple…

      Accept the presence in your consciousness of the unwanted thoughts about “needing to know”, and make no effort at remembering. There is no legitimate reason that you need to spend even one second focusing on remembering things that you describe as “trivial”.

      Aside from that, I encourage you to seek treatment with therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

  • I have this exact form of OCD and it is completely destroying my life. I’ve always suffered with OCD, and it has manifested itself in several ways throughout my life. When I was younger, it was anorexia and bulimia, as a young adult it was obsessive cleaning and checking and now it is memory horsing. I began when my uncle died, I was terrified life was going to pass me by and I wasn’t fully appreciating it. Now when I’m eating, I have to savour every mouthful and if I feel as though I haven’t fully appreciated it I feel really anxious. When I’m reading, I have to read every single word including page numbers and the barcode, otherwise I feel like I haven’t really read the book. If I avert my eyes from a movie I’m watching, I have to watch it again to make sure I’m fully in the moment. I have boxes and boxes of tickets, photos, old shopping lists etc. I am also obsessed with logging everything I do, films I’ve watched etc. I feel like if I don’t log what happened then I didn’t do it. It’s like I’m not convinced I’ve had a good life or enjoyed myself if I don’t have logs and photos etc. to prove it. I’m so miserable.

    • Sarah,

      A few thoughts…

      1) Trying to control what we think, feel, or remember is pointless…and will not succeed.

      2) Logging your memories and saving the detritus and ephemera from past events does not seem to be improving your life. Just the opposite in fact.

      3) If you really want to be “in the moment”, I encourage you to stop trying to be in the moment, and to stop demanding that you experience things fully. Just be.

  • Thanks for the article.

    I recently started waking up in the morning and trying desperately to remember what it Is I just dreamt of. It happens as well when I ann falling back asleep and startijt to dream and I become aware that I’m dreaming and I pull myself back to being awake to write down my dream. Most of these dreams are of nothing scary or of any importance. And because I’m so tired, I can’t. And as I become more awake, the dream memories disappear into what seems to be a different conscious segment of my mind. I can recall little fragments of the dream and I start pacing the room trying to recall and write it down. I end up having a panic attack. This is quite exhausting.

    I have been trying for to ignore trying to remember the dreams and sometimes when I wake up, I manage to ignore the desire to recall the dream … but I then completely blank out on what I dreamt of. Like total blank. I don’t think that this is very normal either or a good way to deal with a dream-memory.

    Is this also memory hoarding or is there another name for it)?

    • Jake,

      This sure sounds like Memory Hoarding to me.

      The bottom line is this: in most cases, there is no reason whatsoever to try to force a memory. And I can think of few things less important to remember than dreams.

      Your goal is to let memories occur or fade away by themselves, with no effort on your part.

      • Tom – Why is there “no reason whatsoever” to force a memory? And what do we do – because I have similar issues to Jake (and others on this board) – when I know that:

        A) This is not necessarily logical or rational behavior – but I still feel the “need” to remember. I can’t seem to just use “reason” to dismiss these fleeting memories that I can’t get back, or hold onto?

        B) I take some degree of pleasure in remembering things – even though there’s an obsessive nature to the process, and (often) I end up not being able to remember or hold on anyway?

        What is a good strategy for letting go – and being okay with having these memories just evaporate? I don’t want to be one of those people who spend their days writing everything down as a way to “time capsule” my memories.

        I’m curious to know how Jake is doing with this too – and others on this board.

        • Brad,

          It is not my job to convince you that there is no reason whatsoever to force a memory. If you can come up with good reasons to force memories, that’s fine. I personally see no benefit to trying to force memories. As evidence if that, I pointed to the fact that you are posting comments on blogs about memory because your over-focus on remembering is causing you distress.

          A good strategy for “letting go” is to accept reality as it is, including the fact that memories are often ephemeral. Chasing memories is a waste of time and energy.

  • ill be watching a movie and see something that reminds me of something else, for example. and when i see or hear whatever reminds me of something i had seen in the past and i cannot remember it i literally cannot focus on reality until i straiten out the correlation of events in my mind. It gets to the point where i will spend like hours sitting trying to remember if i lost 40 dollars or never had the 40 dollars, or like where did i hear that expression used before.

    • Tristin,

      Your OCD is telling you that you need to “know” something that is unimportant. You do not need to know anything.

      Your goal is to accept that the irrational thought that you must know something has presented itself to you, without reacting to it, and without trying to figure out the correlations that you mention.

      You do not need to know these things.

  • I hoard weird facts. The metric volume of ancient lakes, the population of cities Ive driven through, the number of road reflectors on my way to work, as well as their color/size/placement continuity.

    I hoard FEELINGS I felt when people have praised me, as well as words that trigger pain or discomfort.

    I hoard all the debit card numbers Ive ever had, flight numbers and times, codes associated with pretty much everything, as well as social hacks tied to mnemonics Ive made up to analyze and appear social.

    I gravitate towards social events and then when Im there I dont talk to people unless approached, and prefer to nerd out on some website about physics or math.

    Funny thing is I LOOK like I don’t do these things. I dress extremely well as I have been told, I maintain a blank face and monotone voice, but I LOOK like a social butterfly.

    Lastly, I used to be a firefighter/EMT and I obsess over either trying to forget what i experienced, or trying to mentally prepare for flashbacks so I am less effected.

    Im so confused.

  • Hello Dr. first of all i would like to thank you for your advices.
    I have suffered from ocd since i was 15 years old. Zoloft helped me a lot but when i am stressed, it returns.
    I try to remember names, but Only names of friends, colleagues etc.
    Why does this happened?
    Why names in period of stress?

    Thank you so much for your support!

    • Rania,

      Why not names? OCD can focus on anything. Trying to figure out why your OCD focuses on names is a pointless waste of time and energy. I assure you that you will not find an answer.

      The good news is…you don’t need an answer. Instead accept that your brain is playing games. But you don’t need to agree to participate in those games. Let your brain do whatever it wants without taking any of it seriously. These are just silly, pointless thoughts that do not require any response from you.

  • Tom,
    thank you for your response. I read your email so many times and it was a relief to hear that all this is meaningless.
    I agree these thoughts are pointless, but i just can’t let it go.
    I liked the part with the brain playing games
    Why these thoughts happened on stressful periods?

    Thank you!!!


    • Rania,

      A few thoughts…

      1) Reading my response repeatedly is a compulsion, and it will make your OCD worse. You are not going to learn anything new from multiple readings. There are no hidden secrets to learn from what I have written.

      2) You don’t need to “let it go”. You need to accept the presence of the thoughts that are causing you discomfort.

      3) These thoughts become a problem during times of stress because you have OCD. Don’t look for fancy reasons why you are having these thoughts, or getting stuck on them.

  • Hey Tom,
    Thank you so much for this article, I feel immensely relieved after reading and I feel enlightened.
    I wanted your views and help over the issues I have been facing.
    It started when I started preparing for an exam and while reading different texts, I tried to remember the text, the facts and details as perfectly as I can. I do mental checks and revisions of whether I fully understand of remember the text or not.
    Sometimes when I cant, I feel like my “comprehension” abilities have been compromised and that there is something wrong with me. To negate this I try to listen to someone speaking or I try reading something else to know whether I understand it or not but I cant because my focus is on “trying to know whether I can understand it or not” and not on the talk/text itself.
    When I read something, say a line, my mind would automatically start repeating it again and again (mentally) till I remember it and I cant move on.
    Sometimes in between reading something, I have this thought that “Am I really understanding this to the core?” and that derails me and makes me lose focus on the text.
    Your views would be greatly appreciated,
    Eagerly waiting for your reply…

    • David,

      Yes, this sounds like Memory Hoarding. My best advice is that you seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. Aside from that, I encourage you to stop compulsively checking to see if your comprehension abilities are working. Like all compulsions, this will make your OCD worse, not better.

  • Hi, I just found this article! I think i developed obsessive-compulsive symptoms a year ago, but just recently i have been aware of it. I think i have a very rare/specific type of memory hoarding: the hoarding of thoughts. When I’m thinking about something and some minutes passes, or an event occurs that distracts me, i have to remember what i was thinking back then. It doesn’t matter what i was thinking, but i have to remember exactly what it was, otherwise i feel a lot of stress. I tend to think that that thought was very important, that would change my life’s course, but it wouldn’t. Another symptom i have is like, when I’m hearing a song on the radio, minutes later i have the urge to remember a specific song that was playing. And if i don’t remember, i feel a lot of stress and feel incomplete for days. Other symptoms i have are when I’m watching a movie with subtitles, and i can’t read the entire subtitles of a phrase, i have to go back to that part to ensure that i read all of the subtitles, word-by-word; and even if i understand the meaning, if i don’t remember it word-by-word, i have to go back and memorize the subtitle again. Are those OCD.

    • Diego,

      There is nothing rare about your symptoms. They sound like classic Memory Hoarding.The idea that you must remember something is the core obsession in this variant of OCD. All of the other examples of your obsessions , such as needing to re-view movies to be sure you fully understood the material, are quite common.

      Your goal should be simple – let your thoughts and memories exist however they exist, without attempting to understand or remember them fully or perfectly. They are just thoughts and memories, and you don’t need to experience them fully or perfectly.

  • Mr. Corboy,

    My “situation” (I’m undiagnosed, but this sure sounds like me) is a little different in that I have ideas and tasks that I hoard. I MUST capture them, and then save them because, if I thought of them, they MUST be important, right?

    Yours is the first website I’ve found to directly address this “condition.” But I live nowhere near L.A.

    Do you have a source for GOOD treatment (for people who’ve resisted treatment as ineffective or who have FOUND treatment to be ineffective, in the past) in other areas of the country (North Georgia) ?


    • Cara,

      This all sounds like classic Memory Hoarding to me. I encourage you to contact the International OCD Foundation at They are the largest OCD organization in the world, and they maintain a searchable database of therapists who specialize in the treatment of OCD using CBT.

      Take care.

  • Hi, i didn’t realize there was such thing as “memory hoarding” but it sure describes my problem.

    I have a history of depression, social anxiety, eating disorder and am on citalopram. When I was in school just over twenty years ago I started to get the habit of going over and over a poem we had to learn for an exam, this took over my mind and no matter what I did I would go over it in my mind.

    Over the years I got the habit of going over thoughts, but over the past two years I’ve relapsed. I’m in a bad place now and I am scared and exhausted. I kissed my love interest for first time two years ago and I keep going over and over it. I’m very embarrassed to say that my thoughts are sex related. I’m a virgin at my age of 38, and I keep worrying that I must know what to do should I find a girlfriend. I keep going over and over stuff I’ve seen in porn films thinking that’s it’s important to remember….I sort of visualize the things I’ve seen and I panic when I cannot vizualise due to being tired etc. I know it’s irrational but I cannot stop, I am very scared. I stopped looking at porn years ago as I find it immoral and yet I still obsess over it.

    • Gary,

      Attempting to memorize things like poems for school tests is fairly common. I still have strong memories of learning multiplication tables in grammar school over 50 years ago!

      That said, most things do not require, nor do they benefit from, attempts at memorization. Furthermore, attempting to learn how to act sexually with women by memorizing porn films does not sound like a very good idea for two reasons:

      1) Porn films are not an accurate depiction of real-life love and sexuality.

      2) Every woman is different, and much of what you have seen in porn films will not be what any given woman is interested in experiencing with you.

      I encourage you to accept that love and sex are not things that can be pursued with a memory of the “right” way to participate. Instead, get out into the world and date, and find someone who you want to be with who also wants to be with you. Then proceed with care for your partner’s needs and wants, and just have fun.

  • Please help. It seems that the mental behavior I am having is indeed memory hoarding. My mind wanders and usually comes up with something I need to do out of nowhere while in the middle of a conversation,a task or something that I did throughout my day. There are cases I tend to postpone listing or writing it down especially when I am in the middle of something like driving. However when I tried recalling back, I tend to forget some of the things I need to do and I did my best in remembering it but to no avail. This is where the problem comes in because I spend hours and even days trying to recall it and even reviewing the things I did in the hopes of recalling what I need to do. The compulsion of wanting to recall what i need to do and reviewing the details of what happend prior to how I came up with the list is taking up most of my time and I ended up doing nothing but recalling it for days.Please help because I cannot let go of such obsession and compulsion.

    • Ria,

      You are correct – the problem is that you “spend hours and even days trying to recall” things that are not important, and don’t deserve the amount of time and energy you are devoting to them. Let’s call this “compulsively trying to recall”. And like all compulsions, it is not just time consuming, it actually makes the OCD worse, not better.

      Stop trying to remember. That may sound like a ridiculous suggestion, but trying to remember something is a behavior which you can choose not to do. This will entail feeling anxious at first, but over time, you will learn that nothing terrible happens when you live with not knowing, and that you are more capable than you think of sitting in uncertainty.

  • I had a traumatic breakup with a longtime partner and, even though I HATE thinking about anything to do with it, I find myself obsessing on the most ridiculous things. Ridiculous! Examples: I once saw a picture of his girlfriend and I can’t remember which side she parted her hair on. Also, did she have peep toe shoes or pumps on in the picture? He mentioned once he knew someone at work who oil paints. Was he talking about her? I saw a couple of pictures of them together on his Facebook feed before I unfriended him. Exactly how many pictures were there? Was he standing on the right or the left? And so on. I’ve tried writing these things down on the idea that if I put them to paper then they won’t be in my head anymore. But that doesn’t keep new things I want to remember from popping into my head and I now have a 78 page document on my computer full of these silly questions and answers. On good days, I think I can destroy that document and I’ll be fine but sometimes I panic at the idea of not having this information on hand. Why am I so desperate to dissect something that caused me so much pain and keep the memories alive? Does this sound like memory hoarding? Thank you.

    • Tracy,

      Yes, this all sounds like Memory Hoarding. That document is basically a 78 page compulsion that provides you with nothing but short term relief. Unfortunately, in the long term, it actually worsens your OCD.

      Also, writing things down on paper does not have the magical effect of removing the thoughts from our brains. If only it were that easy…

      • Thank you for answering me, Mr. Corboy; it is very much appreciated!

  • Hi! It’s Tracy from July 5th again. I have one final question if it’s okay? What if I am trying to remember, for example, if my ex partner was wearing a red tie or a blue tie at a past event and I’m doing pretty well ignoring the thought in my head. Then I look in a magazine and see a man wearing a tie and it pushes my obsessive thought into the forefront again. Do you think that that will always happen or will it stop after awhile? I hope this makes sense. As always, thank you so much.

    • Tracy,

      A few thoughts…

      1) Anytime someone with OCD asks “what if…”, it is a pretty good bet that their OCD is acting up.

      2) There is absolutely no reason to remember if someone was wearing a certain color tie at an event.

      3) That said, Memory Hoarding OCD will try to convince you that it is important to know this information.

      4) You should expect all sorts of thoughts to push into the forefront of your consciousness – this is what thoughts do, and thoughts about what color tie someone was wearing at an event re not special or different – they are just thoughts. So yes, this will continue to happen.

      5) The good news is that you don’t have to care about these unimportant thoughts. Let them reside anywhere they choose. If they are in the forefront of your consciousness, pay them no special attention. Just let them hang out and get on with your day. They will soon go away of their own accord. And then they will come back whenever they choose. Continue to pay them no heed.

  • Hello. I’d like to thank to you for this beautiful article. I found ‘some’ answers in it successfully.

    Everything started 4 years ago. I was walking on the streets around my home and I suddenly realized a usual license plate of one of the parked cars. I’m not going to tell the numbers so maybe there are some people who has the same problem. After that moment, these meaningless numbers of that licence plate started possessing me. Then some unimportant names came up; some politician’s, movie’s, people’s names. I could not even watch films not to remember any character’s names. Because those numbers, names & conversations were always on my mind.

    In my situation, there are no any ‘memories’ coming from the past. There are only numbers & names that come into my sight or ear in my DAILY life. I’m walking without looking at licence plates. Whenever my girlfriend talks about something with names or numbers, I warn her not to make a speech that contains numbers. One of my defence is to distort the names & numbers. I try to make myself believe that the ‘distorted’ names are not harmful as the original ‘heard’ names.

    Do you think this is memory hoarding.

    • Andre,

      This all sounds like memory hoarding to me. Unfortunately, you are trying to control words, numbers, and other data that present themselves to you (i.e., telling your girlfriend not to mention numbers, avoiding license plates, etc.), and this is the exact wrong thing to do.

      A more beneficial response is to completely accept whatever enters your senses and your brain, without making any effort to control that information. This will be difficult at first, but acceptance is the best response to these meaningless and unimportant things.

  • Hi,

    I’ve been dating my girlfriend for around 7 months now and I do this thing that causes a lot of exhaustion and distress. It’s as if every time I think of her I need to be able to picture her face perfectly. I know what she looks like and recognize her, it has nothing to do with that. I just get this bad discomfort and that I need to be able to picture her face vividly and perfectly detailed and if I can’t get it right I can’t move on. But the more I try the harder and harder it gets and before I know it ive spent hours trying to visualize her face in mind. Sometimes her face just pops up in my mind on its own and its fine but when I get this urge and try and try to picture her I can’t seem to do it. But I can picture other people decently, I don’t spend hours trying to visualize other people tho. Just her. I seems like what was described in this article but it’s just exhausting. Can I have some guidance for this! Thank you

    • Nathan,

      You wrote: “I need to be able to picture her face perfectly.”

      No, you don’t. Your OCD tries to tell you that you do, but you don’t.

      You wrote: “I need to be able to picture her face vividly and perfectly detailed”.

      No you don’t. You just need to let yourself have the thought, without actually trying to do it. In other words, have the thought, but don’t respond to it or try to resolve it.

      Other than that, my guidance is simple. You likely have OCD, and you would be well served by seeking treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

  • Hi,

    So I’m kind of stuck on this compulsion because I’m not sure how to handle it. I continuously try to picture my girlfriends face in my minds eye, and even though I can usually remember someones face decently in my mind when I try to imagine hers it doesn’t seem accurate or it doesn’t feel like it looks like her. I try and try and the more I try the harder it gets to see her face at all and I get very stressed out because I don’t feel good or any relief until I can see her face clearly and accurately in my mind which is very hard to accomplish. It makes me question our relationship or if there is something wrong because I feel like I should be able to picture her face in my mind. Its like the more I try the more I feel there is something off with the image of her face. Do you have any advice on this compulsion? Sometimes when Im with her I try to look at her face then look away and see if I’ll be able to conjure her face accurately in my mind as I just saw it but that just doesn’t feel right either.

    Thank you

    • Nate,

      Trying to force your mind to perfectly remember your girlfriend’s face is absolutely a compulsion. And as you have noticed, the more you try, the less success you have.

      A better option is to stop trying to force your brain to remember her face in a certain way, and to instead accept whatever memory appears, without analysis or valuation. It is whatever it is.

      Furthermore, the quality of a memory has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of a relationship. Your allegedly less-than-perfect memory of your girlfriend’s face does not say anything about the quality or value of your relationship with her.

  • name is ali.i have a history of hoarding physical objects.
    When i was younger I used to remember my memories and how i felt and i enjoy it.but later i did this for every single memory i had and tried to remember the exact feeling and detail of that memory and what i have done to the point that i started repeating the exact same thing i have already done that made me feel good (eg if i watched a movie in may and i ate pizza while watching it,i would try to recreate every single detail next the food i ate,the time of the day i watched the movie,the feeling and what i thought during this specific scene etc)
    So 8 years later my life is all about “creating moments” to remember them and enjoy them later…and i do not look back at the most of the “moments” i put away to enjoy it later.
    Does this sound like memory hoarding?

    • Ali,

      Yes, this sounds exactly like memory hoarding.

  • Ever since my bro in law passed away 3 years ago my mother in law progressively gets worse and more possessive over objects that used to belong to him, most of it is trash and she’s been hoarding it in her home, stashed all over her place. Even funeral momentos and funeral service schedule. She got mad at me for touching something and almost had anxiety over it. She said “its memory of my son” although it’s just an old ordinary sunglass case Even her physical, mental and emotional state has declined further each year, hyper sensitive over all this stuff not only from her deceased son but material belongings of another grown child of hers who is alive and left his junk that’s mostly trash in her home.

    • Vee,

      Two thoughts…

      1) What you consider to be junk, your mother-in-law may view as meaningful mementos of her son. It’s not like she is collecting bottle tops or empty food containers. She is collecting things related to her dead son.

      2) Memory hoarding is a variant of OCD in which a person obsesses that they have not remembered things perfectly and completely. I don’t see that here. I see a woman overcome with grief. I suggest that you gently encourage her to seek grief counseling.

  • After reading the article and comments I believe I suffer from memory hoarding. And bc I want to hold on to whatever is happening right now so bad I’ve developed some other behaviours that I feel shame about: I take a lot pics, videos and voice memo conversations. While that’s happening in my head is “I hope I set it correctly and nothing is lost” “Hope no one finds out”. I hate it ’cause this makes me unable to be fully present on the thinks that matter. When not doing it I’d be trying to remember everything as clear as possible to write it aferwords… the feelings I had, the phrases that were spoken, what I saw and so on… All this takes time, digital storage and it’s mentally draining…

    • Rose,

      What you describe sounds like classic Memory Hoarding. I encourage you to accept that it is ok if some things/memories/thoughts will get “lost”. I assure you that losing these things/memories/thoughts will almost certainly be less than catastrophic.

      If you find yourself unable to make the leap into acceptance of loss, then I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

  • Hi, I feel like I may have memory hoarding but I’m not sure? I always feel like I have to rememember specific details regarding my girlfriend, such as her face, her body, conversations and even like sexual experiences. I think this is because I am anxious of her leaving and have a fear of forgetting. This is usually triggered also by pictures, as instead of just seeing a picture I’ll try and obsessively visualise her in real life?

    I also have a blind spot in both eyes, this does not effect my memory I don’t think but it causss anxiety that it does? Is this all memory hoarding?

    • Will,

      This sounds like Memory Hoarding to me. As for the blind spots in each eye, I doubt that they have much (if anything) to do with your fears and doubts.

      • Thankyou for the reply! Do you think I should try and resist the urge of forcing myself to remember these exact details all the time, even if I have a fear of forgetting them?

        • Will,

          Yes, resisting the urge to force yourself to remember is crucial. The attempt to force yourself to remember is a compulsion, and it IS the problem.

  • Thank you so much. It’s incredible to read and relate to this article & finally feel like there’s something to call my seemingly insane behaviors. Now I have starting point from Which to hopefully regain control. I greatly appreciate having found this article. Thank you.

  • I can only describe my current problem as trying to ‘figure things out completely’.
    When I’m watching a movie and I can’t quite understand exactly what is happening or how it has happened.
    Or something may just trigger a thought e.g. if someone my age announces they are getting married, this will lead me to analyse my age, my situation, my past experiences, my background, when I should get married. i have to think through this whole process multiple times till I am satisfied that I have properly figured out my current situation
    Or things like how today’s generation is different from my parents completely random things I feel I have to analyse and think about fully to the point of figuring it out.
    Is this rumination or memory hoarding?

    • Bill,

      This all sounds like memory hoarding to me.

      You say that you are “trying to figure things out completely”. But the world does not need to be figured out completely, and your efforts to analyze things that do not warrant analysis are only making you unhappy.

      I encourage you to do the following:

      1) Stop the compulsive analysis.

      2) Accept things at face-value.

  • Hello, your input would be appreciated.
    Lately ive been trying to remember someone i briefly knew 15 years ago or so. The fact i cannot remember the details and unable to contact them has caused a lot of anxiety. When i am calm i clearly understand that this is not of importance but fkr some reason its causing anxiety. Any tips

    • Henry,

      As you have noted, when you are calm, you clearly understand that these thoughts are not of importance. But looking for a reason why the thoughts cause you anxiety at other times is a waste of time. They cause you anxiety because you have OCD. No further analysis is needed or helpful. When anxious about these thoughts, remind yourself that the thoughts are not important, and get back to doing whatever it is that you were doing before the unimportant thought hijacked your consciousness.

  • Dear Sir/Madam.

    Whenever I come across an ad on YouTube and mistakenly pressed Skip Ad, I always want to retrieve the ad through triggering the same ad again. The ad has no value but I over-spend a lot of time trying to repeat the same actions in hope that the same ad appear so I can copy the url and save it for later use (which is rarely do).

    How should I treat this?

    Kind regards,

    • Hi G,

      Here is exactly how you should treat this:

      Stop trying to retrieve the ad. Accept the discomfort and get on with your day.

  • Hi, after reading this article, I believe I may have memory hoarding. For me everytime I read a comment in the YouTube comment section or even Reddit, and after a few days have passed, I would recall the comment that I read and try to remember it exactly/precisely as it was. It could also be what someone said in a video. What happens after is I would get really anxious about it and would try to remember which video or post that it came from and then go through my history to find it(which takes hours and sometimes I don’t find it) and I would bookmark the page if I find it. It also manifests in other ways, like hoarding tabs and taking pictures but i never open them in the end. I am aware I should not give in to it but it’s hard. any tips?

    • Janne,

      You ask for tips, so here goes…

      You perfectly described the best tip there is when you wrote “I am aware I should not give in to it”. The best response to all urges to do compulsions is to “not give into it”.

  • When I’m reading a book or watching a film or listening to a podcast, I can’t help but compulsively reread sentences or paragraph or replay scenes repeatedly because I’m afraid of not remembering the information being passed across or that I’m not present enough to retain it.

    I get so uncomfortable moving on without rewinding or retreading and I’m not sure how to break this pattern because it feels like I waste a lot of time doing it.

    • Stephanie,

      Being “afraid of not remembering” is the primary obsessive fear for those who experience Memory Hoarding. The way to break this pattern is to tolerate the discomfort of possibly not remembering without “rewinding or retreading”. This will be uncomfortable at first, but by accepting discomfort without compulsively seeking to escape from it, we learn that we can tolerate the discomfort far better than we realize.

  • Hi, sometimes when browsing through the TV channels in the evening I try to remember everything that I have seen even if for only a minute or two, I have taken to writing it down now and feel crazy for doing so because I know it’s not important yet if I don’t it leaves me uneasy and restless when I go to bed.

    • Richard,

      What you are describing sounds exactly like Memory Hoarding. The writing down of unimportant things you have seen on TV is a compulsion that you are doing in an effort to avoid feeling “uneasy and restless”.

      As an alternative, I encourage you to accept feeling “uneasy and restless” without writing anything down. While at first the discomfort may be uncomfortable, you will likely discover that you can tolerate the unpleasant feelings. If you do this consistently, you will probably lose interest in writing down all of the unimportant things you have seen on TV.

  • I am a graduate student at University of North Texas who had moved from Florida. There are a few things that I can’t remember from my home. One of them is whether or not a stage crew member was given a bio on one of my elementary school musical theater programs. I regret not looking at the program while I was at home at any time. Two other things that I can’t remember distinctively are who was on my elementary school’s basketball team one year and how my old stuffed panda’s smile was shaped.

    • Eric,

      Your concern with these specific memories sounds like memory hoarding to me. TNone of the things that you mention sound worthy of very much attention.

  • Does memory hoarding manifest itself as keeping *objects/things in addition to trying to preserve a moment in my mind? My partner keeps clothing from past careers, his mother’s complete China collection, candles from his father’s memorial service, pens from restaurants or hotels he liked, and boxes and boxes of memories that he never opens but wants to keep close. Moving homes is a nightmare because he’s trying to keep track of what’s in every box, and where each box is stored/how its moved. He refuses to seek help because he sees nothing wrong with this. What help can I offer him?

    • Cathy,

      Memory Hoarding refers to the active effort to preserve and control one’s memories. Keeping material objects such as clothes, pens, candles, etc. sounds like it may be a symptom of traditional hoarding.

      That said, it is worth noting that keeping things that hold sentimental value is not necessarily hoarding. The real issue is whether the saving of these items is interfering in a person’s life. I have pictures going back to childhood. That is not hoarding. Likewise, I kept my mother’s car for years after she died, and even spent lots of money to maintain it, but that was not hoarding. Her car was meaningful to me. It was the car in which I learned to drive at age 16, and it reminded me of my mother. Keeping it, despite the cost, was not hoarding.

      • I’m afraid my brother has started to develop a strong case of Memory Hoarding OCD. It started around 1 year ago, he is 24, is it normal to develop symptoms this late?
        He writes everything he sees and hears on his computer, phone, or notebook. Even asks to borrow my parents phones to write on them and to help him search something to write about. His writings aren’t meaningful, just barely tied together sentences with many typos.
        He tries to hear other conversations so he can write them. During our conversations he sometimes asks to repeat ourselves multiple times, claiming he didn’t hear it, but I believe it’s caused by the OCD.
        (Continues below)

      • He replays something he sees on TV multiple times before moving on.
        We found many photos and videos of random things that he took. When my parent deleted them all, my brother got really upset.
        We have talked to him about his condition multiple times, telling him it’s not normal behaviour. He doesn’t fully acknowledge he has a problem when we talk to him about it, but I know he is aware of it. I got him to say he does all this things to better remember later.
        I’m worried about his condition as it’s only getting worse with time. And I want to help him get better.
        We are not in a financial position to easily get professional treatment, is there anything we can do at home to help him before seeking professional help?
        Thank you.

        • Hi Daniel,

          Thank you for your comment and so sorry to hear that your brother is having hard time with his memory hoarding. Looks like he might also be doing some digital hoarding. Actually, the typical age for OCD/OCD Spectrum Disorders to appear is in young adults, as well as in teens and young children. So he’s right there being 24.

          It can be really difficult for families to go through seeing their loved one suffer with hoarding. Often out of trying to help, a family member might try to stop the compulsions and throw out objects and/or interrupt any ritual, often leading to conflict due to the suffering feeling completely overwhelmed.

          Treatment can be so expensive, especially given the specialty of hoarding disorder. So I would start with going to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), they are a great source of information, and also can help with finding treatment. In addition, just getting some good books on the subject is a good place to start. You can be really helpful by assisting him, and these resources could be very helpful in working together to start to bring some help.

          Thank you very much, and best to you and your brother. Wishing you both on well on your journey forward!


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    A review of the 2009 Obsessive Compulsive Foundation conference. […]
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  • New Trichotillomania Research
    A look at recent research related to Trichotillomania. From the OCD Center of Los Angeles. […]
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  • Parenting a Child With OCD
    Parenting any child is a full-time job. But parenting a child with OCD can be particularly challenging. From the OCD Center of Los Angeles. […]
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  • Social Anxiety in Baseball
    A look at the recent rash of pro baseball players struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder. […]
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  • Michael Jackson and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
    A look at the sad tale of Michael Jackson and his mental health issues. […]
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  • OCD and the Swine Flu
    The past few months have seen an avalanche of news stories on the Swine Flu, despite its relatively low impact in the US. […]
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  • Meet the OCD Center of Los Angeles Staff
    Meet the OCD Center of Los Angeles Staff […]
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  • Welcome to the OCD Center of Los Angeles Blog
    Welcome to the OCD Center of Los Angeles Blog […]
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OCD Center of Los Angeles