Prospective memory and OCD

Did I lock the front door?

Did I lock the front door? I have said this to myself many times.  If I am feeling particularly distracted then it wont be unusual that I will check the front door.  If I had OCD I might check it multiple times even when the first check confirmed it was locked.  Memory is not perfect and it has been a theory that poor memory contributes to OCD.  There is some evidence that some kind of memory related mechanism plays a role in OCD.  Research shows that nonverbal and personal action memory do appear to be reduced in people with OCD .  Unlike nonverbal memory, verbal memory has not consistently been found to be affected in people with OCD.   The focus of memory research, especially for OCD checkers, has been focused on the ability to recell things in the past (retrospective memory).  Lena Jelinek and her coworkers explored if people with OCD experienced problems with memorising things in the future.  This is called prospective memory.

It turns out that people with OCD generally have no problem memorising things in the future.  This is a little odd.  You would expect that past and future memory recall would be equally affected.  This raises the possibility that the memory processes might be working OK but something else is happening that makes it look like a memory problem.

Jelinek and fellow researchers suggest that things might get scrambled by memories management by the executive functioning areas or by the effects of depression which frequently goes hand-in-hand with OCD.  They also suggest that people with OCD tend to exhibit perfectionist traits and their self-reported poor memory is not a good objective measure of memory performance.

 

Reference:

JELINEK, L., MORITZ, S., HEEREN, D., & NABER, D. (2006). Everyday memory functioning in obsessive– compulsive disorder. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 12(5), 746-749. doi:10.1017/S1355617706060899