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OCD, Anxiety and working memory

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Hello there,

According to the Cognitive Load Theory the learning procedure is a constant activity enabling the Working Memory (which is limited) and the Long Term Memory (which is theoretically unlimited). 

A lot of research has shown that there is a link between Working Memory deficit and OCD or anxiety. This affects severely the Learning Process making difficult to the sufferers to perform closely to their capacity.

So having in mind that in most cases of OCD there is also an Anxiety Disorder and a Panic Disorder there is more deficit to Working Memory.

During all my entire life I have been witnessing all this as an interference, a cognitive "noise" or intrusive thoughts which caused a terrible loss of concentration during a lecture or a conversation.

This keeps happening even if you take medication. 

OCD / Anxiety Disorder / Panic Disorder, our kind of HELL...

Edited by diomedes

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Hmm... :dry:

In essence you're saying there's a lot of evidence that people who are distracted by intrusive thoughts and ruminations have less effectice working memory. Hardly surprising as the processes used to form short term memories are the same as those used in mental compulsions like checking and mental rituals. Add to that how anxiety interferes with short term menmory function and of course learning is affected. 

But all you're saying is that people with OCD will find it difficult to perform close to their maximum capability while they are distracted by their thoughts and compulsions. Well doh! :doh: So...we learn to overcome the compulsuions and are then able to reach our full potential. :) 

Rather than get sidetracked by how memory defecit happens, take it as a no-brainer reason to work on beating your OCD and anxiety!

Of course it's frustrating to have that 'noise' in your head. But you CAN overcome it. My advice is to put your energy into researching how to stop the distracting noise instead of reading up on how OCD stops you functioning at your best. Medication won't stop the 'noise', you need CBT to learn how to switch it off. 


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Quite a technical subject Diomedes. A great source of information about working memory is on the Simply Psychologisite where there are video explanations of the theory made by Alan Baddeley who initiated the theory. I am dubious whether OCD necessarily restricts our memory in terms of the visual spatial sketch pad not sure about the functioning of the phonological loop.

It is common to distrust visual memories in checking. That is why I used to repeatedly check things.

But I think it is more a matter of distrusting long term memory in OCD. Remember that we are talking about very short periods for working memory.

My therapist said that distrusting memory is a common theme in OCD but there is no evidence for it. What is your evidence? And what is your evidence about the phonological loop?  It lasts for a couple of seconds until it goes to the central executive.

Edited by Angst

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