False memory OCD


I've been having false memory OCD. It usually starts with "maybe I did something horrible and I don't remember" this relates to any type of harm. Then my mind will remember something, some time where I'm unsure of what happened when I was with someone, etc. I've been in therapy for a long time, never recovered. I started to do Ali's stuff because its free and it started to work.

Anyway the OCD was going away and all of a sudden I have a horrible dream that I harmed someone. I don't want to get into details, but now my mind is stuck on this and going over the entire time I was with that person. I keep thinking "what if this dream is actually a memory" The more I try to remember details around it, the more I keep having thoughts come up like, hmm maybe this happened....and then my brain goes YEA! that seems familiar.

So now I have these false memories, some seem more familiar than others, but they feel so real, feels like a good possibility they happened. when i imagine it i get this horrible familiarity feeling and dread and guilt and disgust. So the thing I'm so upset about is that it seems familiar and I'm so worried it is not OCD. I have ruminated before and remembered things correctly, like sometimes i'll have bad OCD about something and then finally remember something releiving, like I didn't do the horrible thing, I was just having OCD thoughts back then that's why it felt familiar. so how do I know if this is a correct detail or not? The thing I am worried about happened about 16-17 years ago. Will I know when I recover that I didn't do this? If i did do it I will not be able to live with myself

Is it normal for false memories to feel like possible real memories and seem familiar? I think I need to believe this before I can get back to a place where I can stop ruminating. my mind wants to keep trying to remember it correctly. I'm so upset that I let my mind even get into this one because now I have all this horrible details that seem like they could be real, like i could have possibly done the horrible thing. I feel like all these details and the possibility of them being real will haunt me my whole life.

I've never seen anyone describe false memories as actually feeling or seeming "familar" (however I still have a lot of doubt). Most ppl seem convinced they just made them up but they just "feel" real. So if anyone experience is similar would really appreciate your input. I know i'll have to start reducing but atm I feel like I can't. especially when I couldn't live with myself.





ive suffered with Pure O OCD myself in various forms over the years since I was 13 (I am now 22). The most recent spike of mine was centred around false memories and so I feel as someone who has now come out at the other side of it I can at least offer you some reassurance. 

I know what I’m going to say could be seen as too hard to do or misunderstanding of your pain- but I hope that you can follow what I say with the trust that I now am in a clearer state of mind, have reflected on my false memories, and have a completely new outlook on their truth and meaning. I imagine you like me, try to imagine what future you who is “better” would do or think about your current situation -and I’m here to resemble his/her voice.
Nothing I could say will get rid of the anxiety produced by your current obsession with false memory over night as unfortunate as that sounds. The truth is, the persistent energy and time you’ve fed into this cycle of fear (through no fault of your own OCD is terrifying) means that your brain has rewired itself as to respond more frequently and urgently to thoughts associated with the themes you fear at the moment. You may of already read up about it this - but in case you haven’t, the term is known as “neuroplasticity” if you wanted to look it up for yourself. During spikes of OCD the brain morphes into a state that not only responds eagerly to OCD thoughts, but in turn itself produces them, to a point of needing constant habitual attention. However, as daunting as this might seem, there is a shining silver lining to this as there almost always is. 

So let’s say  Your brain may have made the mistake of responding too eagerly the first time you had a false memory ocd thought, and because your brain is essentially being over-protective and believes it must respond to your fears to keep you safe, you have since spiraled into a sort of automatic software to attend to ocd fears (whatever they may be - in this case the worry of a dream being true) daily, to the point where you feel you have no control over it and it has become pure habit. The thought of your brain being so easily rewired might be scary and depressing, but the silver lining is that it is just as easily flipped into a healthy system of thinking- which will also become habitual and effortless, just as your distress has come to be. It is reassuring, or at least was for me, that my brain is like putty in a sense, and the way you feel now can literally change dramatically by means of behavioural changes. Also, it’s reassuring to me that when you’re really in the depths of ocd, you are almost at the hands of neuroplasticity in terms of your anxiety right now- as you’re original fear is so far away from your now habitual fear to check if your bad memories are real- so the blame almost goes to science rather than yourself.

So how do you change or re-wire your brain? The best and quickest way is by changing your behaviour. It’s garunteed that if you do not feed into the behaviour which satisfies your ocd worries (seeking reassuring, checking, cleaning, ect) that over time your brain will learn it does not need to respond to your state of panic, and make a new pathway for a and healthy and reasonable reaction to the thought. During this time, thoughts will lessen in frequency with the lessening of urgency, and after a while you’ll forget your worries. This might seem really far away for you, and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t afford or get access to therapy quick enough myself and so can only attribute my latest recovery to an increase in my medication. But whether it’s with the help of a therapist or a change in medication, true change can only come when you have the courage to stop doing what you’ve been doing for so long. 

I responded because your comment that you think you need to believe that it’s possible for false memories to feel super real for your ruminations to stop, but I’m sorry to tell you I don’t think this would help. The mere knowledge that 1) false memory ocd exists, 2) in the particular way you experience it, and 3) you haven’t done anything wrong and are safe will most likely not be enough to stop your ocd.  The panic response does not respond to reason - that’s why we struggle so much! People with ocd are the best reasoners in the world and if anyone could solve ocd with means of reason - it would have definitely been us. You are aware ocd false memories are a thing as you’ve posted this, and that wasn’t enough to satisfy your rationale because ocd sneaks into any nook and cranny possible! It will do it’s absolute best to convince you that what you’re experiencing isn’t like what others experience, that you’re actually a horrible person, who has done something dreadfully wrong. 

as for my own false memories, I look back now and can say with complete certainty that if I could go back I would give myself a massive hug and tell myself that it’s okay. Anyone who ruminates for as long as we do would worry! The details I thought were so real I now look back on and see as an unfortunate conclusion to a week long of overthinking. I don’t believe any of my false memories now - even tho at the time they were so vivid. Also - I’m sure whatever way you think your bad, a person who is bad like that wouldn’t worry like you have.

So you can know that your brain is just failing you in being the over-protective best friend, have all the tools to fix the problem, and still be absolutely terrified because one thing is stopping you- the fear that if  you don’t attend to the thoughts like you should, then something bad might happen I.e you’re actually a bad person, actually did something bad in the past ect.

I once read about an ocd physiatrist who would get to a point with his patients where they had all the tools and knowledge to tackle their ocd themes, but were too scared to do so for the risks it posed. For example,  a mother with the harm ocd might say “I want to get better but I’m scared if I don’t hide all the dressing gown ties in my house each night I could kill my kids in my sleep” the psychiatrist responds to this universally by entrusting the patient with the blame himself. Meaning, any bad that comes from taking this risk is on him. If the mothers kids die, he is to blame. He says to this day, he has not had one single case of this gone wrong, as people with ocd are at the core of their being the least likely people to Do/be what they fear so much- that’s why it bothers us so much ! 

so I’m here to suggest if you need that final push, to have one night for you. I’m here to reassure you that I 1000% believe you’re not a bad person, you’re memories aren’t real, and you’re just having a really hard time at the minute. My advice is to just surrender to it, let it all in, allow the possibility of your thoughts being true and say so what- for the sake of you and you’re sanity. You’re a person so worthy of happiness,  and is trying their best. Give yourself one night off and please remember to be kind, here if you need anything else answering x 


Becky xxx


Thanks for the reply Becky. I know it wont go away by simply believing the false memories feel real, but that helps me to believe it is OCD so I can treat it like OCD. If you don't believe its OCD then its very hard to stay strong with therapy. (in my experience anyway) and I fall back into rumination. I think I have to just take a chance like ali says. My OCD got much much better for a few months and when it snuck its way in again I started doing compulsions instead of ERP. Now I am here. I hope I can dig myself out of this. It's been a horrible Christmas 🙁 

Anyway thank you for the kind words. I realize feeling real and familiar is basically the same thing lol so my brain was just wanting reassurance. Merry Christmas 🙂


Hello. Have suffered from false memory OCD for several years. Recently, the okr got caught up in the topic: "suddenly I attacked a man." This thought came first in the process when I was writing the letter. I realized that I didn’t remember leaving the apartment, I don’t remember picking up the keys. The next days I pondered this thought, I was in great excitement in a state that suddenly I attacked someone. Reflecting on the thought, I imagined the thought that suddenly I wanted to attack, the thought immediately came to my mind that suddenly I just started, because I had such a thought, but I understood that I was imagining the thought, but I do not remember leaving. The next day I thought about a thought, imagined something and the thought immediately came to my mind that I suddenly attacked, but I realized that I did not remember leaving the apartment. There was a thought in my head that I suddenly hid the man in the attic, but I realized that only the neighbors had the keys to him, I realized that I did not take the keys. The next day I sat up in the evening, listened to music and thought about the past thought, I realized that I did not remember attacking, but scenarios came into my head that suddenly I forgot, suddenly I hid a man in the attic, suddenly they found him there and something made and now it is not there. Suddenly, I can’t prove in any way that this was not the case. I was thinking about the past situation. I remember restarting my phone and listening to music. I don't remember exactly what happened next, but the thought came to my mind that suddenly I attacked, suddenly I attacked, because I was suppressed by the past thought, suddenly I was in such a state, but I photographed that I was sitting on the sofa and did not remember, to leave. But in my head there was a thought that suddenly I attacked. I realized that I was probably listening to music and perhaps imagined a thought, after which the thought came that I suddenly attacked, but I realized that I did not remember exactly that time, suddenly at that time I was upset and attacked someone. It was 4 in the morning. I understood that most likely the door to the attic was closed, but the thought came to my mind that suddenly the neighbors had forgotten to close it that very evening (although I understand that this is strange and the door was hardly closed), I understand that I do not remember I don’t remember any people, I don’t remember being in the attic, I don’t remember attacking, but in my head the thought that I don’t remember how the thought came that I suddenly attacked. Suddenly I was upset by the past thought and suddenly attacked. But I realized that it was not possible to imagine a thought and the thought came to my mind that suddenly I was attacked, but the thought was constantly in my head that suddenly I could attack. I would like to hear your opinion. Is this a manifestation of false memory OCD? How can this type of OCD be treated? Okr is trying to impose on me feelings that suddenly I’m not like that, that suddenly I did it, it’s hard for me to think about something other than this situation, the feeling that I need to check the attic to see if there is someone there, but I understand that this will be a conviction, i.e. ritual and it won't solve OCD. But I am worried that I could suddenly do something. Thank you for understanding.


@hope I want to give you a virtual hug. I suffer from false memory OCD as well and when I read your post and got to the line "...and then my brain goes YEA! that seems familiar" I laughed. I laughed because my OCD says the exact same thing. And then I ruminate on "Oh gosh! Why did my brain just say that feels familiar or you're remembering something?" But the truth is, it is a false feeling just like all the other false feelings OCD gives. I think a lot of why our brains will say "that feels familiar" is because we ruminate on the same thoughts or similar thoughts over and over. And as you said, "that feels familiar" is a lot like "that feels real". It is simply a manifestation of OCD. The more we ruminate, the more convoluted the thoughts get. I am struggling currently to stop ruminating on my many false memory OCD thoughts, but I can tell you that the ones I have stepped back from seem so ridiculous to me now. Isn't it funny how despite knowing this, I still struggle to step away from the ones my OCD is currently stuck on. It just goes to show this is OCD. Our brains get sticky. You are a good person, I am a good person. This is OCD. Lets stop giving it power. And when you are working hard every second of your day to fight this disorder and not ruminate, know that I am doing the same somewhere in this world. We can be anxious together so we can overcome this together. You got this, I got this. Lets beat this stupid disorder.

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