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You believe that you had replied to a text that one of your friends had sent you, but then you take the phone and find that you did not. This is what is called false memories OCD. It causes a person to have obsessive thoughts around a memory or event that in reality, didn’t actually happen. 

It is not that they have a bad memory power, but simply, it means that some people might remember an event differently from how it actually happened. This is common when you incorrectly remember that you put off the TV but might be serious when you falsely remember the details of an accident you witnessed. 

Learn more about false memories OCD, why it is caused, how these memories form, and the impact such memories in life can make. 

What is false memory?

A false memory is remembering something that did not actually happen. Part of what you remember might be accurate while other parts won’t be. Or sometimes you might entirely remember it falsely from what had actually happened. It differs from simple memory errors.

false memories OCD formed

False memories sometimes can be more serious and upsetting which includes legal and court settings which may convict someone wrongfully with your false memories. It is actually more than a simple mistake. 

It is unique and represents a unique recollection of something that did not really happen. You cannot simply define it as forgetting or mixing up details that we experience, but the right definition is remembering things that we have never experienced in the first place.  

It is possible to have false memories around traumatic events that didn’t happen or to remember traumatic events differently. It can be a characteristic of mental health conditions like OCD but not everyone with false memories has mental health conditions problems. 

False memories OCD

False memories are not a formal symptom of OCD,  but many people with the disorder of false memory have reported to experienced OCD. False memory OCD is not a separate diagnosis,  and anyone with OCD will experience false memories.  Human Experience pause memories that feel real and will lead you to doubt the memories of important events. 

This makes you to you have lack confidence and will provide you with more false memories.  Sometimes when you do not remember a part of an event, you may fill them with something that makes you fear would happen. For example, you may be feared of saying something to your friend that you really do not want. You would remember that you spoke to your friend but you can’t remember what exactly you said. 

You would start to overthink whether you said something bad when you notice your friend distancing from you. It can cause you to think about events repeatedly a unwantedly and that in turn would increase the doubts about what really happened. 

It would cause you to constantly check on things to get relief.  So when this is going to happen repeatedly,  it means you have false memory OCD which refers to the old CD around false memories.

How are false memories formed? 

How can a person remember something that never actually happened? Memories are complex and are often less precise. We all falsely remember events to an extent but false memory OCD would be beyond that. 

While you sleep, events move from your brain’s temporary memory to permanent storage and during this transition, elements of memory may be lost and this is how false memories form.


Suggestions can play a role in creating false memories in someone with OCD. It is when someone else prompts or questions an event.  For example, someone may ask if the boss gave red files to an employee, and you may say and then correct it as blue when actually he would have not given a file, instead would be papers. 

This is the suggestion they have planted in your memory and it was not real. 


Combining memories of different events to form a singular event is what a person with False Memory OCD is. This is caused by Misattribution. 


It is when you take improper or false information to your mind about an event and your brain convinces you as it actually did occur. As a result, you create a new memory or combine real memories with artificial ones.

Perceptions that are inaccurate

Sometimes you do not remember some parts of the events that happened so you fill the gaps with your own story by creating your own recollections. The brain stores what you give it, so when you give it a false memory, it would store them. 


Emotions play an important role in a moment that would have a significant impact on how and what’s stored as a memory. When you have negative emotions, it can lead to false memories that are positive or neutral emotions. 

Why do you get False memories OCD? 

false memories OCD symptoms

Memory is flexible and often ever-changing. False memories OCD can be developed by certain people or events. 

Aging –  Details about that memory may be lost, when you and your memory age, The point of action of memory becomes stronger, but the details fade away. This includes that you remember you went to a wedding party last year, but you do not remember the hotel, the city you went to, or whose wedding it was. 

Trauma – People who experienced past events of trauma, depression, or stress, may be more likely to produce false memories. Negative events in your life that have affected you more may produce more false memories than positive or neutral ones.

OCD – Individuals who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may have a lack of memory or poor memory confidence. As a result, due to a lack of confidence in their own memories, they may be more likely to create false memories

Eyewitnesses – If you witness a crime or an accident, your evidence is important, but it would not be conclusive because experts and law enforcement officials know memories and recollections can and do change through suggestion or the passage of time. Any gaps in events may be filled in by your memory, turning a reliable recall into a faulty one.

False memory OCD symptoms


Compulsion can be a sign of false memories which are repetitive behavior that you feel like you have to do.  This can be something like checking the locks on the doors multiple times to re-reading a paragraph over and over again. People with this type of OCD will have compulsions that they feel like doing to prevent something bad from happening.

Intrusive thoughts

This is one kind that can lead to false memories OCD where unwanted intrusive thoughts come into your head without you wanting them. It can be about anything that you are worried about. They’re people who have intrusive thoughts about doing something bad without realizing it.

Sleep Changes

changes in sleep patterns cause false memories

Do you know that changing your sleep pattern can be a symptom of false memories? There are many people with this type of OCD who find it hard to sleep. This happens due to the worry and anxiety that comes with the disorder. Maybe it is because you are feeling a compulsion for the need to do. Some find it hard to fall asleep while others wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to fall asleep. 


It is a persistent thought that you cannot be taken out of your head. The obsessions can be based on real events or on made-up scenarios. False memory OCD will make people often obsess over what they may have done in the past but they won’t remember doing.


One of the common symptoms of false memory OCD is Anxiety. This is due to the intrusive thoughts and compulsions that provoke anxiety. It can make it hard to concentrate on anything else or enjoy your life. Many people with this disorder have anxiety about forgetting important things. 

This is also a common symptom of this type of OCD. This disorder makes the person very lonely and causes them to lose interest in things that they used to enjoy. Depression can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning or do anything during the day. 

OCD false memories feel real

OCD false memories feel real

Those who are obsessed with sexual or harmful obsessions,  tend to have false memories in common.  It revolves around committing a crime or a shameful Act.  But no matter what the obsession is, false memories can trim it with OCD.  People who have to suffer from false memory with OCD can have literally any type and there is nothing specifically about the type of false memories. 

It can be focused on long-term memories like thinking back to many years ago and thinking about doing something terrible. You can also be focused on the short-term memories and thinking about an event that you really do not want to, would go over repeatedly in the mind and start to become false memory,  making you picture the details of it and see yourself doing it, which leads do you believe in that you actually did something. 

It can even form after substance use, which is false memory with alcohol or with drugs.  As the individual will not be in full control they might feel that they acted on one of the obsessions and they think that the reason that they do not remember things clearly is because of the substance use. The false memory begins to form and convince themselves that the event must have happened. 

These memories will make you feel like the worst person in the world because of the level of guilt you carry and they will not let your voice out the details of the memory because you might feel ashamed. You might be confused between OCD false memory vs real memory and it would increase doubt and anxiety. 

What to do about False memories? 


Treating false memories whole OCD if possible if you do things that you treat the disorder.  If you learn to manage the symptoms then you might find confidence and reduce obsessions leading to a decrease in false memories. 

Talk therapy can help you in learning to tolerate less engagement in compulsion.  When you talk it out,  it will resist the urge to look for validation and reassurance about something that you cannot remember.

Mental health professional 

You can get help from a mental health professional who would be specialized in OCD. He would be able to make an accurate diagnosis.  You can find out how it is treated and how we can help you. There are communities you can join which would be 24/7 access to personalized self-management.  It would be filled with people who have been through OCD and successfully recovered.


what is False memory

There are strategies that can be done yourself and they would help you to deal with your emotions, and you would be able to avoid situations that induce OCD symptoms, and improve your self-awareness.

Sleeping 8 hours a day, engaging in creativity, eating fresh and healthy foods, meditating, exercising, and engaging in stress management techniques would help you to recover from False memories OCD. 

Make sure to manage the symptoms and then you would be able to come out with OCD. 

Final thoughts

Although false memories seem to be rare, it is there in everyone to some extent. It can be small or serious. It can happen to anyone but the problem is when someone experiences it more than the normal extent.  The good thing is most false memories are harmless and may even become funny when your story conflicts with someone else’s memory of it.

But spending hours of each day carrying out compulsions related to the memory can be an issue causing anxiety and sleep problems, and cause issues both emotionally and physically. It can interfere with daily functioning and cause your mood to drop. The experience of false memory OCD can be very overwhelming and differs on the individual.

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