Prospective memory in obsessive compulsive disorder

People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) experience persistent and distressing thoughts. In most cases, anxiety is relieved by performing repetitive acts, such as washing, checking or counting. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours can occupy so much time that people with OCD have difficulty functioning at work, taking care of themselves and relating to others. At its most extreme, OCD requires hospitalization. Carrie Cuttler is investigating whether impaired prospective memory — the type of memory required to remember an intention such as turning off the stove or taking medications — is linked to compulsive checking. Studies have shown prospective memory is impaired in patients with schizophrenia and depression, but little is known about the influence of anxiety on this type of memory. Carrie’s research could lead to more effective behavioural interventions that reduce the frequency of compulsive checking and improve quality of life for OCD patients.