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Need-to-Know (or Remember) OCD

What Is Need-to-Know OCD and How Does It Present?

Need-To-Know OCD involves a compulsive need-to-know or remember things. People with this type of OCD may feel the need to make sure they heard things correctly, expressed themselves accurately, or remembered things perfectly.


Need-To-Know OCD makes people extremely detail-orientated – to an extent that is unnecessary and unhelpful. Fairly simple tasks such as writing an email or text message can be overwhelming and difficult for people with this type of OCD because the OCD will make them continuously doubt whether they are expressing themselves accurately.  

It is important to note that the attention to detail does not need to be about everything – the OCD can focus on only specific area(s), e.g., "I need to express myself perfectly when emailing my teachers but not anyone else".

Additionally, people with Need-To-Know OCD may worry about something bad happening because they do not remember something perfectly, which in turn can lead to individuals performing compulsions in an effort to relieve the anxiety and distress. 


Scenario: Selah always checks with several classmates and her teacher that she wrote down the correct homework because she worries she might copy the wrong homework assignment and embarrass herself. Even after checking with several people, Selah’s doubts continue so she checks again at home by texting her classmates.

Although many people with this type of OCD worry about bad things happening, others do not have a specific fear attached to their compulsive need to know or remember.


Scenario: Yoshi feels very uncomfortable unless he can be sure that he heard everything correctly in a conversation. He often replays conversations for several minutes and sometimes even hours in order to make sure that he remembers everything. He also writes detailed notes about his conversations so that he does not forget what was said.


Yoshi does not know why it bothers him so much if he cannot recall conversations perfectly. He hates replaying conversations and taking notes about them; however, he continues to do these behaviors because he feels incredibly uncomfortable otherwise.

Need-to-Know (or Remember) OCD Compulsions

Compulsions are anything that people with OCD do to relieve the anxiety and distress brought on by their intrusive thoughts (i.e., obsessions, worries). The variations of compulsions are endless and vary from person to person, which makes it impossible to include examples of all possible compulsions in this guide. Below is a selection of examples illustrating a range of ways Need-to-Know OCD compulsions present.

Examples of Need-to-Know (or Remember) OCD Compulsions:

Excessive list-making or note-taking to make sure you do not forget anything.


Checking lists multiple times to make sure you do not forget anything.


Taking photos so you can look back and correctly remember details of a situation.


Over-thinking or over-planning future conversations, emails, or texts to make sure you are expressing yourself accurately.


Re-reading things to make sure you read or understood them correctly.


Replaying conversations so you do not forget what happened.


Asking questions even when knowing the answers to get reassurance that you

remembered the information correctly.


Providing too much detail when speaking to make sure others are getting all the information and understanding you correctly.


Needing to do certain rituals because of the fear of not knowing and remembering correctly.

(e.g., Blinking rapidly 10 times before going to bed due to worries that your

memories will be erased if you do not do this ritual)


Recording conversations so you can listen back to remember all the details.


Taking supplements or doing brain exercises to make sure that your memory stays sharp.

Help for Need-to-Know (or Remember) OCD

Constantly worrying about knowing and remembering things can be exhausting and torturous. It can feel very uncomfortable or scary to not give into OCD’s demands for certainty, but there are specific therapeutic approaches to help you learn how to let go of being controlled by OCD. The gold-standard treatment for OCD is a type of behavioral intervention called exposure therapy. In addition to exposures, there are also other highly effective acceptance-based interventions that complement exposure therapy for OCD. 

We hope that this guide has helped you to better understand Need-to-Know OCD.

You do not need to live a life overwhelmed and controlled by OCD. Equipping yourself with practical information for treating OCD and learning how to respond to OCD in an effective way can be life changing. Oftentimes, people unknowingly engage in actions that feed the OCD cycle

If you would like to learn more in-depth information about OCD treatment and recovery, you are welcome to read our Educational Guides on exposure therapy and other acceptance-based interventions for OCD:

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