Exploring the cognitive impact of OCD


Exploring the cognitive impact of OCD

Having previously written on the impact that executive functioning can have on an individual, it would be beneficial to unpack this slightly further. Executive functioning impairments can be seen in a number of different psychiatric conditions, with one of those being OCD. OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, and is a condition where people experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. It is a common mental health condition, however, can have a significant impact on an individual’s wellbeing and daily functioning.

As mentioned, the two main features of OCD are obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts that are unwanted and unpleasant, that can make you feel anxious or distressed. Compulsions are a result of the thoughts and are actions or mental acts that you feel you must do, in order to reduce the feelings brought on by the obsessions. The combination of the obsessions and compulsions can make it extremely difficult for individuals to carry out their daily lives, and can make work, relationships, etc. hard to maintain. One of the impacts found in individuals with OCD is difficulty with various domains of cognitive functioning. A significant amount of research has been carried out to explore exactly what cognitive mechanisms are impacted, and visuospatial memory and executive functioning appear to be the mechanisms most affected. Visuospatial memory is a form of short-term memory, that manipulates the visual information stored in the brain, in order to process information. Executive functioning is a process that allows us to plan, focus, multitask etc. effectively. For more detailed information on executive functioning, our previous blog unpacks the topic further.

Executive functioning can play a role in both obsessions and compulsions. Executive functions control our attentional processes, and in OCD, individuals have difficulty switching their attention away from these obsessive thoughts. Therefore, it can be seen that executive functioning is implicated here. Furthermore, individuals with OCD have been found to struggle more with their visuospatial memory when compared against individuals without an OCD diagnosis.

By visiting the London Neurocognitive Clinic, we can carry out a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment, where we test numerous cognitive functions, including visuospatial memory and executive function. Therefore, we can understand exactly where you are experiencing difficulties, and also where you show particular strengths. By carrying out this assessment, we can develop a bespoke neurorehabilitation plan that can target the areas you are struggling with and can help you restore good daily functioning!

Therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have been proven to be extremely effective in reducing symptoms of OCD. CBT aims to tackle the anxiety and distress that comes alongside the obsessions, and as such, can help to reduce the compulsion to carry out the associated act. The cognitive deficits can also improve as a consequence of CBT, however other strategies can also be implemented to support cognitive functioning. For example, breaking large amounts of information into smaller chunks can help your visuospatial memory to work more effectively, as can creating checklists, to support your memory. Therefore, by visiting our clinic, we can help you navigate the difficulties associated with OCD and provide treatment to improve your overall quality of life.

Schedule a Callback

    Free Consultation

    Fill out the form below to receive a free and confidential initial consultation with a callback.