If You Think You Stink, You May Have ORS
Are you always wondering if you smell bad? Well, maybe you do. But there are some people who are so concerned about their body odors or bad breath that they take things to extremes, like using a whole bar of soap in a several-hour shower, or shutting themselves off from others for fear that they will overwhelm them with their odors.
Dr. Katherine Phillips, a psychiatrist at Brown University has studied this type of pathology, which actually has been given a name: Olfactory Reference Syndrome (ORS). She reported her findings at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday.
Phillips studied 20 patients with ORS and said it wrecked havoc on their lives. Many ORS sufferers "go to see GI doctors, surgeons, or dentists and dermatologists -- one patient in our study had their tonsils removed because they thought that their breath smelled so bad," Phillips said.
Bad breath was reported as the most common fear, but fear of body odor from their armpits or from their genitals was also common. On average, those studied spent between three and eight hours a day thinking about their smell and 40 percent had spent at least a week homebound for fear they smelled.
While some with ORS have been classified as schizophrenic, Phillips said she believes that schizophrenia is a misdiagnosis, and the fact that 15 percent of her study group had considered the possibility they really don't smell seems to confirm that. Instead, she believes that ORS is delusional disorder that should fall in the OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) category.
Phillips says that ORS can be helped if treated with a cognitive behavioral technique called 'exposure and response prevention.' She also said that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be helpful as medication.
ORS is a very serious disability. Though it is suspected that few people have it, ORS is hard to identify because those who have it are always trying to cover it up. People who think they may have olfactory reference syndrome can click HERE to take an online test set up by the OCD Center of Los Angeles.