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Rare Disorder Has People Convinced They Smell Bad
Date:5/25/2010

Sufferers often isolate themselves, consider suicide, study finds

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- New research sheds light on a rare but disabling psychiatric disorder known as olfactory reference syndrome (ORS), where sufferers are convinced that they emit horrible smells and, as a result, often isolate themselves or even attempt suicide.

"Patients suffer tremendously as a result of this false belief, and they appear to be very impaired in terms of functioning and appear to have high rates of suicidality," said Dr. Katharine A. Phillips, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University in Providence. "But ORS is surprisingly minimally studied. It's not a well-known disorder."

Phillips, who is to present her research on the syndrome Tuesday at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual meeting in New Orleans, spoke at a Tuesday teleconference. The APA is considering whether the syndrome deserves to be defined as its own official disorder in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

"ORS has been described around the world for more than a century," Phillips explained. "It consists of a preoccupation with the belief that one emits a foul or offensive body odor which is not perceivable by other people."

Likely cultural standards, especially in earlier times when hygiene was less of a priority, probably also play a role, added Dr. Bryan Page, chairman of anthropology and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

In the United States, where people are very concerned with cleanliness, for instance, the phobia may be more prevalent, he noted.

The study authors analyzed 20 patients with ORS to determine the general characteristics of the disorder.

Patients in the sample were an average of 33.4 years old and, on average, had been suffering from ORS since
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