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

they were 15 or 16. Sixty percent were female.

On average, volunteers spent a good three to eight hours a day preoccupied with negative thoughts about their perceived odor. Many also engaged in repetitive activities (perhaps using an entire bar of soap in a day) for hours each day. Eighty-five percent were convinced that their beliefs were completely accurate, even though no one else agreed, Phillips said, and three-quarters felt that others were noticing them because of their "smell."

"If someone rubs their nose because of an allergy or opens a door, they misinterpret that to think they stink," Phillips explained.

Three-quarters of the participants were certain they had bad breath. Other sources of perceived odor included sweat (65 percent), armpits (60 percent) and genitals (35 percent).

Ninety-five percent practiced at least one compulsive behavior on a daily basis because of this conviction. Eighty percent smelled themselves continually, 68 percent showered obsessively and 50 percent changed clothing repeatedly. Many used powder or perfume (sometimes even drinking the perfume), deodorant, gum and other products to rid themselves of the scent. One individual actually had their tonsils removed, thinking this would take care of the perceived bad breath.

The syndrome also left many people isolated, with three-quarters saying they avoided social interactions because of the "smell" and 40 percent reporting having been housebound for at least a week. More than two-thirds had contemplated suicide, one-third had attempted suicide and more than half had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons.

Many also had major depressive disorder and social phobia.

Despite the psychological ramifications of the disorder, 44 percent sought non-psychiatric treatment, such as dentists or dermatologists.

The majority (85 percent) said they could actually smell themselves -- an "olfactory hallucination."


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