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Olfactory Reference Syndrome



Katharine A. Phillips

, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College;

Dan J. Stein

, MD, PhD, University of Cape Town

Last full review/revision Sep 2018| Content last modified Sep 2018
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In olfactory reference syndrome, people are preoccupied with the belief that they give off an unpleasant, foul-smelling, or offensive body odor when in fact they do not.

People with olfactory reference disorder believe that they have an offensive body odor even though they do not. This belief causes them significant distress and usually makes them less able to function—for example, by preventing them from going out in public. Olfactory reference syndrome is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Usually, people with olfactory reference syndrome repeatedly do certain things, such as showering excessively, brushing their teeth, or smelling themselves, in response to this preoccupation. These people often use perfume or deodorant to try to cover up the odor that they think they have. They may also think that others are sitting far away, covering their noses, or taking special notice of them in a negative way because of the perceived odor.

Treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or clomipramine (types of antidepressant) may help. An antidepressant may be used alone or with one of these drugs.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy similar to that used for body dysmorphic disorder may be helpful.

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