The essential distinguishing characteristic of Olfactory Reference Syndrome (ORS) is the excessive, irrational fear that one is emitting a foul or unpleasant odor. The obsession may be an exaggerated, disproportionate concern with a natural body smell, or may involve an entirely imagined odor. ORS goes beyond normal concern with one's hygiene, and may significantly impair academic and professional functioning, as well as interpersonal relationships. In extreme cases, individuals with ORS may quit work and avoid social situations in an effort to avert the embarrassment they imagine they will experience when others detect the alleged odor.
Common ORS obsessions include:
Exaggerated fear of having extremely bad breath
Thoughts of having a foul, noticeable anal odor
Belief in having a foul, noticeable vaginal odor
Fear of having a foul overall Body Odor
Fear of having an unnatural, non-human or chemical odor
Believing others' behaviors or comments are related to the imagined odor (e.g., another's cough, sneeze, or turning of the head is due to the alleged odor)
Compulsive ORS behaviors include:
Repetitive showering and other grooming behaviors
Excessive use of deodorants, perfumes, and mouthwash
Repeatedly checking the source of the alleged odor
Seeking reassurance from others that there is no odor
Avoidance of social situations for fear that others will notice the smell
Multiple visits to doctors regarding the odor
As demonstrated above, ORS has obsessive-compulsive features that are quite similar to both OCD and BDD. In fact, ORS is considered by many to be a sub-type of BDD, and does not currently exist as a separate diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Regardless of the diagnostic terminology used, it is important to note that the cyclical process by which the symptoms in this disorder intensify is the same as in OCD and BDD. To learn more about this process, click here.
Because of these similarities, the same techniques that are so effective in treating OCD are utilized in the treatment of ORS. The primary treatment is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). For more information on this treatment, click here.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, and would like to discuss treatment of Olfactory Reference Syndrome at the OCD Center of Los Angeles, you can call us at (310) 335-5443, or click here to email us. If you live outside Southern California, we recommend that you contact a licensed Cognitive-Behavioral therapist in your local area.