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Olfactory Reference Syndrome

By Katharine A. Phillips, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College; Assistant Attending Psychiatrist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Dan J. Stein, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cape Town

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.

This syndrome is one of the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders (see Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)). People who have it believe that they have an offensive body odor even though they do not. This belief causes them distress and may make them less able to function—for example, by preventing them from going out in public. Usually, these people repeatedly do certain things, such as showering excessively, brushing their teeth, or smelling themselves, in response to this preoccupation.