Phobias Types Olfactory Reference Syndrome Characteristics and Treatment By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 30, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Symphonie / The Image Bank / Getty Images Similar but not identical to bromidrophobia, or the fear of body odor, and the Japanese Jiko-shu-kyofu, olfactory reference syndrome refers to a preoccupation with one's own natural scents. The differences between the three disorders are subtle and often confusing. What Is Olfactory Reference Syndrome? If you have olfactory reference syndrome, you are constantly afraid of emitting a foul odor. Olfactory reference syndrome generally focuses on one of a few specific obsessions, although some people have more than one obsession simultaneously. Your particular obsession may also change over time. Bad breathVaginal scentAnal odorArmpit smellOverall foul bodily stenchChemical aromaBelief that others are reacting to your scent Although everyone reacts slightly differently, most people with olfactory reference syndrome experience at least some of the following symptoms: Repetitive showering and other hygiene behaviorsOver-use of grooming productsRepeated checking behaviorsAsking friends or relatives about the seriousness of the odorAvoiding social situations due to a fear of emitting an odorMissing work or school because of the fearSuicidal ideation If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Olfactory Reference Syndrome vs. Bromidrophobia Compulsive grooming rituals are common in both disorders. The main difference is that people with bromidrophobia do not tend to develop a particular obsession. In bromidrophobia, the fear is more generalized, while in olfactory reference syndrome, it is more specific. Additionally, some people with bromidrophobia fear body odors in others as well as themselves. Olfactory Reference Syndrome vs. Jiko-shu-kyofu Olfactory reference syndrome currently appears in DSM-5 under “Other Specified Obsessive Compulsive Disorders” as Jikoshu-kyofu, a subset of the culturally-bound Japanese form of social phobia, taijin kyofusho. It translates as "fear of body odor." The primary difference is cultural. While Western culture is primarily concerned with individual needs, Japanese culture is geared toward the needs of the group. Both bromidrophobia and olfactory reference syndrome focus on the embarrassment that body odors bring to the person who has them. Jiko-shu-kyofu focuses on the embarrassment that others would feel in the presence of someone with an offensive odor. Medical Conditions Phobias and other psychological disorders are never diagnosed when a medical condition causes the symptoms. Additionally, a fear is considered rational and appropriate when it is in proportion to the situation. Some medical conditions cause pronounced bodily odors, including halitosis and bacterial vaginosis. It is important to get a full medical workup before making a definitive diagnosis of olfactory reference syndrome, bromidrophobia or jiko-shu-kyofu. Link to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Olfactory reference syndrome is heavily linked to OCD, and many clinicians feel that it should be considered an OCD subtype. Some also conceptualize this syndrome as related to body dysmorphic disorder. As in all forms of OCD, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors tend to create self-replicating loops. The harder you try to avoid the source of your anxiety, the more you tend to dwell on it, creating a cycle that is tough to break. Treatments Like other forms of OCD, olfactory reference syndrome generally responds well to a variety of brief therapy techniques including cognitive-behavioral therapy. Replacing your fearful thoughts with more positive ones and intentionally changing your repetitive behaviors can break the cycle of obsession. Olfactory reference syndrome is often life-limiting, but with hard work and professional guidance, there is no need to continue to suffer. 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Phillips K, Menard W. Olfactory reference syndrome: demographic and clinical features of imagined body odor. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2011;33(4):398-406. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2011.04.004 Greenberg JL, Shaw AM, Reuman L, Schwartz R, Wilhelm S. Clinical features of olfactory reference syndrome: An internet-based study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 2016;80:11-16. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.11.001 Additional Reading Borigini, Mark, MD. Olfactory Reference Syndrome. Psychology Today. January 25, 2012. OCD Center of Los Angeles: Olfactory Reference Syndrome. By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Phobias Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.