What is Autodysomophobia?

Autodysomophobia, a social anxiety disorder, is a fear of having a vile odor. Autodysomophobia is also referred to as Olfactory Reference Syndrome (ORS) or bromosis (specifically, “delusions of bromosis”).
It’s normal to have a human body smell and people have individual odors due to chemical reactions in the body, food, etc. A fear of having such an odor therefore becomes a phobia diagnosis by analysis of degree.
The Greek root words “auto” means “self”, “dyk” means “bad” or “harsh” and “osmo” means “smell” or “odor”.

Symptoms of Autodysomophobia

Sufferers will often also have an exaggerated fear of having bad breath (halitophobia), and extreme cases will possibly exhibit repeated visits to doctors in search of a cure or explanation. (This phobia is distinct from hypochondria, however.)
A belief that the behaviors or comments of others are related to their odor (coughs, sneezes or turning away) is common in extreme cases
The phobic will pursue repetitive showering and other grooming behaviors, excessive use of deodorants, perfumes, and mouthwash and will also repeatedly check themselves for odor and seek reassurance from others that they are “acceptable”.

Emotional / behavioral

  • fear of being judged
  • fear of embarrassment
  • fear of offending others
  • intense fear of strangers
  • fear of being noticed
  • fear of physical symptoms
  • avoiding people
  • intense need to escape
  • extreme irritability
  • extreme anxiety
  • expecting bad outcomes
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of death

Physical symptoms

  • heart palpitations
  • chest pains
  • gastrointestinal distress
  • nausea or diarrhea
  • shortness of breath
  • choking sensations
  • excessive sweating
  • confusion or lack of focus
  • chills or heat flush
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • trembling or shaking
  • tingling sensations
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Autodysomophobia

Causes that are not smell related are usually associated with stressful and pivotal life experiences, such as guilt associated with a romantic affair, violence or discord in school, work or family, illness in the family, etc.

In some cases, psychiatric and medical conditions in close relatives such as schizophrenia, psychosis, alcoholism, suicide, etc. are noted.

Autodysomophobia is a social anxiety disorder. Social phobias result in avoidance of social situations due to fear of being embarrassed in public. Social phobia affects men and women equally. Extreme social anxieties often start in childhood or adolescence and may be accompanied by other anxiety disorders or depression.

The origins of social anxiety disorders are not as well understood as specific (or “isolated”) phobias, where a direct fear of injury from some specific animal, thing or situation forms a clear basis for the fear. Even so, hereditary factors may be present, such as a genetic tendency to be “high strung” or nervous, etc.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Autodysomophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Autodysomophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments


Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It's a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.