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.

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.)

A belief that the behaviors or comments of others are related to their odor (coughs, sneezes or turning away) is common in extreme cases too.

The Autodysomophobe 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”.

The Greek root words 'auto' means 'self' 'dyk' means 'bad' or 'harsh' and 'osmo' means 'smell' or 'odor'. The word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Autodysomophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Autodysomophobia

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, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the 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 ›

Treatments 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 ›

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