By Chad Brandt, PhD | Clinical Psychologist


Olfactory Reference Syndrome (ORS) is an irrational belief that one’s body emits a foul odor. Most individuals with ORS focus on one odor, but some are concerned with several odors simultaneously. They often misinterpret others’ behaviors such as sneezing, scratching one’s head, and covering one’s face as a response to their body odor.

People with ORS often engage in ritualistic and avoidant behaviors including: repeated checking for body odor; excessive showering; frequently changing clothes; excessive use of colognes, perfumes, deodorants; and asking others how they smell. People with ORS will often also avoid social situations, enclosed areas, and standing or sitting near others. People with ORS often are depressed and have suicidal thoughts and actions.

ORS can be treated using the same techniques used in treating OCD and related conditions. The treatment involves challenging faulty beliefs about others’ reaction to odors in addition to exposures of avoided social situations while refraining from behaviors intended to check, eliminate, or camouflage the perceived odor.