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ducky_dnl's avatar

How to get over Olfactory Reference Syndrome?

Asked by ducky_dnl (5371 points ) June 5th, 2011 from iPhone

First off, let me start by saying this is really embarrassing to ask. I suffer really badly from olfactory reference syndrome. I’ve had it my whole entire life. For those who do not know what it is, here you are. All of my friends and family say I smell fine and that I look clean when I go out. I usually take 4–6 showers a day and brush my teeth about 5 times a day. It’s gotten really, really bad. I don’t like going out even though people say I don’t smell at all. If I do go out, I spray myself down with perfume about 10 times. :\ I know using excessive perfume can cause a strong smell, but I don’t feel good unless I spray myself down and only that last up until I have to get out of my car. I don’t want to take seratonin like my psychiatrist wants. I’ve gone out of my way. I believe all of my depression to be caused by ORS. It has isolated me from the world, kept me in my house and away from people and has made me feel so horrible about myself. I’ve even tried taking odor free garlic and zinc to get rid of smells that people say aren’t there. Does anyone have any ideas? Should I just keep saying it’s in my head? I have tried doing that but how can I be sure? I believe the smells to be real and anything can trigger me to leave. I can’t sit near people, I can’t stay in a building without moving for long periods of time, I just hate this. Any suggestions?

I really am embarrassed. :(

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7 Answers

ducky_dnl's avatar

This doesn’t make sense to me. :\

zenvelo's avatar

Consider psychotherapy with an antidepressant prescription You mention a psychiatrist; why resist his/her suggestion? You need some professional assistance.

If you used that much perfume and came near me I would complain.

WasCy's avatar

I can see how that would cause you to suffer.

What I don’t understand is, if you’ve had physical checkups that rule out actual disease, and if others tell you honestly that they don’t notice any objectionable odor about you, and if you yourself believe that you have ORS (working link) ... why fight the treatment option that’s being offered?

I’m with @zenvelo on this. Why see a psychiatrist and then dispute his mode of treatment?

Buttonstc's avatar

I’m going to assume that when you reference your Psychiatrist wants you to take seratonin that you mean a type of medication known as Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRI, for short).

The syndrome you describe is basically a very specific branch of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

After much research and study, there are precisely TWO effective treatments for OCD, namely Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the use of SSRI type medications. That’s it. Two choices known to the medical profession.

What makes you think that anyone from an Internet site who is not a medical professional would have a better solution unknown to the medical community ?

Have you tried CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) yet?

If not, why not ? Has your Psychiatrist discussed this possibility with you?

The bottom line is that when you are ready to take charge of your health, you will choose one or the other. CBT requires intensive personal work and commitment. And even a professional skilled in behavioral therapy may after a time conclude that a combination of medication plus therapy is the only thing that will be effective in this particular case. I don’t know. That’s up to the therapist. But a behavioral approach alone does not always guarantee results.

What I do know is this: when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired of having such a limited life hampered by delusional thinking, you will be willing to put your trust in a skilled professional and be willing to follow their treatment plan.

The only questions remaining (which only YOU can answer) is how long this will take and how many professionals you have to burn through before you’re willing to follow the treatment outlined.

It really is as simple as that. There is no magic wand to make your problem magically disappear. You will either accept the treatment advice or you won’t. It in your hands.

But if it were me, I would try the CBT approach first and give it my best effort. If that alone didn’t get the job done, I would take the meds. If the first med didn’t work or had too many side effects then I would go on to the next one and so forth until finding the one which worked no matter how long it takes. I would not want to continue living such a limited life.

But that’s what I would do. You have to decide what you would do: continue to be unhappy or try the known treatment options till you find what works. It’s hard work and difficult, no question about it. But don’t you deserve happiness just like everyone else?

If deep down you perhaps don’t feel deserving of that, that’s a different and separate problem altogether. Perhaps you might want to ask your deepest self about THAT.

josie's avatar

You are pretty far gone. The cure these days is a SSRI. Just like @Buttonstc
You should go for it.
Lets face it. Almost everybody who showers once a day, does not smell bad. This is a fact.
You are confused. So accept that, and face it or take the medicine.
No disgrace, just accept or do.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

As a psychologist who practiced Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, I agree entirely with @Buttonstc the a combination of CBT and an SSRI would likely enable you to get control of your life and greatly increase the joy and peace that many people seek in their daily lives.

gooner1696's avatar

Hello All, I am also sufferer of Olfactory Reference Syndrome. It is a horrible condition that I feel, gets the worse out of me. As a consequence of this illness, I am miserable and have no enjoyment in life. However, I do believe my life can improve-I have too. I am currently receiving CBT and on medication. I notice a real improvement in my confidence and happiness when I do things. I know it is easy to say, as this condition can make you severely depressed and as such, getting out and about is the last thing you want to do. What I really hate about this condition is how selfish it makes me. I like to think I am person who is not up themselves but all I do is talk about this problems to friends and family – OCD/ORS is winning.

What do I need to do next?? Get myself out of my state of depression. My CBT specialist has asked me to undertake a different activity for every day of the week. Something I like doing such as going to the cinema however, i currently hold a barrier up due to fear of embarrassment. You know what, I will go for it and that’s what I think you need to do. Can it be any worse than going to bed all day to forget about what’s happening. Has anything happen to you or has anyone physically said I think you smell. If this is the case, you as well as myself have wasted the last 20 years for nothing.

Lets not look back in another 20 years and regret that. We will always have this condition no matter what we do – the thoughts will always happen – it is the way we treat them.

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