I’m just puzzled lately over what seems like a contradiction between two ideas I’ve seen in the news and in TV commercials. It’s all about body odor.
There is this study that was recently published about stinky armpit odor possibly making the practice of mindfulness meditation more effective.
This contrasts with the usual meaning of body odor, which is that it’s to be avoided and prevented at all costs. And, the newest total body odor eliminator product is getting heavy rotation in TV commercials and its name rhymes, (possibly fittingly) with “looney.” I’m just going to frankly admit that I can’t stand watching the commercial.
There is this old timer product called Ex-Odor that was marketed in the early 1900s by a company called Gordon Gordon, Ltd. The label said it “Removes All Body Odors.” It was touted as “safe, sure, lasting” and it cost only ten cents. The original label actually did italicize the word “All.” On the other hand, Looney is a lot more expensive—just sayin’.
The armpit odor study and Looney definitely send opposite messages about body odor.
In fact, there is a psychiatric disorder marked by an intense preoccupation with smelling bad. I think it’s still called Olfactory Reference Disorder (ORD). Almost any part of the body could stink and could lead to showering several times a day or visits to ENT doctors to get “infected” and therefore smelly tonsils removed. The disorder not uncommonly gets requests for consultation-liaison psychiatrists to get involved.
Olfactory Reference Disorder can lead to severe, even disabling, social anxiety. It can lead to beliefs that have delusional intensity.
Often, those with ORD firmly believe they emit a foul odor, often from armpits, or inguinal, anal, and oral areas. Some seek surgical treatment. There are many other disorders which consultation-liaison psychiatrists need to remember in order to distinguish ORD from them. Combined cognitive behavioral therapy, possibly along with medication can be recommended as treatment.
Suggested screening questions include:
- “Are you very worried or concerned about your body odor in any way?
- Do you believe that other people are also aware of the way you smell (your body odor) and take special notice of it (e.g., make comments about the smell)?
- Is there anything you feel an urge to do often and repeatedly in order to lessen your worries about your body odor? (e.g., repeatedly brush your teeth, wash or change clothes frequently, smell self or ask others for reassurance)
- Do you avoid any situations or activities (e.g., sport/dating) because of this body odor?
- Do these worries about the way you smell negatively affect your mood (e.g., cause shame, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts) or your daily life (e.g., relationships, work, school, social)?”
I’m not trying to make any value judgments about either the study or the Looney product. Well, maybe a little. It does remind me of a few lines from the Grinch song:
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You’re a nasty wasty skunk,
Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch.
The three words that best describe you are, and I quote, “Stink, stank, stunk”!
- Thomas, E., et al. (2015). “Olfactory Reference Disorder: Diagnosis, Epidemiology and Management.” CNS Drugs 29(12): 999-1007.
- Lim, L. and Y. M. Wan (2015). “Jikoshu-kyofu in Singapore.” Australasian Psychiatry 23(3): 300-302.
- McKenna, P. J. (1984). “Disorders with overvalued ideas.” Br J Psychiatry145: 579-585.
- Santin, J. M. and F. M. Galvez (2011). “Overvalued ideas: psychopathologic issues.” Actas Esp Psiquiatr 39(1): 70-74.
- Mullen, R. and R. J. Linscott (2010). “A comparison of delusions and overvalued ideas.” J Nerv Ment Dis 198(1): 35-38.
- Miranda-Sivelo, A., et al. (2013). “Unnecessary surgical treatment in a case of olfactory reference syndrome.” General Hospital Psychiatry 35(6): 683.e683-683.e684.