Breaking Down Autodysomophobia
Have you ever walked into a job interview and been extra conscious about the way you smell?
Does the thought of taking your shoes off at a friend’s house make you nervous?
Do you spend hours and hours browsing remedies for body odors? Perhaps you invest in all sorts of perfumed products and take extra-long showers to ensure that you don’t have body odor. And despite all that, the thought that you might smell still plagues you? Do you still have a fear of being dirty or smelly?
If you can relate to this feeling, you might have Autodysomophobia. It is also likely that you have bromidrophobia, which is the fear of perceived smells or odors.
Knowledge is power. And fighting this feeling is possible if you have the right tools!
Autodysomophobia is the fear of smelling bad. This obsessive phobia over body odor is sometimes an exaggerated reaction. It could also be a figment of the imagination. An affected individual is convinced that he or she is emitting a vile smell, which leads them to bathe multiple times a day or cut off socializing altogether as a coping mechanism.
Autodysomophobia, a social phobia, is also referred to as Olfactory Reference Syndrome (ORS). ORS may have adverse effects on the power of interpretation. Considered to be a sub-type of Body Dysmorphia, it could also be linked with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Stress, isolation, and avoidance are major implications of Autodysomophobia.
The cause of ORS could be traced to social trauma or heredity. An event from the past can serve as a trigger to activate trauma. Social phobias like ORS are more complex than they let on as causes and implications reveal themselves over time. Brain chemistry coupled with experiences of trauma alters the pace of the development of this phobia.
What Are The Symptoms Of Autodysomophobia?
The symptoms of Autodysomophobia are subjective. Most people who suffer from ORS might have comorbidity or other mental health concerns such as anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Factors such as the level of the phobia or the extent of the trauma causing it could alter its severity. What makes it harder to diagnose is that symptoms don’t always manifest themselves in tandem. Sometimes, they build over time and can worsen or get better as well.
However, experts categorize symptoms into two types.
● Heavy breathing
● Heart palpitations
● Panic attacks
● Dry mouth
● Hot or cold flashes
● Social isolation
● Anxiety and Depression
● Low self-esteem
● Suicidal thoughts
● Drug addiction
How Can I Counter Autodysomophobia?
Autodysomophobia can be extremely uncomfortable, to the point that it pushes someone to develop suicidal tendencies. If you feel like your fear is uncontrollable to the point of pain, consider getting professional help. The situation isn’t as dismal as your brain allows you to believe. There is help. There are several treatments available. It can get better. Even if professionals don’t guarantee a 100% phobic-free you, they can ease your fear to the point where it is bearable.
In helping yourself and your thoughts, you will be able to achieve better results. This is why self-help is the first step. Here’s what you can do.
● Convince yourself that you will power through this, no matter what. The brain believes ideas that it keeps reinforcing. Surround yourself with positive friends or family with whom you feel safe, so you know you’re not alone.
● Understanding a problem is the answer to finding its solution. This is why journaling is a great way of tracking the root and triggers for your phobia. Once you identify and get acquainted with what triggers your phobia, start working on finding alternative solutions that don’t make you feel like you’re being stretched too far.
● Positive self-talk is a big part of getting through phobias. Keep telling yourself that this is only temporary and that you are meant to overcome. Putting motivating quotes in places where you spend significant portions of your time can uplift your mood and keep you positive. A morning routine of positive affirmations is an excellent activity with which to start your day.
● Support and Reinforcement: A big part of overcoming any phobia is reinforcement. And that’s perfectly normal. Everybody needs a little reassurance now and again. Visiting a therapist is an excellent idea if you need help with this.
● Next, face your fears—not all at once, but step-by-step. If social interactions are difficult for you, start by making time to hang out with those in your inner circle. Slowly, push yourself to extend an invitation to those in your outer circle, and when you feel like you’re ready, you can take it outdoors.
What Are The Available Professional Treatment Options?
Therapists can prescribe medicines for a short-term fix. However, neither do they solve the issue nor are medications free from side-effects. Hence, they are not the recommended course of action.
In extreme cases, antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to those who have phobias and personality disorders. Their only function is to increase the levels of serotonin in your body temporarily. This is not a treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A method of professional psychotherapy against ORS is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This form of therapy creates a positive influence on your behavior and thoughts. This treatment is also applicable to other mental disorders or phobias. CBT focuses on relaxing and unwinding your mind by modifying your approach to situations and guiding your future course.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Another method of treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This treatment is specifically focused on resolving trauma from childhood or past experiences. It is also used to help those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is similar to CBT because it helps chart out a course for the future while also addressing and dealing with problems of the past.
What Not To Do
Quite a few people who experience Autodysomophobia tend to consult doctors who do not specialize in mental health concerns, such as ENT’s or surgeons. This course can prove harmful and expensive as unnecessary surgery may be recommended. For example, in the case of ORS, people seek to get their sweat glands removed. This is a hasty decision as it does not solve the bigger mental problem at hand. This is why it is not recommended to use methods that do not specifically apply to mental health concerns.
Powering Through Autodysomophobia
No doctor or mental health professional can guarantee that you will be completely free of your phobia. However, a mental health professional can help ease the symptoms and walk you through the process of controlling ORS or Autodysomophobia on your own.
A fear of smelling bad is something everyone experiences in life. Be it bad breath or stinky feet—we’ve all been there. This is in no way a reflection of you as a person. You are more than a byproduct of what you fear. Moreover, you are bigger than your fears.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If something bothers you, it is worth a conversation. Focus on the positives in your life whenever you need a reality check. You can always turn to your immediate family or your close friends to help keep you thinking straight. By being brave enough to acknowledge your problem and resolving to fight it, you have already taken your first step in the right direction.
Change is the only constant in life. It is essential to keep moving. This does not mean that you take radical, life-changing decisions to get further. Take baby steps but make them count. After all, you have the power to help yourself.
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