The name of this phobia couldn’t be more perfect if it tried. It brings to mind drunken, sweaty frat boys wearing tank-tops and baseball caps, drinking from red solo cups and belching indiscriminately. If that image doesn’t conjure up a sense of fear (or disgust) in your belly, congratulations, you don’t have a soul. Or senses. Something like that.
That is not to say that I am afraid of the Fratasaurus Rex. I am not; in fact, I pity their booze-filled existence. I do turn up my nose at them, but mostly to avoid the stench of vomit, beer, sex, shamelessness, and hopelessness that is, more often than not, rolled into an increasingly chubby human burrito (not to stereotype or anything).
I hope you enjoyed that imagery.
No, Bromidrosiphobia is the fear of body odor, and I began my War Against the Pits at age eleven. Shortly after beginning the (slow) evolution to this stunning beast that blogs before you, I developed severe acne. And also the ability to sweat buckets just by thinking about flexing my sweat muscles. Sweat muscles are a thing, right? Yeah, they totally are. Anyway, I was that kid in 6th Grade with huge pimples, braces, and constant pit stains. I was the prime specimen of the genus Ugly Duckling. Biologists gathered to study me (probably) and take samples of my hideousness at night (most likely) while I sweated even in my sleep (gross, but true). Thankfully, I turned out pretty good, so I am comfortable discussing these horrors–but I’ll be damned before I show pictures from those years.
The biggest problem is, I didn’t smell bad. I was just terrified of the possibility. And since I sweated a lot, I wanted to smell as fresh as possible. Bromidrosiphobia is defined as “a neurosis in which a person is convinced that his/her sweat has a repugnant odor that keeps other people away. The patient is unable to accept any evidence to the contrary” (Thanks, Wikipedia, even though you say that it is often a precursor to Schizophrenia).
I tried everything to try and sweat less and avoid the smelly stains. First I tried spray deodorant. That was nice and cold and helped me wake up in the morning, but it quickly formed a mushy paste-like sleeve-swamp just an hour or so later. Then I tried gel deodorant with the same gooey results. I tried powder, too, to no avail, but now accompanied with white stains on my shirts (That’s what she said… Ugh, sometimes I disgust even myself). I even tried prescription deodorant, which probably has the same chemical makeup as a cigarette.
After using all the conventional products I could, I realized that antiperspirant probably wasn’t helping me sweat any less (Though if it was, I was in big trouble). My armpits were more dependable than Old Faithful, shooting a geyser of sweat at the mere thought of something stressful–which, as a sufferer of GAD, is absolutely everything.
So I started alternative methods of treatment/prevention of my smelly condition (Even though I didn’t smell). Acupuncture, for all it did to help my sweating, was really just a fancy excuse for me to take a very comfortable nap with some very awkward needles protruding from my body. So then I tried never letting my arms touch the side of my body, giving me a weird, ape-like walk. And then I tried gluing my arms to my sides (not literally) so that I could sweat all I wanted but no one could see it. Then I moved on to doing that deodorant-commercial thing where you nonchalantly raise your arm in a gesture or something to smell your armpit. I looked like a freak.
Then, one day, I had a brilliant realization: If I was so scared of smelling bad (which I was) and so scared of pit stains (yep), then I should only wear sleeveless shirts. Boom! Problem solved. That was my solution, and I stuck to it for about three years.
Any T, 3/4th sleeve, long sleeve, even cap sleeve shirt became a tank top. I never wore sweaters, even when it was snowing out side (I would, however, wear hoodies, jackets, and Ugg boots. I just never wore shirts with sleeves). Despite the fact that I looked like a pubescent, female Dog the Bounty Hunter, I never had pit stains or felt the fog-like whiff of BO creep up towards my nostrils.
Holy crap, I just realized that I made myself wear the same staple of the wild Fratilius Idioticus. Maybe they all have Bromidrosiphobia and wear “bro tanks” because they are designed to keep their armpits aired out, and thus their fear at bay? That tones down the douchebaggery a bit. Maybe I should stop being so hard on them. How insensitive of me.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I started birth control that I figured out my sweat problem. Actually, birth control solved all my ugly problems and even made my boobs bigger. Awesome. In the end, the cause of all my sweat (and subsequent fear of stinkiness) was hormones. I realized that I had literally never been cold before in my life. Each winter, I wore sweatpants and a tank top and wore a hoodie to walk between classes, but I was never cold. All those years I thought I was a sweat shop, I was just a girl with imbalanced hormones making her constantly overheated, causing copious amounts of sweat.
Birth control saved my social life. That is, until six years later when it gave me blood clots in both of my lungs and I was about twelve hours away from death. But, hey, at least my acne was gone.