Although many people suffer from chronic bad breath, also called halitosis, some people only experience the fear of having bad breath.
This fear is referred to as halitophobia, and it occurs in those who think they have bad breath when they do not.
Individuals who suffer from halitophobia experience extremely overstated concerns or delusions about having bad breath.
This condition is estimated to be present in nearly 25 percent of patients seeking professional assistance for halitosis, and almost one-half to one percent of adults may suffer from halitophobia.
For those with halitophobia, the fear of having others become aware of their perceived bad breath can lead them to demonstrate a variety of odd behaviors.
For example, someone with halitophobia may cover his or her mouth when talking or avoid interacting with others in social situations.
Those with halitophobia can often fixate on cleaning their teeth and tongue and may constantly use gum, mints, mouthwashes, and sprays in an effort to reduce their distress at their apparent bad breath.
These coping behaviors can often be attributed to some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder which prompts specific self-conscious patterns.
Halitophobia is regarded as severe when the fear of having bad breath prompts individuals to experience impaired daily functioning such as social anxiety, depression, and withdrawal.
Initially, the most effective method of treating halitophobia is to get rid of any potential bad breath symptoms.
See your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams, and make sure you maintain a thorough oral-hygiene routine of brushing and flossing teeth and gums.
If no underlying medical or hygienic reason for bad breath can be found by a dentist, those with halitophobia can often benefit from seeing a psychologist.
Only a clinical psychologist can officially diagnose and treat the psychosomatic aspects of halitophobia.
Psychological counseling and treatment may address any causal reasons for the phobia and can propose ways to help alleviate distress.