Of all mental disorders I have come across within the bizarre world of bridge this one is distinctly unpleasant. Victims of the Olfactory Reference Syndrome not only believe they smell bad, but everything else about them reeks as well......including their game of bridge. Yet these victims are not delusional : their heightened sense of self-awareness flies in the face of all other disorder-ridden bridge players, who are forever in constant state of self-denial.
Spotting victims with ORS ( at a distance ) is all too easy. They change their clothes frequently, and are forever nipping off to the toilet " to wash and freshen up ", often using whole bars of soap in one single go. Spotting them at the table is just as easy ( even for a blind man ), and even more so when they start to complain about their bad luck and wretched run of bad scores. Another giveaway is when some of their partners are seen over stretching to reach and play the cards, having positioned their seats as far away from the table as they possibly can .
Yet this appalling syndrome is nothing more than a rare psychosomatic physical disorder, which ultimately leads to isolation, depression and suicide. Sadly, it is also a little noticed, and little studied syndrome, but one which I am now trying to bring to everyone's attention. At present, I am writing up my latest book entitled " Bridge Players : Their Acute Depression and Anxiety, ", which attempts to explore all the disorders I have come across over the years. Not surprisingly, this particular syndrome has a whole chapter devoted to it.
Some psycho-analysts claim to have known about people who believe they smell bad, but these misguided medics have wrongly assumed that their patients were either delusional, or gripped by an obsessive desire to maintain the highest standards of personal hygeine and cleanliness. The reality is that sufferers know full well that they do smell a bit iffy, and that their bridge game has also gone " a bit off " . This form of self-loathing reflects a honesty not usually associated with bridge players as a whole. Nevertheless victims of ORS all seem to display the same obsessive behavioural traits, such as repeated self-sniffing, arm and leg lifting, removing excess clothing, and opening windows.
However, my studies have shown that there is a causal link between the two symptoms, in that the game of bridge makes potential sufferers both stressed and anxious. Whether worrying about past failings or those about to happen at the table, players soon find themselves incredibly wound up. The sweat and perspiration levels build up to such an extent that the next time they sit down to play bridge, they can only focus on their own body smells .......and not on the game. This of course leads to more bad results compounding their long term stress and anxiety. The vicious circle becomes complete and unbreakable.
Originally, victims thought that their bad smell came from their mouths, but then realised that other parts of the body might be to blame : armpits, genitalia, anus, feet and skin. In a desperate attempt to keep this disorder a secret or well covered up , they set out to find partners with a similiar affliction, or ones who have lost their sense of smell or winning perspective on bridge.
Indeed, I have been so struck by the intense nature of this condition, that I have found it necessary ( as a precautionary measure ) to install in my office the most expensive state-of-the-art air purification and fan extractor system.