Halitophobia: Understanding the Fear of Bad Breath

Spiders. Closed spaces. The number 13. The dark. On the list of things we tend to fear, these items rank high for the general public. Sometimes, a fear goes beyond a simple discomfort and becomes a phobia, a serious and sometimes crippling fear that interferes with our ability to function normally. As much as we sometimes laugh about them, phobias are very real and very difficult to get past. Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed or tight spaces), triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13), and nyctophobia (extreme fear of the dark or night) are well-recognized fears.

But what if your fear is just as crippling as claustrophobia but is one that people have trouble understanding? What if you are paralyzed by the fear of having bad breath? This condition is called halitophobia and it is a very real condition that can be treated.

What is the Fear of Bad Breath?

Simply, halitophobia is a severe fear of bad breath that doesn’t exist. People with halitophobia are convinced that they have bad breath and that the bad breath is causing negative consequences in their lives. The increased focus on products that treat bad breath may be making this condition more common.

It’s normal to spare a moment worrying about bad breath before a big event like a first date or a job interview. But people suffering from halitophobia worry constantly about their breath in a way that interferes with their daily lives. Stories shared from halitophobia sufferers in England can give insight into the difference. A normal fear of bad breath might cause someone to chew gum. A halitophobia sufferer might chew gum constantly, cover their mouth when they talk, and brush their teeth constantly throughout the day.

Sometimes, halitophobia may even start following an actual case of halitosis (bad breath). People with halitophobia often relate an incident where someone pointed out their bad breath to them, causing them to start focusing a disproportionate amount of energy on thinking about and trying to cure bad breath. Unfortunately, long after any bad breath symptoms have dissipated, the fear of bad breath remains.

How is Halitophobia Diagnosed?

People who are concerned about bad breath often start looking for help at their dentist’s office. Consequently, most patients suffering from halitophobia will be diagnosed by their dental care team.

If you think you have bad breath and need help with it, it’s a good idea to talk to your dental care team. They will look for any possible infections or other sources of problems. If they find anything that can cause bad breath, they will make a recommendation to treat the source of the problem. If they can’t find any signs of bad breath, the care team may talk to you about a simple test to verify that your breath smells fine. If that test cannot provide reassurance that your breath is okay, your dental care team might recommend you seek further treatment for halitophobia.

How Can I Stop Worrying About Bad Breath?

Because halitophobia is not strictly speaking a dental condition, it is not treated by your dental care team. People suffering from halitophobia need treatment, but they need the same kind of treatment that people suffering from other phobias require. Mental health care providers are best equipped to help treat halitophobia. There are support groups for those with severe fear problems, although support groups specifically for halitophobia may not be in your area. It’s important to realize that even though halitophobia is not treatable with dental care methods, it’s a real medical condition that needs and deserves real treatment and whose sufferers deserve real compassion.

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