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February 1960

Demonstration of a Peculiar Odor in the Sweat of Schizophrenic Patients

Author Affiliations

St. Louis
From the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine; the Research Unit of St. Louis State Hospital, and the Research Laboratories of the Malcolm A. Bliss Mental Health Center.

AMA Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1960;2(2):184-188. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1960.03590080060010

Many have commented upon the strange odor that pervades the back wards of mental hospitals.1-6 A few have maintained that “there is an odour peculiar to the insane, which is not met with in ordinary hospitals for the sick, however dirty they may be.”7 This unusual “odor” seems to be especially intense in the room where insulin therapy is given, and the odor appears to come from the skin of the patients, particularly those catatonic patients with greasiness of the skin. Among the symptoms of catatonia a recent textbook lists a “peculiar odour of the patient’s sweat which is difficult to describe.”8 A recent article mentions “four patients, who for years had a skunk-like odor, which no amount of bathing changed,”9 and these patients were all catatonic schizophrenics.10 If there is a unique “odor” in the apocrine sweat or in the sebaceous

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