What should I say to a friend with body odor?

Published: July 19, 2011 | Last Updated: July 19, 2011 By | Reply Continue Reading

what good friends are for…



Hi Irene,

I emailed you previously and you gave
me some really good advice and I’ve also read your book. I have a friend who
has really let herself go. She hasn’t had a job in over a year and doesn’t
leave her house that much. When she does, she smells so badly that more than
five people have said something to me.


It’s becoming embarrassing for me to
bring her anywhere and I don’t know how to tell her because she is already
emotional and depressed. Please help.





Hi Suzy,

If five people have come to YOU, it
sounds like you are a good friend to this woman and the logical person to
deliver the message with kindness. Your friend’s body odor may be a symptom of
a health problem, her lack of self-care, or a combination of the two.


As a friend, you might want to help her
address two of her problems: her depression and her alienating body odor. In
terms of the depression, your role is to help her get professional help if she
hasn’t already done so. There are a number of previous posts on this blog about
how to help a friend with depression (see links below). I would also suggest
you relay your concerns about her depression to one of her close family members.


In terms of the more immediate problem,
you simply need to speak to her as kindly as you can. Tell her that she may not
be aware but you’ve noticed that her body has had an unpleasant odor the last
several times you’ve been together. There’s no need to tell her that others are
talking about it; that would only be embarrassing. Remind her that it is
important that she shower and use deodorant before you go out together. Explain
that you understand that it may be hard for her to do this as depressed as she
is, but doing so will help her socially, on the job front, and help her feel
better about herself. Your friend may not realize she smells badly, in which
case she will be very grateful. Or she may get offended initially but
hopefully, she’ll get over it.


Hope this

My best,


Prior posts on The Friendship Blog
about helping a friend with depression:

Psych 101: When a close friend is

it friendship anxiety or depression?

a close friend is depressed

Depression, loneliness and friendship



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