Anosmia Stuff!

Read this research article!

Or, if you don’t have time (I got a little copy/paste happy, sorry. And yes, the actual article is quite a bit longer than this) (all emphases added by me):

  • The negative consequences of olfactory dysfunction for the quality of life are not widely appreciated and the condition is therefore often ignored or trivialized.
  • None of the treatments that have been investigated are in wide use and in most cases olfactory dysfunction is untreatable.
  • Interactions with medical service providers can also be a source of frustration. One study showed that in Germany and Switzerland, 25% of patients felt that they had not been managed well and 6% felt that their condition had been trivialized.
  • 2% of the subjects of this study are scared of getting exposed to dangers because of their olfactory dysfunction. The main concern is the inability to detect a gas leak or a fire. Several subjects report that they have actually failed to detect a gas leak. Similarly, the inability to detect fires has resulted in dangerous situations for some subjects.
  • The most important odor to manage is one’s body odor. There are severe social consequences of failing to maintain the culturally expected body odor and many individuals who suffer from smell loss therefore are worried about their olfactory appearance.
  • “Just recently one of our cats urinated on a piece of carpet, and it apparently reeked, and the smell was making my boyfriend nuts, and I couldn’t smell it at all. His reaction to me was complete disbelief, as if I was faking that I couldn’t smell something horrid.”
  • For those with congenital olfactory impairment the challenge starts with convincing their parents and other adults that they cannot smell. Children with congenital smell loss are usually unaware of the dysfunction and only “discover” their condition as teenagers. One subject reports her experience when she was six years old and came home from school where cinnamon rolls were baked, wondering what this “smell” everybody else got so excited about was: “My mother got surprised, because she had absolutely no clue about this condition before that. We went to the hospital to check it out, but with little result. I was asked to smell several different things while being blindfolded, and I couldn’t smell anything. The result was however that I was a stubborn child who lied, so not much more was done.”
  • Once affected individuals have convinced others of the existence of their condition, they often face a lack of sympathy. Olfactory impairment is not considered to be a serious disability and sometimes affected individuals are even told that they should be happy about their inability to smell unpleasant odors.
  • “It’s a weird affliction. People don’t really get it. They think it’s not as big a deal as it is. After all, they figure anosmics aren’t disabled. We don’t need seeing-eye dogs or sign language to interact with our environment. And they are right — partly. We can function without drawing attention to our plight. We can do virtually everything we could before we lost our sense of smell, except enjoy the immensely important aspects of human life that most people take for granted”
  • It is especially aggravating for the patients when members of the medical profession to which they turn for help trivialize their condition.
  • Children who do not have a sense of smell often just mimic others’ reactions to smell without actually perceiving any smells.
  • “Smelling seemed to me like religion, you just had to have enough faith to make it true.”
  • “When I was little I used to pretend that I was able to because I thought I had to be able to “learn” how and I just wasn’t good enough at it yet.” [I thought this all the time]
  • “I had always figured a sense of smell was something that developed as you got older.”
  • In addition to places, times, and events, people also have characteristic smells. Many subjects in this study note that they cannot smell their babies or children. Others complain about not being able to smell their romantic partner and wonder if their olfactory impairment influences their romantic relationships.
  • “I have become afraid: does my lack of sense of smell keep me from finding someone I’d like to spend the rest of my life with?”

As I think I’ve said before, anosmia (usually) isn’t that big of a deal for me, but for other and especially for people who become anosmic after having a sense of smell, it can be pretty messed up. If you’re interested in reading about peoples’ experiences with phantom smells (which sound like hell), check out the article.

One response

  1. A great read for those of us on the outside looking in.


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