Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Case for Anosmia

I have been writing about perfume, scents and the sense of smell for a decade, it seems. In all that time, not once have I sat down and thanked my lucky stars that aside from an occasional head cold I haven't experienced a loss of sense that would debilitate my writing, my enjoyment of this hobby and the sensuous appreciation of life that comes with food, with sex, with bonding, with sensuality in general. But some people have. And they have actually done something for Anosmia, the loss of the sense of smell.

Fifth Sense is a charity based in the UK that caters to people affected by smell and taste disorders (taste being directly related to the sense of smell, as the very British word "flavour" suggests). There also nuances, such as "parosmia" (smelling something different than what is in front of you") or "phantosmia" (smelling things that are not even close, literally smelling "ghost" scents, as the word "phantasma" means ghost in Greek). For those using Facebook, the relevant page is this one.

The case is rather a scary one, since it can have not only a debilitating effect on a person, but also one of utter repulsion as the Guardian article by Louise Woollam as told to Eleanor Tucker, the Get Lippie blogger, reveals.

Anosmia Awareness Day may have passed, but the cause has not. If you're willing to donate an amount for the betterment of the lives of those suffering from this oddly "shadowy" condition (shadowy because no one is really vocal about it and victims suffer it without the help of awareness and sensitivity to their plight by other people), you're encouraged to use this link.

What most people don't realize is that anosmia can be treated in many (most?) cases. There is a wealth of medical advice that may be of interest to those suffering on this link.

awareness and sensitivity go a long way....think about it next time you're told by someone anosmic that they can't smell 

And of course the value of smell training cannot be overstressed, even for individuals who have an intact sense of smell. Remember: we process stimuli with the brain. Having the pathways open is one thing, but the analytical ability to diversify, name and correlate the stimuli is the cognitive ability to "smell richly". You might not become a bloodhound, but you'll have a better understanding and appreciation of your surroundings and yourself.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this. Losing my sense of smell right after getting nominated for a perfume-writing award was awful. Getting (some) of my sense of smell back, only to find myself living in a distorted nightmare has been even worse.

    Anosmia can be treated, and there are therapies, but there is little understanding of both the debilitating effects of the condition on people, and of how the nose even works to create the conditions. More understanding is desperately needed!

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I'm very grateful xx

    1. You're most welcome and thank you for boarding Perfume Shrine to comment.
      It is heart-wrenching to hear of any debilitating loss and I do hope more awareness is raised, since this particular loss is poo-pooed by folks in general as not as meaningful. Matters pertaining to smell from its importance in our daily lives to the demeaning comments on fragrances (as either man-magnets or dangerous chemical bombs) reveal an aspect of our civilization I'm not sure we're too comfortable with: it's interesting, assuredly, but also scary, as if we've embraced a Kantian logic that differentiates us from the animal kingdom rather too much and also as if we do not allow that which we consider animalistic to be deemed a work of the intellect.

      Hope that a cure is in the horizon for all people suffering from anosmia and wish you all the best!

  2. susan edwards22:22

    I lost my sense of smell and taste 25 years ago,after being knocked down by a car.The doctor who did tests said the nerve at the front of my head had severed,after my head hit the road.I buy perfume by the discriptions I have to leave notes to my self to check the oven before going out so i eat by texture,

    1. Susan,

      thank you for sharing this story here with us. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.
      I can't offer any advice or positive thought, just a pat on the back for continuing to buy perfume regardless. I hope that neuronic research provides some answers in the near future for you and anyone else that has suffered through a similar accident.

  3. Miss Heliotrope08:20

    What I find symptomatic of the general understanding to this is that while we have (in English) common names for loss of sight, hearing, and even speaking (obviously: blind/deaf/dumb), we do not for loss of smell/taste.

    & while I know it is a horrifying thing to happen, the husband of a friend of my mother's is so due to an electical accident (he is now retired, but was an electrician), and he had never liked scented flowers in the house bc they gave him hayfever. Once he'd had the accident, his wife would buy scented flowers & he kept not knowing why he was sneezing all time...

    1. MH,

      amazing: so the sneezing doesn't even involve the sense of smell but is more of a mechanical triggering of the "nose velcro". The things I learn.
      Horrible accident for him though, my sympathies.

      As to the lack of words (in general as pertaining to perfumes), I believe it's a general symptom of our bipod civilization, as dr.Freud would say.


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