To P – a reply to a question re Anosmia, Hyperattention and MCS

I recently received an email from someone who had read my Anosmia blog (about loss of the ability to smell).  I wasn’t able to reply directly so hopefully P will tune back into this blog looking for an update.

He felt his problem was undiagnosed MCS – Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

I don’t know if this view was based on negative results from medical testing or an internet based self-diagnosis, but in either case his wish was to turn off his obviously distressing hypersensitivity to smells.

Having given this some thought, I drafted up the following reply which I hope might be of help to P and anyone with similar problems…

“… I would be very dubious about trying to suppress or alter your sense of smell given its role in keeping you safe –  in new or unfamiliar environments, as well as in everyday life,  your ability to detect smells protects you from harmful chemicals,  fumes from petrol, leaking gas, car exhaust etc.
That said, I quite often work with people who are tormented by Tinnitus noise or optical floaters, both of which are currently incurable and which can distress people to the point of considering suicide.
Such individuals have developed a hypersensitivity to the symptoms of their problem  – creating a constant unconscious attentiveness, their minds always looking for the noise in the ears or the shadows in the eyes that then trigger off immediate fear/hate/anger/grief emotional responses.
In such cases I use hypnosis to reduce these stressful emotional responses, making symptoms less scary, hated and stressful.  As a result, the client becomes less and less angry or upset by them.
I help clients become more accepting and relaxed about their symptoms and thus less and less hyperattentive to the problem.  As a result they live with their symptoms, often going days or weeks without noticing them.
Treatment includes the use of post hypnotic suggestions such as, for Tinnitus… “…every day you will find that you are less and less aware of your problem…you find that you remember more and more all the  times you haven’t heard the sounds and you forget the times that you hear them.  In fact, you can choose to forget to remember those times you hear the sounds or maybe remember to forget when you hear them.  It’s your choice.  You decide”.
This deliberately confusing suggestion is decode by the subconscious and allows the hypersensitivity it has created to slowly ebb away.
In this way the client is given power over their problem and within 3 sessions or so I find that they are far less disturbed by their problem, if at all.
In your case P perhaps the suggestion should be along the lines of “…every day you will find the smells you once found overpowering don’t upset you quite as much as they used to.  You can still recognise a particular smell, know what it is, put a name to it, but the overpowering edge has gone from it.  It’s no longer overpowering.  It’s just like it used to be.  And every day you find you are less and less hypersensitive to smells…you find that you remember more  and more the times when smells have just seemed normal… like they always have…and you forget the times  you come across smells which are overpowering.   In fact, you can choose to either forget the times you encounter overpowering smells or choose to remember to forget them.  I don’t care.  It’s your choice.  You decide”.
 I hope this proves helpful to P and anyone else in his situation.

Dealing with the stress of Anosmia/Dysgeusia (loss or change in the senses of smell and taste)

Around 3m people in the UK are affected by some form of taste and smell dysfunction.

Some of them people suffer from treatable disorders such as chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps while others may have experienced permanent or long-term damage caused by ear surgery, injury to the mouth or nose, or as side-effects drugs such as captopril, lithium, procarbazine and certain drugs used in the treatment of cancer.

To get the medical terminology out of the way, Ageusia is the complete loss of sense of taste, Dysgeusia is distortion of the taste of things and Hypogeusia is a decrease in taste sensitivity. Anosmia is the inability to detect odours and as such, it  can either be an issue in its own right or else a major contributor to taste disorders.

Whether the problem is that of taste or smell or both, it can be extremely distressing for sufferers. Our enjoyment of food is focussed around taste and smell and without those we are just left with the texture and temperature of the food and the feeling of fullness it give us. Other than that, a large part of the pleasure is missing and many sufferers of Anosmia/Dysgeusia lose all interest and enjoyment in food and eating. And that is aside from the loss of enjoying a whiff of scent from a flower or a teasing hint of perfume in the air or the smell of fresh ground coffee or new baked bread or the scent of a new born baby’s skin.

With loss of these pleasures there often come feelings of frustration, anger, depression and grief. People with these problems will often withdrawn from socialising because so much of social life is focussed around celebratory meals, restaurant outings, enjoying a good glass of wine with friends, appreciating a gift of flowers and so on.

Impairment of taste and smell can also affect jobs and careers – the inability to smell or taste while working in hazardous environments where a smell of burning or taste of gas in the air is an early indicator of something being wrong makes employment in mining, gas, oil or chemical industries difficult. A doctor or paramedic being unable to smell alcohol on someone’s breath could lead to their misdiagnosing the reasons for a patient’s erratic behaviour and lead to serious errors in diagnosis and treatment. Any impairment of taste or smell can be dangerous not only for the sufferer but also for their colleagues and the people relying on their services.

Hypnotherapy cannot do anything to help restore functionality of sense of smell or taste but it can do a lot to help mitigate the sense of loss and anger and frustration at its happening. It can help those who have not totally lost their sense of smell or taste to optimise their remaining faculties so that they can make the most of enjoying what they can. It can also help stimulate their recall and enjoyment of those smells and tastes which they can no longer experience directly – the mere sight of a highly spiced meal bringing back memories of enjoyment and appetite without the need for the full taste/smell experience.

Post hypnotic suggestion can also be used to encourage those with partial taste/smell functions to remember all those times that they have a really satisfying taste/smell experience and to be far less aware of the unsatisfactory ones.

In these ways, quality of life can be optimised and feelings of loss, grief and anger minimised.

If any of my readers have any experience of these disorders or their treatment I would love to hear from you. Just leave me a Comment describing the causes of your problem and the emotions they engendered and how you found your own personal coping strategy. I’d also be interested to know whether or not you feel that the type of therapy described here might have been of benefit to and the reasons why/why not.

PS  update June 2017.  I have just come across an organisation called FifthSense ( which has set up to provide information and latest news on developments in the world of Anosmia.