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 People with these problems will often withdrawn from socialising because so much of social life is focussed around celebratory meals, restaurant outings, enjoying a good glass of wine with friends,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 (fifthsense.org.uk) which has beenmailinglist@fifthsense.org.uk set up to provide information and latest news on developments in the world of Anosmia.

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Are you suffering from Burnout? Try this quiz…


There seems to be a worrying increase in the number of clients who visit me with all the symptoms of what used to be called “executive stress,” but is now more accurately described as  burnout.

To find out how well you are coping with the pressures of life, try answering the questions at the foot of this blog, giving yourself a score ranging from 0 for “Not At All” up to 5 for “All The Time”.

If your score is 0-30 then you are one of the lucky ones who enjoy their work and are able to cope with the pressures of life.  However, before you get too smug, just look at any of the questions which scored 4 or 5 and think about how you could improve things for yourself.

If you scored 31-55 then you need to start looking after yourself.  Think about how you might change what’s happening.  You are very rarely without the power to effect change, you just need to find the right levers to pull.  If you really do feel helpless, then it’s time to seriously consider a change of job, career or circumstances.

If you scored 55+ then you are definitely at risk.  Now is the time to do something about it.  Take back some of the time the company is stealing from you.  Don’t get in quite so early.  Take a lunch break, even if it’s only half an hour.  Leave a bit earlier every day.  Make it a rule to only work a set number of hours at the weekend – and then only if you really have to.  Weekends should be for you, not your employer.  If you don’t make changes, then you are running the risk of burnout.

I always explain the process of burnout to my clients in terms of our personal energy being like petrol and diesel oil.

Our everyday energy is like petrol; it is lighter, more easily consumed but is easier to regenerate with a good night’s sleep.  It’s what nature provides to keep us fit and healthy, both physically and emotionally.

By contrast, the heavier energy is thick and oily, like diesel.  It is the energy which we need to dip into at times of prolonged stress and difficulty.  It burns more slowly and we have deep reserves but it is replaced only very slowly.  So working longer hours than are sensible, worrying and fretting continuously, feeling frustrated and trapped leads eventually to this heavy energy becoming exhausted, creating a feeling of being unable to cope with anything at all.  At this point the brain goes into a self-defence mode which creates a state of exhausted torpor.  I experienced this years ago and for a week couldn’t make the decision between wanting a cheese or a ham sandwich for lunch.  I was physically too tired to even think about it.  I just wanted to sit and either cry or sleep.  After a week or so my heavy energy began to reassert itself and my brain began to come back on-line, but for weeks afterwards it was very difficult to do more than just go through the motions of daily life while my body continued to replenish my energy store and restore my normal vitality.

If you wonder if you are close to burnout, then perhaps this questionnaire will help you take an objective view of life….

Do you find yourself feeling increasingly tearful or sorry for yourself?
Do you have repetitive negative thoughts  running through your head, especially relating to your job?
Are you increasingly impatient with the people you work with?
Do even trivial problems become huge ones in your mind?
Do you feel that you are doing other people’s work for them and that you can’t take on any more?
Are you feeling trapped by the need to earn money but not being able to find another job?
Do you feel bullied by senior staff or that you are given unachievable targets/tasks?
Do you dream of getting a new job or a new career with less hassle and stress?
Do you work evenings and weekends to the detriment of your family & friends, and yourself?
Do you feel unfilled by your work?
Are you  frustrated your job and the management structure around it?
Are you angry at having to take short cuts or having too little time to do a thorough job?
Do you find that you are too busy dealing with today to plan properly for tomorrow?
Do you find that you sleep poorly and/or have stress dreams (eg. trying to find your way to a meeting through a maze of corridors, wearing only a bathrobe to work, being anxious to get somewhere but being frustrated at every turn etc)?
 Do you feel totally exhausted at the end of each day?

Can Anger Management therapy really work?


I’ve worked with several people lately who have come to me with Anger management issues.

Sometimes they had already lost people they love or jobs they really enjoyed because of their flashes of anger or uncontrollable and intimidating outbursts of physical or verbal abuse.

Others have arrived looking stunned and in a state of shock.  Often they’ve been told by a court or a partner that they have to seek out treatment to deal with their problem or suffer the consequences.  They often have only just begun to realise the devastating consequences of their actions.

Some people realise their problem; others are in denial, claiming that they just have a quick temper – “I just have an outburst and then it’s all over” – without realising the damage it is doing to the recipient of the outburst.

As I therapist I have no magic wand that tells me who’s telling me the truth about the extend of their anger or its true causes; all I can do is work with what I’m told at our first consultation and then explore possible causes arising from upbringing, life experiences etc.  as we progress.

Anger has many causes.  Sometimes an individual might have an ongoing psychotic mental health problem (paranoid schizophrenia for example) which requires specialist diagnosis and the help of psychiatric healthcare professionals who are able to create drug and therapy programmes designed to help patients control their illness and return to normal functioning.   I refer to this as a functional problem, and is beyond the remit of therapy to resolve.

In many cases, however, anger can be the product of emotional trauma, such as being betrayed by a trusted partner in business or in love, or the sudden loss a parent or child resulting in unresolved grief, or the outcome of a sudden traumatic event leading to creation of symptoms of (or even full-blown) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

In other cases it can be a learned behaviour – the result of being raised in a chaotic or combative family where aggression is the norm, or is the only way of protecting personal possessions or avoiding being picked on.

I therefore start therapy by taking a thorough Case History.  This is only a three page questionnaire but by the end I know everything I need to about the client’s life, family relationships and major life issues.  From this information I can begin to isolate and investigate those issues/events which might be driving anger.

In effect, what I do is identify “buttons”.  The buttons which get pressed by a partner, or an innocent customer standing in a pub.  The words which, when spoken, provoke an instant and frightening verbal or physical attack.

Couples who’ve been together for a while know all about buttons.  They know exactly what to say  to provoke an instant fight – “You’re lazy”, “You’re selfish”, “It’s no wonder the kids hate you”.  But while their arguments might be loud and unpleasant, most couples arguments don’t end up in the casualty department of a local hospital or in the police being called.

My job as a therapist is therefore to identify the buttons and then to help defuse them.  To drain off the emotional fuel which drives them so they no longer cause volcanic eruptions of rage. 

I therefore approach Anger Management in two main ways:-

i)  To straight away teach a client a number of methods for becoming aware of what drives their anger (the Buttons) and then fast ways of controlling rising anger – in effect, changing the response to the things which make them angry – thus teaching a client right from the outset how to keep themselves and others,  safe in stressful situations.

ii)  At the same time, I try to establish the reasons for a client feeling angry.  Often this is obvious; at other times it has been blocked and needs exploration before it emerges in conversation.  Either way, I look to deal with the emotions and feelings of frustration, fear, anxiety etc which have led to the anger emerging.  These unresolved emotions are the fuel for anger. If we remove the fuel, the anger just evaporates.

iii)  Having done this, I then help the client to see their lives in a new way. To notice the change in the response of loved ones, friends and workmates to this new calmer person.  How new opportunities arise in their lives.  How they become more secure, more loved and valued.

And the therapy need not take lots of sessions.  I have completed work with one client in five sessions – the last of which was a session to explain to his partner how we had managed to bring about such a dramatic (and hopefully) lasting change in his behaviour!

One last word.  To all those women who think they can change a violent or abusive man.  You can’t.  Leave the relationship and put the experience behind you.  Protect yourself and your children.  You must understand that you are a catalyst to your partner’s anger. Whatever you do, whatever you say, you are part of the problem. You will never be able to effect change alone.  Your partner needs to be evaluated to eliminate functional causes and then to work with someone independent of your relationship who can use the therapies needed to bring about change – if change is possible.  The best thing you can do for your partner and yourself is to remove yourself to a place of safety and to urge them to seek professional help and resolution before it’s too late. 

Dealing with Anger issues


I’ve recently been dealing with a number of clients who have anger management issues and as a result have spent a lot of time trying to identify the most effective ways of defusing their anger.

Some people, of course, are just hardwired to have a short fuse, they are often very manipulative and turn violent if they don’t get their own way.  These are best left to proper psychiatric care.

For a lot of people though, anger is a natural emotional  response to events or issues which have shaken their world, creating issues which remain unresolved for years after the event and which gradually fester into a habitual sense of impatience and intolerance with the world around them.

Anger presents itself in sudden flare ups and inappropriate aggression towards to everyone from partners and children to shop staff and call centre operators.  Sufferers have an extremely low tolerance threshold of anything which requires them to deal with an issue, however trivial..  Those who are tolerant by nature suddenly become intolerant.  Those who have always had enormous patience suddenly start throwing things around in frustration or  threatening others with violence.  Frequently this violence is only verbal but sometimes it can go further.

By the time they reach my consulting room sufferers are usually at a cross-roads in their relationship – their partner has told them to get treatment or the relationship will be at an end. Sometimes, their partner has already found someone else, having been driven away by the frustration and fear induced by walking on eggshells every time Mr Angry is around.  At other times they might have been forced to seek treatment as a result of a restraining order or other court instruction.

When they sit down for their first consultation, sufferers are normally in a pretty poor state, feeling helpless and depressed, confused and fearful for their relationship, their family, the impact which their problems has had on their friends and colleagues at work –  their entire future in fact.  Some readily acknowledge their problem; other remain in denial that they have anything other than a low tolerance level for certain types of “provocation” or situation.

My job as a psychotherapist is to first establish the extent and intensity of the anger they experience and whether or not is hardwired or emotionally driven.   I then  identify the triggers which create the outbursts and the internal language which  it generates in the client, and the people who are most likely to be the targets.

From there I need to identify the type of fuel which is powering their anger.  Often it is quite apparent – the sudden death of a parent or very close friend or the loss of a child.  Redundancy is another common cause – it  can have a disastrous impact on someone’s sense of self-worth and identity.  Men in particular seem to have very fragile egos – they are often identified by their jobs – they are their jobs.  When those jobs are taken away, they become totally lost.  They seem like ghosts, with no idea of who they are or what they should be doing.  They become angry and frustrated at their ex-employers, their managers, the company and most importantly, at themselves for their seeming impotence, confusion and lack of direction and purpose.  These feelings then combine with all the unspent energy which would usually get used up during a busy working day to create a highly volatile cocktail of anger.

In addition, being let down by a trusted business partner, being ripped off by a crooked salesman resulting in the loss of income, house and the subsequent esteem of friends and family can make a normal loving father into a seething mass of anger – ready to erupt at the slightest provocation. This time the anger is fuelled not by loss of identity but at having the very roots of his masculinity challenged – he’s been duped, made to look a fool, lost respect amongst his family and peer.  His primitive instinct is to strike back, release the pent up rage in an orgy of physical violence against whoever caused him the hurt.  But he can’t do that; society doesn’t allow it.  And so he has to lock it up inside him where he tried to bury it, only for it to burst out in the  form of violent rage and anger.

Having got to this point of understand, both for myself and the client, I will usually use hypnosis to help the client release all this anger against an individual or situation in a safe way, by helping them to create scenarios and visualisations which allow them to burn off their anger, often in just a single session.  They can, in imagination, express their thoughts and feelings, rampage around, scream and yell, do whatever they feel they need to do to unlock their feelings, express them in their imagination and then emerge feeling cleansed and revitalised.

Having achieved this, they are they taught different ways of regaining control of themselves in difficult situations.  How to avoid indulging in knee-jerk responses to perceived provocation and learning how to take control of a situation before it gets out of hand.

And these sessions don’t need to go on for a long time.  I recently dealt with a case which was resolved in five one-and-a-half hour sessions.  The final session was held with his partner to help her understand how he had undergone such a transformation in  behaviour in such a short time, and to be reassured that without the fuel which drove his anger,  the  change she had observed was to all intents and purposes, permanent.

If you suffer from anger issues and would like to talk more please feel free to contact me via the blog or my website at www.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk