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 People with these problems will often withdrawn from socialising because so much of social life is focussed around celebratory meals, restaurant outings, enjoying a good glass of wine with friends,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