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 People with these problems will often withdrawn from socialising because so much of social life is focussed around celebratory meals, restaurant outings, enjoying a good glass of wine with friends,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.


We should all have one of these….

This is a great idea.  If only we could get it miniaturised and slide it into our hippocampus and wire it up to our limbic system.  Bingo!  Instant sunshine every day…

How being a Perfectionist can damage your life

I attended a course last weekend which started me thinking about how much we all damage ourselves and our quality of life by indulging in Perfectionism.   We often think of Perfectionists as having some form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) where all can labels in the cupboards have to face forward and the cans and bottles have to be ranked in size order and by colour and content.

Most of us have some element of the Perfectionist within us – liking a tidy home or desk or having a regular place to put the kitchen scissors.  This type of behaviour helps us have more efficient and pleasant lives and avoids wasting hours of effort trying to find a roll of Cellotape.

However, our Perfectionism can become a problem when we start to apply it to ourselves and how we feel the world should treat us.  For instance, when the mechanism of the subconscious (which builds our map of the world and the everyday rules for living), starts to create rules which build an unrealistic expectation about the world around us and the way it should (must) treat us.

If we aren’t careful, we can begin to construct unrealistic rules for ourselves and then try to live by them, expecting the world to treat us well in return.  Examples of these beliefs could be  “I should never turn down the chance of doing something” or  “It must be 100% right.  Not even a tiny error is acceptable” or “My employer must always treat me well because I am a such a good worker and he really values my contribution”.

The result of creating these types of rule is that you put a massive amount of pressure on yourself and those around you to deliver something which is, in reality, unachievable.

“I should never turn down the chance of doing something” means that instead of having a varied and interesting life you are manically running/driving from one event to another.  Getting up early to get somewhere; leaving that event early to get somewhere else; frantically changing clothes for the next activity;  driving furiously to get somewhere else; always looking at the clock, cursing buses, trains and planes for being late; fretting and agitated in traffic jams; dragging friends and family around behind you in a frantic hurry to get somewhere and do something else rather than the thing you are actually doing!

Many people also apply this same “never turn anything down” rule to their work lives by never turning down a job or a project.  Clients tell me “it’s because they know I’m the only one who can  do it,”  “It’s my area of expertise”, “no one else can meet that kind of deadline”.  What they are really telling me is that their employer is exploiting their mistaken belief.  The Manager handing out the work probably thinks that my client is a mug for taking on more and more work; that they don’t really care what happens to one of their team when they eventually break down.  That as long as the job gets done and the Manager looks good, they’ll keep on piling on the work.  If it all goes wrong, they can blame the overworked and Perfectionist who has moved heaven and earth to make sure that they deliver a 100% perfect job.

The self-delusion that one is valued at work and that a company cares still runs deep in the veins of many employees, despite the evidence in front of them every day.  They will tolerate bullying, abuse and overwork because they fear the effort of finding a new job and lack the confidence to rise to the challenge of being given tasks without the right training, timescale or resources.  The chances are that if your boss never has to say “do it or I’ll find someone else who will” when loading another massive burden on your already overburdened back, then it’s YOU who’s the one taking on the work others have already said is impossible to do in the time/for the money/without more resource etc!

Another corrosive belief is that “it must be 100% right, otherwise the rest of what I’ve done is useless and worthless and I am a useless and worthless person who doesn’t deserve thanks or praise”.   No amount of praise can be meaningful to his kind of Perfectionist.  It rolls off them as their subconscious mind rejects what it sees as hollow words from people who  “just don’t know how much better the result could have been if only I could have done a better job”.  This creates in the Perfectionist a deep well of frustration and dissatisfaction with everything in their lives.  They feel bad all the time.  They might turn to drink, drugs, sex or food for comfort in order to achieve that elusive feeling of control over their lives. They might begin to blame others for their lack of perceived achievement, or break up relationships or just work harder and harder until they eventually break down.

The payback which comes from all this manic behaviour is often the firm belief that “My employer must always treat me well because I am a such a good worker and he values my contribution so much”.  Perfectionists believe this of their families too “because I work until 2am every night cleaning the kitchen the family must love me more and show me their appreciation”.

But because everyone views the Perfectionist as neurotic and unreasonable, they don’t value that person more.  In fact, they probably value them less than they would if they just worked 9-5 in the office and spent their time enjoying relaxation with the family playing games and doing trivial things.

As I’m always telling my clients, it’s OK to want to do things to the best of your abilities, but only within the context of the time, energy and other commitments that you have.

If you find yourself under constant pressure, ask yourself why.  What are the beliefs which are driving you to be under that pressure?  What makes the rules you’ve created for yourself true?  What less pressing rules could you create?  Are the rules you are currently living your life to actually out of date – were they right for when you were younger but are they appropriate to life as it is now?

Try writing down the rules which trouble you most and think about them.  How much do they ruin your life?  What would happen if you didn’t obey them?  What would you lose  AND, more importantly, what would you gain?

Why not take a look at the Perfectionist in your own life, and see how your own work and home life could be improved?


I watched a tremendous film called Temple Grandin last night on Sky.  It takes us into the world of someone with autism and the extraordinary talents they have.  Instead of the usual Hollywood slush it has a really uplifting hard-edged narrative taking us through her life and her remarkable achievements.  Wikipedia says about her…

Temple Grandin (born August 29, 1947) is an American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University, bestselling author, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. As a person with high-functioning autism, Grandin is also noted for her work in autism advocacy and is the inventor of the squeeze machine designed to calm hypersensitive people.

Grandin is listed in the 2010 Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the category “Heroes”.[1]

Look up the film. A very rewarding couple of hours.

Press Release Re CNHC

It’s exactly a year now since I joined the register of the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council. For those who haven’t come across it before, here’s the press release which went out to announce my acceptance for membership…

Local hypnotherapist meets new national standards

A Havering based hypnotherapist has become one of the first in the country to achieve a new national standard of excellence for his therapy.

Keith Jefford has been registered by the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), the UK regulator for complementary healthcare.

The recognition places him at the forefront of a national drive to provide a benchmark for standards and safety for the public. Practitioners registered with the CNHC meet national occupational standards and abide by a rigorous code of conduct, performance and ethics.

Keith said: “Achieving registration is not only great news for me and my clients, but is also a vital step in hypnotherapy’s becoming a properly regulated therapeutic practice.”

“With this being the time of year when many people are struggling to keep up their New Year resolutions, it’s important that GP’s and the general public have an easy way to recognise properly trained and qualified practitioners. Now they just have to look for the CNHC logo and tick mark”.

The most popular uses for hypnotherapy focus around stress and anxiety conditions, fears & phobias and addictive behaviours such as smoking, gambling and alcohol abuse.

Hypnotherapy is one of 11 disciplines now recognised by the CNHC. Members of the public can search the CNHC register to find practitioners in their local area. More than 40,000 searches were carried out last year.

By providing a verification of standards, the CNHC allows GPs, hospitals, private healthcare providers and insurance companies to refer patients to hypnotherapy practitioners or to make hypnotherapy more readily available in health centres, clinics, doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.

For further information, please contact E:

In my view, in a profession which seems to be hell bent on concentrating on its own in-fighting rather than working together to promote the benefits of hypnotherapy, the CNHC has provided the closest thing to licencing of practitioners in the UK.

Beware what you say to children…

Imagine that you are 6 months old and are in charge of the world’s most sophisticated supercomputer.  You have to programme it so that it can move, think, communicate and understand the world in all its complexity.  It needs to recognise voices and places, cross roads safely, drive cars, write poetry and music, do complex calculations, know where it is in time and space, experience emotions, interact with other supercomputers and make decisions on a multiplicity of things.   How would you go about it?

The ultra-efficient human brain is estimated to have 100 billion neurons and at least 100 trillion synapses.  Internal communications happen at incredible speeds as it processes different streams and types of data simultaneous, so that you always know where you are, what you are doing and what your next action is going to be every millisecond of every day.  It’s a miracle that we function at all.

Yet nature leaves the programming of this fantastically complex computer to babies and young children!   Babies go through the mechanical part of their learning in well-known stages – recognising faces, learning to crawl, walk, run, hop on one leg and so on. As their brains develop, so does the capacity for language – learning to speak, building a vocabulary, recognising words, reading – and for numbers and calculation.  They also develop a sense of place – cot, rooms, house, street, school etc.

To keep track of this mass of data they create maps in specialised areas of their brains and unless there is interference from a viral infection or genetic or physical damage, these processes continue right through their lives.

However, one of these mapping areas is created and set quite early in life – it’s the part which gives us our view of the world and our place in it.  It is created from a combination of direct experience and what we are told by other people, especially parents and authority figures like priests and teachers.

So, if I am six and I am told by a priest that I am going to hell, that will be put into my map of the world and I will be fearful of that belief until someone who I trust more than the priest tells me different.  If a parent tells me repeatedly that I am stupid, then I will grow up with that belief.  I won’t try to understand things which I find difficult because there’s no point – I’ve been told I’m stupid, I believe that I’m stupid,  so it’s a waste of energy to try.  And so a cycle of self-defeating behaviours begins at a very early age.

A child has no other reference point other than what they are told, so they are extremely vulnerable to deliberate or unintentional implanting of  ideas and beliefs.  These ideas will then continue throughout childhood and into adulthood, affecting self-esteem, relationships, work, creativity and everything to do with their ability to achieve their full potential as well-rounded individuals.

And it’s not just young children who are vulnerable.  Those in early teenage years are equally at risk.  This year alone I have seen one good-looking, highly intelligent under-achiever who has convinced himself that he needs to have his jaw shortened because he was told by a class mate when he was 13 years old  that his jaw protruded.  It doesn’t.  But he now suffers body dysmorphia, and sees a protruding jaw that isn’t there every time he looks in a mirror.  Now in his early 20’s he’s determined to find a plastic surgeon who will agree to saw his jaw in half and move it back a few millimetres so that these wounding words from a 13-year-old child (which he replays hundreds of times a day in his head) can be exorcised from his mind.

I’ve also dealt successfully with an attractive girl who had been told as a young teenager that she was too ugly for anyone to love her.  Again, those words impacted so strongly on her inner world map that she suffered anxiety and depression right through her 20’s.  When I first saw her she was dressed in a baggy grey track suit and her body language was one of hiding and not wanting to be noticed.  Three sessions later she bounced into my consulting grinning widely having bought a bright pink dress and feeling on top of the world. She said that people had noticed how much happier she seemed and how things at work which she’d found depressing had suddenly started to improve for the better.  All because we had redrawn that part of her internal mind map which contained her view about herself, the way she looks and the way in which she then relates to the world.  Simply replacing it with a true picture of how she really is.

So, consider what you say to children.  If they do something stupid, they need to be corrected.  But pushing a wire coat hanger into a lit electric fire is “a stupid thing to do” but it doesn’t make the child stupid.  Similarly, continuously praising a child is almost as bad as being continuously critical.  Being critical makes them feel they will always fail; continuous praise makes them believe that they can never fail.  Either is an unrealistic model of the world to present to a child and gives them unrealistic expectations of life.

So, if you come across people who seem to be overly negative or have no enthusiasm for life or who give up before they begin, just consider how they view themselves.  Don’t judge them as lazy or stupid.  Perhaps their internal map of the world is distorted through no fault of their own.