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 People with these problems will often withdrawn from socialising because so much of social life is focussed around celebratory meals, restaurant outings, enjoying a good glass of wine with friends,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


This week has seen media coverage of a problem affecting up to 1m people in the UK who are suffering from “completely preventable” severe headaches caused by taking too many pain killers.

“Medication Overdose Headaches” have been brought to public attention by the latest NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) Guidelines on the topic.

It may surprise readers to learn that no one knows exactly how painkillers work or how it affects the brain in the treatment of headaches.

The new NICE Guideline to GPs is that patients suffering from MOH be advised to stop taking painkillers immediately, despite the fact that they run the risk of suffering potentially agonising pain as the headaches continue without the benefit of analgesia.  Having been through this period of withdrawal, symptoms are expected to gradually improve if not disappear altogether.

Dr Massio Riccio, a leading addiction specialist at the Priory Clinic in Roehampton is quoted by the BBC News website as saying that “those trying to kick a serious codeine habit may suffer symptoms not dissimilar to someone weaning themselves off a class A drug.  You may well experience increased perspiration, cold sweats, stomach cramps, a runny nose, and generally feel unwell.  Psychologically you may feel more irritable and may not sleep well”.

If YOU think that you might be affected by the problem of MOH then the first thing to do is to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

If you are advised to stop taking painkillers with immediate effect and suffer painful withdrawals symptoms, you might consider consulting a hypnotherapist.

Hypnotherapy can help in a number of ways:-

  • For Tension headaches, it can help you relax and release the tension which is creating the pain.  It can also be used to help you deal with the source of the anxiety causing the tension and thereby help provide a long term solution to the problem.
  • Migraine can also be helped by hypnosis.  In addition to release tension caused by an attack it can also help reduce the fear of future attacks and help you deal with the severity of the current  symptoms,  including the nausea and sensitivity to light and sound which accompanies it.  It can also help you deal with the stressful things which might bring on an attack and teach you ways of protecting yourself from frequent re-occurrence.
  • For those suffering from Cluster headaches (causing swelling around the eyes – making them red and watery – together with  severe pain around the eyes and sides of the face)  it can help reduce the stress of the attacks and the sensitivity to the pain it produces.

For all kinds of headache conditions I always teach a variety of pain control techniques and self-hypnosis to help put the client more in control of their own particular set of triggers and symptoms.

If you’d like to know more about how hypnotherapy can help you, please refer to my website at wwww.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk

UNDERSTANDING TINNITUS – Part 1


This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week in the UK.  Coincidentally, I’ve spent much of January working on a CD to help tinnitus sufferers deal with the sometimes devastating impact of being aware of loud noises coming from inside their heads 24/7.  This blog is drawn from the introduction to the CD and is designed to help those suffering from its effects, or those with a friend or relative who suffers from the problem, to understand it causes.  

Having several friends who suffer from Tinnitus, I have made a particular study of how it works and how hypnotherapy might help sufferers accept it and reduce its impact on their day to day lives.

This blog divides into two parts – the first is a fairly detailed description of the mechanisms which drive Tinnitus.  I’ve found in my researches that it’s quite difficult to get a simple but comprehensive description of how Tinnitus sounds are generated and why they are so different for different people.  If you know about this already, please just skip down to the second part which deals with the ways in which hypnotherapy can help you live with Tinnitus more comfortably.

How Tinnitus Sounds Are Generated

When a sound reaches the human ear, it enters as a pressure wave of vibrating air. This wave is converted into mechanical vibration by the eardrum and then amplified by the hammer/anvil/stirrup structure of the Middle Ear. It then passes into the fluid filled space of the Inner Ear.

Inside this space lie the semi-circular canals which control our balance, together with the complex structure of the Cochlear. It is here that the mechanical vibration of the sound is converted into chemical and electrical energy by a part of the Cochlear called the Organ of Corti. This identifies the pitch of the vibrations passing through it and also, their volume.  This is then converted into a signal which is passed to the temporal lobe of the brain – the part which controls our hearing. Only at this point does our conscious mind becomes aware of the sound for the first time.

Tinnitus occurs because of  a mechanical malfunction inside the Organ of Corti.   Inside the organ is a highly specialised structure containing up to 20,000 receptors, each one with its own tiny hair cell attached.  Each hair is responsible for detecting sound at a set frequency and measuring its volume. This information is then passed directly to its parent nerve receptor (one of the 20,000 mentioned above) and then on to the brain.

These hairs are very sensitive to damage from aging, exposure to overly loud sounds or to certain ototoxic drugs and once they are damaged they do not regenerate.   However, the loss of particular hairs does not mean that we stop hearing sounds at those frequencies.  Instead, the nerve receptor which is attached to a dead hair switches to a default setting which amplifies the sound being sent to the brain.  So it doesn’t matter if the sound is soft or really loud in the real world; it will just be amplified to the one and only high level of volume that the nerve receptor can deliver to the brain.

As a consequence, as hair cells become damaged, certain  frequencies of noise will become unnaturally loud and the brain will become much more aware of them.

You probably already know that your body is not a silent place. You can sometimes hear your own heart beating when your head is resting on a pillow in a quiet room. Sometime you can hear rushing noises in your ears as a result of blood flow, or the movement of air in your ear canals. And it can become even more noticeable if you get anxious. As your heart rate increases, your blood pounds round your body faster and the sounds it produces become more noticeable. Even the hairs in the Organ of Corti itself produce noise as they move around.

This is why Tinnitus noise is a very individual experience. It can be heard in different parts of the head by different people and can range from a high pitched whine to loud thuddings and bangings or low groanings. And the same sounds persist day after day after day.

The Psychological Effects of Tinnitus

As a result of the above, Tinnitus can create strong psychological stress which is caused  by the way our brains evaluate and respond to sounds.  The ability to recognise sound is a vital primitive instinct – it helps us distinguish between the threatening growl of a tiger and the comforting purr of a cat. When we identify a sound, our body responds according to the level of threat the noise seems to represent.

The tiger’s growl behind us, for instance, triggers our “fight or flight” mechanism. It immediately prepares us to either fight the tiger or to run away from it. Consequently our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) pours adrenalin and stimulating hormones into our bodies, dries up our digestive juices, dilates our pupils and opens the pores on our skin so that we can sweat and cool ourselves more easily as we run etc. In modern life, this response translates into high levels of stress and anxiety.

The kitten’s purr on the other hand, makes us smile and relax. So it does the reverse of the tiger’s growl. It triggers relaxation, and so the ANS pours pleasure-hormones into our body, calming us, slowing our heart rate and relaxing our muscles and minds.

So, every sound we hear get labelled and, if repeated often enough, creates a “conditioned reflex” according to the feelings we associate with it.   This reflex is very sensitive and sophisticated. For instance, even though a mother might sleep through a thunderstorm, she will wake up the moment her child begins to cry.

So, awake or asleep, our minds and bodies are conditioned to respond to the sounds we hear – consciously or unconsciously.

In addition, the way we think of a sound is as flexible as our response to it. For instance, loud music might be really enjoyable at a party, but a hellish din when heard through a thin wall at 2 o’clock in the morning. So the label we put on a particular sound depends on the context in which we hear it and the level of excitement/relaxation it causes.

Because Tinnitus sounds are inside the head, can’t be escaped and are more or less continuous, the mind’s response to the sounds is that they are unpleasant, threatening, unwanted and something to fear and feel angry and sad about – and who can blame it?

The problem it creates however, is that developing the habit of always being unhappy and distressed by the Tinnitus noise becomes a vicious circle. This learned response creates an ever-strengthening cycle of negative responses – starting with a feeling of annoyance and irritation and rapidly progressing to fear, anger and a desire to escape – all of which  makes the sensitisation to the Tinnitus sounds even greater.

In additon, to becoming a reflex response, Tinnitus also creates a self-reinforcing vocabulary of internal self-talk –  “I can’t stand it, it’s driving me mad, I can’t shut it out” etc – every time it’s heard.  This negative language once again alerts the ANS to something bad and so the unhappy feeling just get worse.

Finally, on top of all this, many GP’s will tell their patients that there is no cure for Tinnitus – which is medically correct, but leaves no hope of finding ways of alleviating the symptoms or learning to live in peace with the sounds.

How Hypnotherapy Can Help you Live with Tinnitus

We’ve seen from the discussion above that there are three elements involved in the experience of Tinnitus –  i)  the noise itself and the seeming inability to escape it  ii)  the emotions generated every time the noise is heard and iii)  the apparent lack of control and helplessness which sufferers feel.

As we’ve seen, it’s true that there is no literal way of escaping the noise of Tinnitus.  However, it is possible to change your response to the sound of Tinnitus, to  retrain your hearing to make the sound less intrusive ( a process called by audiologists Habituation) and in doing so, change your body’s emotional response to it.   Thus, by using a variety of techniques, it is possible to learn to live at relative peace with the noises – by learning to be less disturbed by them, to be able to forget about them for longer (if you think about, you probably do experience times during the day when the sounds are less troublesome or not even noticed) and to change your response to them when you do notice them.

Hypnotherapy can help you  learn to make the sound of Tinnitus less threatening, to make the use of masking sounds (Pink Noise) more effective and to help you extend the periods in which you don’t notice, or notice the sounds less  – in the way that sound of air conditioning will gradually fades from your consciousness the more time you spend with it.

Therapy for Tinnitus  begins with a thorough review of your own Tinnitus experience and the words you use to describe it.   At your first session you will be given a CD designed to help you relax your nervous system right down to a pleasant state of relaxation.  The CD will also train you to listen to Pink Noise, which will help mask your Tinnitus sounds and help retrain your auditory memory/awareness networks (the basics of Tinnitus Masking techniques).  It will also help you to ignore the sounds more easily and to be focussed instead on all those times when you just don’t remember hearing the noise. Finally it has a Pink Noise track which you can copy onto a mobile phone or mp3 player to use whenever you are out and about or in bed and want to supress your Tinnitus sounds.

Subsequent sessions  focus on your own particular issues, thoughts and feelings and are designed give you the means of putting you in control of your Tinnitus and help in creating a more positive and optimistic attitude towards your future.

If you or a relative suffer from Tinnitus and would lke to discuss how hypnotherapy can help,  please feel free to give me a call for a free, no obligation, consultation.  See my website www.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk  for more details.

Introducing Eye Movement Therapy (EMT)


Introduction to Eye Movement Therapies

As part of my regular Continuous Professional Development  I  attend weekend courses at the  ICH in London.  The latest course provided a fascinating introduction to the latest EMT  techniques.

Developed by Francine Shapiro PhD at the Mental Research Institute in  1987,   EMT has proved to be a highly effective way of engaging the brain’s innate memory processing system  to deal with memories of traumatic events.

It uses bi-lateral stimulation of the brain – either through eye movements or left hand/right hand tapping.

The constant shifting of attention from left to right through movement of the eyes or tapping of the hands, together with the client’s simultaneous, controlled replaying of  the memory and negative emotions it produces, provokes an increased flow of  neuronal activity between  right  and left brain memory centres via the corpus callosum.  This flow facilitates the dissociation of the  link between the trauma and the emotions which it engenders.  Thus, as the memory is processed, the negative emotions fall away, rendering the memory less and less painful.

While originally used for Trauma with a big “T” (PTSD, rape etc)  where it was found to eliminate 77-90% of civilian  single trauma PTSD  within three 90 minute sessions).  Variants of EMT are now used for dealing with a whole variety of issues including events from childhood which have resulted in feelings of self-blame or inadequacy, creation of fears and phobias, anger and relationship issues.  I recently used one of these variants, called WHEE, to break a client’s fixation with chocolate (to facilitate weight loss) in just a single session.

GET A FREE SLEEP MP3 DOWNLOAD


A recent survey showed that around half of the population suffer from sleep problems at some time in their lives. Some people can’t get to sleep, others wake at 2.00am or 4.00am, others can’t drift deep enough or long enough to go into the most restful state of all – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This last state is one of the most important because it’s the one where your brain processes the events of the day, sorts out things to go into long-term memory for instant recall and those which don’t need to be immediately available. It also processes the emotions attached to memories; that’s why you walk away from a bad car crash feeling really shaky and ill, then feel a bit better a week later, a lot better a month later and six months later can laugh about it in the pub. In contrast, people who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can’t process their memory of a traumatic event in this way. Their brains are stuck in a repeating cycle of memory and intense emotion which they can’t shift. Therapies like hypnosis help them go into a pseudo REM state so that the emotions can be gently processed so that the event can still be recalled, but it has lost its emotional sting and therefore its power.

So, to help you non-sleepers, I’ve arranged for a copy of my Deep, Natural Sleep recording to be available to anyone who wants to click on the following link. It will be available for a week and you can send it to anyone you want as long as you acknowledge where it came from and don’t try to sell it.

Points to note:-

a) This is a relaxation and sleep recording so shouldn’t be used when driving or operating machinery!
b) Although the recording refers a number times to hypnosis, It’s more a guided visualisation rather than deep hypnosis, so if you need to wake up in the middle of the recording, or something goes wrong with the recording, you can just slowly open your eyes and deal with whatever needs to be done. To be kind to yourself, you could just count yourself up from 5 to 1 very slowly so that your body returns to normally in a gentle, relaxed way instead of being asked to jerk back into instant action.  You can’t get stuck or drift off anywhere; the worst thing that can happen to you is that you go to sleep!!!!

c)  The recording is best used with a single in-ear headphone pushed into the ear that’s not resting on the pillow.  If you put the recording onto your phone or mp3 player and plug it into a charger, you can listen to it again if you wake up during the night.  You can listen to it as many times as you need to each night.

d)  If you don’t get instant results, just keep on using it every night.  Very soon you’ll find your brain will associate the sounds as being a signal to sleep and you’ll drift off quite quickly.

e)  Don’t try to listen to every word!!! Just let the sound of my voice wash over you.  You don’t have to be alert or remember or listen to what I say.  Just let the tones and the sounds help you drift off.
f) The background music being used in this recording is Light Awash by Kevin McLeod and script is adapted from one found on http://www.hypnosisonline.com (if its author would like to step forward I will gladly give him a name check).

Anyhow, the link is at: https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=602D8ABCFA125BD8&id=602D8ABCFA125BD8%21144&sc=documents#!/?cid=602d8abcfa125bd8&sc=documents&id=602D8ABCFA125BD8%21144

If anyone has a problem with the download or the recording please let me know straight away and I’ll fix.

Please also let me have comments and feedback on the recording itself.

Sweet dreams!

Happy Stress Awareness Day


Yes, today is National Stress Awareness Day!

So to do it justice here are my top ten tips for reducing stress in your life:-

1.   Forgive Yourself – Some people spend their lives beating themselves up for things they should have done or things they shouldn’t have said.  The past has happened.  That’s done business.  To mark your act of self-forgiveness, why not do some selfless act of good for someone else, as a kind of penance. While you’re doing it, concentrate on truly letting go of the emotions which you’ve been carrying around for so long.  Visualise them just sliding away down the side of a very steep mountain, getting smaller and smaller until they are out of sight.  Or tie them to a big helium balloon in your mind and watch them drift off and over the horizon.  Feel the weight of anxiety and stress lifting from your shoulders as you forgive yourself forever.

2.  Forgive Others – As well as forgiving ourselves, we also release stress and anxiety by forgiving others.  Perhaps it’s something they’ve said or done, or not said or done.  Perhaps you can’t forgive someone for not being the person you wanted them to be – a mother who found it impossible to be the caring loving person you wanted her to be, a bullying employer who wasn’t democratic leader who listened to the wise counsel of others.  All these hurts are like thorns in your side, they have no impact on anyone but you and the more you focus on them the more power they have over you.  But you can  break their power by giving forgiveness to the person who hurt you.  Sit with your eyes closed for  a while and image that person tied to a chair, bound and gagged and helpless.  Then march up and down in front of them telling them how they hurt you, how what they did affected your life; really lay into them so that they are in no doubt about how much you loathe what they did.  Look into their eyes and see how they react.  You might even remove the gag and let them answer for themselves.  Hear their excuses.  Maybe their apology.  And then…. FORGIVE them for what they have done.  Because your forgiveness will remove all the power of the hurt they inflicted on you.  Forgiveness renders them and the hurt powerless.  It’s like releasing a massive clamp around your heart and your head;  to forgive is to let go. And with that letting go comes peace of mind and freedom from hurt and the anxiety and stress it causes.

3.  Value Friends –  we are all so busy that we often don’t value the support and security we gain from true friendship.  True friends share our anxiety and stress, taking some of the load and helping us keep perspective.  So take time to show your true friends how much you appreciate them – a small gift or a funny email with a YouTube link can make a friend’s day and remind you of how precious they are to you.

4.   Be in the Now – We get stressed and anxious because we are all trying to do too much in one day.  We might think we are taking time for ourselves at the gym but how often are we looking at the clock and thinking about what we’re going to be doing next?  We are somewhere else, not enjoying the rhythm of feet pounding or the movement of breath through our lungs or feeling our muscles being stretched.  Being In the Now is simple and highly effective.  Just stop and be aware of where you are, how you’re feeling, all the sensations in your body, the sounds, smells, colours and textures around you. Give it a try; you’ll find yourself feeling calmer, more relaxed and more in touch with the real things in life.

5.   Slow your Thoughts – When you’re stressed and anxious, your thoughts speed up.  And the more stressed you get, the more they accelerate.  So, as soon as you find yourself thinking fast, close your eyes and imagine your words running across a computer screen.  See how fast they are running.  Often, it’s a single phrase that’s going round and round.  Now try slowing the words down.  Make them run at half speed; then at quarter speed; then have them appear a word at a time filling the screen; and then have them appear at five second intervals, one at a time.  Maybe even a letter at a time. And then just enjoy the feeling of control and absence of anxiety and stress which comes with the slowing down.  When you open your eyes you will feel calmer, more relaxed and reinvigorated.

6.   Only do What’s Necessary –  Many of us have high expectations of ourselves.  Often much higher than we would have of other people.  We drive ourselves to clear our To Do lists each day, whether it has 10 jobs on it or 100.  We’ll get in early, work through lunch and work late to clear it.  And when arrive at work in the morning, we’ll have yet another long list of things to do.   So we get increasingly anxious and stressed as the days go by and more and more exhausted and less and less effective.  As an alternative strategy, why not try prioritising the five most important things to do today.  And do them. Then see how much of the day is left and tackle the most urgent of the remaining tasks.  And leaving the rest until the morning.  Strangely, rather than having things build up, you’ll find that the five urgent task are done more quickly than you anticipated.  And that you clear more of the secondary tasks by going home time than you thought you would.  And that the overspill until tomorrow clears faster than you expected.  You might even find yourself with time on your hands as the days go by.  All because you are working in a more focussed way on what needs to be done NOW and have more energy left over to tackle what’s left, more efficiently and with more concentration.

7.  Stop Rehearsing –    Anxiety comes from over-concentration on preparation for action.  From the piling of one piece of preparation onto another, over and over again in the course of the day.  Many people find that this constant rehearsal becomes such a habit that they’ve had a day’s worth of meetings before they step out of the shower in the morning!  Think about what needs to be done, prepare notes and imagine how the meeting might go, sort out any additional things you might want to take to the meeting, and then let it go. Stop rehearsing.  You’ve done enough.  Reward yourself by…

8. Take a Holiday on the Train –  this is an easy an effective stress-buster.  Find somewhere you can be undisturbed for five to ten minutes.  You can do it sitting on a train or in a coffee shop.  Turn off your mobile.  Close your eyes and let all the tension drain out of your neck and shoulders.  Move up through your body, starting at the tips of your toes and then moving upwards, relaxing every muscle and tendon bit by bit – toes, feet, lower legs, knees, thighs etc. right up to the top of your head and down over your face to the tip of your chin.   This should take a minute or so.  Then, keeping this feeling of relaxation,  decide on a place you’d like to go.  Somewhere you’d feel relaxed and safe and could have fun for a while.  A favourite holiday destination would be good.  Then feel yourself drifting up from your seat, moving up towards the nearest window, through it and up into the sky.  Imagine yourself travelling across roof tops and fields towards your destination.  Really feel yourself travelling, feeling confident and happy and excited about your trip.  See your destination coming into view below you and slowly descend to a place you know really well.  You are now in a place where time has no meaning.  Clocks don’t exist.  A minute in real-time could be a day, a week, a month or a year in this special time.  So now, just go and enjoy yourself. Have adventures, visit places and people.  Enjoy the sun.  Swim.  Do whatever you want for however long you want to.  And when it’s time to come back you’ll know.  Just return to the spot you landed.  Drift up and travel back, right back to the window, through the window and into your seat.  Cares and anxieties will just drop away as you open your eyes to continue your day.

9.  Be Kind To Yourself – in what you eat, what you think about yourself, how you dress and how you occupy the space around you.  You are unique.  The only one.  Love and respect yourself and others will too.

10.  Avoid Quick Fixes –  nicotine addiction depresses your natural mood.  It means you must have a cigarette to get you back up to where you would have been anyway; alcohol depresses you – you might feel good when drunk but depressed when you’re sober – alcoholics need a drink to get them back up to where they would have been without the drink;   cream cakes taste good for the moment they’re in your mouth and then they make you feel bad – and then you want another cream cake to make you feel better about feeling bad.  Result – anxiety and stress.  Because you can’t cope without the quick fix.  Avoid the fix, avoid the stress!

Happy Stress Awareness Day….