Tips For Supporting Someone With Anosmia
So, you’ve recently found out your coworker, friend or loved one has anosmia and can’t smell? Okay, but who would have thought there exists such a thing, right? If you’re like most people, your initial reaction may have been of shock, or you may have found it too intriguing and asked questions you shouldn’t have. Whatever the case may be, what does this necessarily mean for you? Is there anything you can do to help? If you want to know how to provide the best support for someone with anosmia, keep reading. I’ll be outlining seven tips on what to do if you are living, working, or hanging out with someone who can’t smell (Video Version Available Scroll To The Bottom).
Anosmia Tip # 1. We Will Need Your Nose
“Can you tell me if this smells bad?” Probably the biggest concern for most, if not all, anosmics is if we smell bad. Personally, this is THE unknown truth that haunts me the most every day. No one likes to be embarrassed because they smell bad, and this is why we anosmics will be asking you to smell things for us 24/7. Unfortunately for you, most of the things we will ask you to smell will be things that stink. It may be an article of clothing, spoiled food or even our underarms.
You will be our guide in the world of unknown scents and patience is key. If our breath smells, you will need to tell us. As your coworker, if our “healthy” lunch consisting of salmon and broccoli being reheated in the office microwave causes the entire place to stink you will need to tell us (that way we don’t do it again and avoid work drama). If we’ve stepped on what we thought was mud but is actually dog poo you will need to tell us. We will be walking around assuming everything is okay unless you tell us.
Now the opposite is also true. We will also ask you to smell pleasant scents for us. Especially if we are buying a new shampoo, essential oils from you, or laundry detergent. In essence, we will rely on you to be our “designated nose.”
Anosmia Tip # 2. Be Respectful
Something else that is really important that I will state as my second point though, is the following. If we ask for your help with all things smelly, one thing you’ll also need to be aware of is HOW you respond to us. If something smells “off,” please tell us in a nice way (especially if there are other people around). Don’t be overly dramatic and yell, “EWWWWW!” off the top of your lungs. I’ve had people respond to me this way and it was very uncomfortable. All I can say is that it exasperated my anxiety and made me question several relationships. Remember, if an anosmic asks you for your help, this means they trust you. We want you to reassure our worry. I have pets, so I know surprise smells are bound to happen, but gimme a break. I mean, thankfully, I’ve learned not to take these reactions personal, but if you can avoid this with your anosmic coworker, friend or loved one, please do.
Anosmia Tip # 3. Make An Effort To Remember
“Omg, doesn’t this smell great?” One of the biggest pet peeves for us anosmics is when the people who we’ve confided in with one of our most personal features, forgets we can’t smell. Please, for the love of everything you love, make an effort to remember! If you must, write it on a sticky note at your desk, write it on the inside of your hand, Heck! If you’re a parent get it tattooed! LOL jk No, but really (my mom still forgets and asks me to smell things when she’s cooking, and it still hurts my feelings womp womp).
I don’t want to pretend like I can smell just to relate to you. As a congenital anosmic, I already spent my entire childhood nodding my head in agreement to “good” smells and overreacting to “bad” smells (especially when someone laid a fart). I’m tired of faking I can smell. I grew up thinking smelling was a skill I had to develop but always failed at.
Now if you’re supporting an acquired anosmic, they probably didn’t go through this in their childhood (If you’d like a quick but thorough explanation about the two types of anosmia you can read my “What Is Anosmia” article here), but I’m positive they will agree, that it really sucks when people forget you can’t smell. Especially if they are still mourning their loss and you forgetting is a painful reminder of what they have lost.
Look, I don’t want to seem snappy and read harsh. We all make mistakes and remembering is something you will need to get used to (after all anosmia is an invisible disability). If you forget, just make sure to apologize and move on with your day (feel free to treat them to lunch or a coffee or just give them a million dollars). I would just recommend you don’t get in the habit of forgetting, it would mean a lot to your anosmic coworker, friend or loved one if you remembered.
Anosmia Tip # 4. Avoid Giving Your Two Cents
In a hypothetical scenario, I know most people, if asked to give up one of their senses, would pick their sense of smell. Most would justify this decision by claiming the sense of smell is the “least important” of all five. This is a statement I’ve heard more than once from people who can smell. They may also say things like, “Well you’re lucky you can’t smell, most smells are bad anyway.” Or “It’s okay, I bet it’s not that big of a deal.”
What’s significant to point out is that these types of statements only serve to downplay our disability. Some anosmics agree it’s a disability, some don’t (I’ll be touching on this topic in a special article in the next upcoming weeks). As human beings, we must learn to respect our differences and this point is exactly why I am doing everything I can to raise awareness. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about anosmia. Most of it has to do with the lack of information out there. You wouldn’t believe the amount of frustration, we anosmics endure when looking for an official diagnosis and treatment. There are ENT’s (doctors who specialize in the olfactory system) who are still unaware our condition exists (or take it seriously).
What remains true is I don’t really care much for personal opinions about how people think I should feel about my anosmia. I have grown to love my frenemy. You may not seem to understand it, but I do and that’s okay.
Anosmia Tips Part 2: Click on the Pic Below
How To Help Someone Who Can't Smell: Video Version on Youtube
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The information contained in my blog posts, stories, memes, webcomics, science articles, drawings and future content, is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only.
By accessing this site, you assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. My website, www.girlwhocantsmell.com’s purpose is to share my OWN personal experience growing up with congenital anosmia. Not as a guide as to how anosmics in general, live their own lives.
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