What is Anosmia? Are There People Who Cant Smell?
Had you ever previously heard about anosmia? If you are like most readers visiting this site for the first time, your answer is probably no. Anosmia is a rare condition and most people are usually surprised to find out it even exists. What’s even more shocking, is when a close friend or loved one discloses they have it. So what is anosmia? Anosmia is the official medical term for the lack of sense of smell. While it can be surprising, recent studies show there are approximately 30 million people affected by a smell and taste disorder in the United States. Specifically, an estimated 6 million of these have a complete and total loss of smell. Anosmia affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. It is an invisible condition that has remained unknown (for the most part) and is consequently, also misunderstood.
There Are Two Types Of Anosmics; Congenital and Acquired
The term congenital anosmia refers to being born without a sense of smell. It is also usually defined as “not having any recollection of ever having experienced smells”. (1)
Personally, I, The “Girl Who Can’t Smell,” am a congenital anosmic. I have never been able to recall what it is like to smell my favorite food, or to make sense of any scents. It is yet unclear if I am missing my olfactory bulb, or never developed my nasal receptors (I’ve never received an official diagnosis with an MRI or CAT scan, but may undergo these in the future for curiosity’s sake). Congenital anosmia is basically being born without the necessary kit to detect smells. Now, I’m aware I am technically “missing out” on a special way of interpreting the world (and others) but because I’ve never lived through scents first hand, I can only imagine what they’re like and that’s it. I do not have any feelings of nostalgia towards scents or any memories I can associate with my childhood. I’ve found that using my humor has helped me cope with this void, and for me the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss” really applies to me.
It’s a different story for my friends who are acquired anosmics, though. Acquired anosmia is when a person was born with a sense of smell but loses it later in life. The loss can occur because of different reasons. They may have experienced a viral or bacterial nasal infection, a physical trauma (being hit in the head), an allergic reaction, or exposure to harsh chemicals etc.… (more research is being conducted on the various causes). Those who lose their sense later in life, are of course older and well aware of what they’re missing out on. They no longer have their scent associations or an enhanced experience with their food.
Unfortunately, because of this, many (but not all) find themselves having a difficult time adapting to and overcoming their new reality. They are more prone to suffering from anxiety, depression and isolation. What is important to point out though, (unlike congenital anosmics) many acquired anosmics (depending on their reason for losing their sense) may have an opportunity to regain it through smell training and many have reported recovering their sense of smell.
But Can You Taste?
Now I’m sure your next question may be about taste. Yes, I can taste. Taste is a sensation picked up by our tongue, not by our nose. Therefore, I can identify if my food is salty, sweet, “meaty”, bitter and/or sour. Taste is different than flavor. According to certified sommelier, Madeline Puckette, “Flavor is when taste and aroma converge. Flavor is how our brains synthesize aromas, taste, and texture into an overall experience.” For olfies, the main part of flavor is normally perceived as smell. Which is why they question whether we can taste. Anosmics in general, can perceive two out of three elements of flavor, which work enough for us to give you kudos if you’re a good cook and invite us over for dinner.
*Now, do keep in mind that anosmia is part of a family of what are called smell and taste disorders. There is a small population of anosmics who besides not being able to smell, have no sense of taste. I can’t describe their experience because I do not have ageusia.
As you’ll read in my other articles, anosmia is a unique experience. I have created this blog in order to connect with other anosmics (which by the way I like to call “nosmies”) because I enjoy relating to our shared experiences and entertaining through my sarcastic humor. But, I also want to educate people like you, who can smell (which we refer to as “olfies”). You may ask yourself how I manage my day to day life and this blog’s aim is to explain just that. We all love a good story now and then and I have plenty. My posts are mainly about the funny situations and thoughts that cross my mind because I can’t smell.
I love meeting new friends and receiving suggestions. If you ever have any questions for me or just want to say hi, I’m available via email: [email protected] and on social media:
I am thankful for you reading through this information and visiting my page. If you’d like to receive updates about new posts and stories makes sure to sign up for my mailing list. By learning more about this condition you really help me in my efforts of spreading more awareness.
[Also, I’ll be continuously adding links to other sources related to anosmia. If you are an anosmic who would like to share your own posts or videos contact me and let’s connect!
What Is Anosmia? Video Version on YouTube
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Anosmia Is Worldwide: Where Are You From?
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(1) Lundqvist, L. “Anosmia FAQ” Retrieved from https://congenitalanosmia.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/anosmia-faq-1.pdf
Smell Training Chris Kelly MSc BA
The Real Difference Between Flavor vs Taste Via WineFolly By Madeline Puckette
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.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.