The world is abundant with different smells, some of which are intoxicatingly pleasant and some of which are grotesquely revolting. In some instances, certain smells can trigger a memory or other times a particular smell can alert us of possible impending danger such as gas or smoke. However, there is a population of the world that, for some reason, unconsciously attaches anxiety to certain smells.

Individuals who suffer from Osmophobia – or often referred to as Olfactophobia – express a general fear, aversion, or psychological hypersensitivity to smells and/or odors. This type of phobia is often so intense that a person will do everything in their power to get away from or avoid the aversive smell.

Symptoms of Osmophobia

Osmophobia can use a lot of a person’s energy trying to avoid odors and can make life rather difficult to complete normal daily activities and tasks. As with any phobia, the symptoms vary from person to person depending on their level of fear. Often times, Osmophobia – as with most phobias – and the added stress of anxiety symptoms can make a person physically ill.

The symptoms most often associated with Osmophobia typically include, but are not limited to:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth,
  • Inability to articulate words or sentences
  • Shaking or trembling

Causes of Osmophobia

It is generally accepted that phobias arise from a combination of traumatic external events and internal predispositions such as heredity or genetics. Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. The biggest difficulty that many sufferers have is that they feel that they cannot seem to get away from the smells they are fearful of. It is in their shoes, on their clothes, in the refrigerator, in their room, or even passing through their neighborhood.

Treatment of Osmophobia

When a person has reached the point where there is a realization that the phobia is unrealistic and commits to change, there are choices for therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for patients as it helps to educate about the phobia, learn their triggers, and devise coping and management techniques. In some cases, individuals choose a course of Hypnotherapy to help them change behaviors. Other constructive methods of treatment for Osmophobia include relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing and visualization; anxiety medications; and exposure therapy where the patient is introduced to the smell that they fear while a therapist provides comfort in order to reduce anxiety and tension. Another form of treatment therapy includes support groups. Support groups have been proven to be highly affective because patients are able to talk with other individuals who are experiencing the same thing. In such groups, major recovery can take place, as stories are compared, and tips on how to deal with the phobia are shared amongst the group members.

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