Living without a sense of smell brings feelings of isolation and peril, study says

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Image: FG Trade

A recent study is one of the first to highlight the plights faced by a small segment of the population: people who can’t smell the world around them normally.

Patients, the authors found, commonly talked about feeling isolated and sad, having trouble with their relationships, and feeling unable to function daily as a result of their condition. Some expressed shame about needing help from others and lamented the loss of everyday joys like eating and cooking.

Sufferers also described harrowing repercussions from their inability to detect signs of danger, like the smell of a gas leak or smoke. That sort of experience, as it turns out, is all too familiar to Riley MacLeod, editor at large for Kotaku, who was born without his ability to smell.

Related article:  ‘If you get better, you stay better’: Deep brain stimulation could offer long-lasting depression treatment

“I would agree that ‘hazard perception’—not being able to smell gas, for instance, which happened to me yesterday, or when food goes bad—is a big stress for me,” MacLeod told Gizmodo via Slack.

This research doesn’t offer any help at finding a cure for anosmia, but the findings show why it’s important for others, especially doctors, to understand the distress these patients go through, according to the authors.

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