Congenital Anosmia: How Does It Impact One’s Life

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Having been born without a sense of smell, I did not even know until a couple of years ago that my condition had a name -Isolated Congenital Anosmia – or that it was considered a disease. Learning these two things peaked my interest and lead me to do a bit of research on this condition.

What I learned from the so called experts painted a somewhat depressing picture of what life was like for those who have Congenital Anosmia, and that picture was not at all what I myself experienced. So I dug a bit deeper and discovered that the impact this condition has on one’s life depends more on the individual and their own situation than anything else.

Different But Normal

For many people who are born into a family where a previous family member already had Congenital Anosmia, having the condition simply meant they were different than most people, but still normal.

For those who had no family members with Congenital Anosmia, life was somewhat different in their early years, as they would often pretend they could smell things that they really couldn’t, and no one around them knew they had this condition until they would one day admit to someone and then they would be viewed with disbelief.

Having visited Congenital Anosmia forums and read countless articles, it seems that often times those with this condition are told by parents and other family members that “Of course you can smell”, and this insistence sometimes leads those individuals into hiding their condition from others, and in some cases, for the rest of their lives.

For those of us who grew up considering our condition normal, it really was no big deal, and didn’t seem to have a great deal of impact on our lives. For those whose condition was dismissed or viewed with complete disbelief, the impact on their lives had a tremendous affect and still does today.

Making Adjustments

Of course having no sense of smell does mean that the individual has to make some adjustments due to their condition. Most people with Congenital Anosmia are much more worried about body odour than people who can smell. They tend to shower more often, brush their teeth and use mouth wash a little more than the average person, use an excess amount of deodorant, and wash their clothes even after simply trying them on and not actually wearing them.

Any sweating they do, makes them worry that they smell, and in some cases they don’t get too close to people whom they have just met.

Those people also tend to have both smoke detectors and carbon dioxide detectors in their home and check to make sure that the batteries are operating properly, because they know they aren’t going to be able to smell smoke should there be a fire. But as these adjustments are something they grow up doing, the majority of them don’t give a lot of thought to them as they are simply a part of their normal lifestyle.

Dealing With Other People’s Reactions

Perhaps the most difficult part of having Congenital Anosmia is dealing with other people’s reactions. It often gets to be extremely annoying trying to deal with comments such as “How can you not have a sense of smell”.

Even worse though are the people who believe that because you can’t smell you have no sense of taste. The truth is that some people with Anosmia, most often those who developed the condition after once being able to smell, do have a dimensioned sense of taste, a lot of people born without a sense of smell actually have a highly developed sense of taste.

Just as people without sight often have significantly better hearing and a sense of touch, because their other senses become sharper, so too does the sense taste become sharper for some people who were born without a sense of smell. In fact, some people born with it can actually taste odours in the air.

Several people with Congenital Anosmia have mentioned that during their younger years, usually as a teenager, some idiot who wanted to prove that a person with Congenital Anosmia could not taste anything, would do something stupid, like put pepper in a cup of coffee or extra salt in a soft drink to “prove” their theory.

The older you get, the better you get at dealing with the reactions of other people, but during your formative years, this can and sometimes does pose some difficulties for almost everyone with this condition.

Benefits Of Congenital Anosmia

What most people don’t seem to understand is that are some benefits to having Congenital Anosmia. Here are just a few of the benefits I have experienced:

  • I’ve not been in that awkward situation of having to tell a friend or a co-worker that they had bad breath.
  • I never had a difficult time changing my children’s diapers.
  • I’ve never been stung in the nose because I decided to smell a flower that a bee was occupying.
  • I’ve never been forced from a room because someone passed gas.
  • I’m not tempted to spend hundred’s of dollars on the latest perfumes.
  • I’ve never walked past a bakery and been tempted by the smell to stop in and buy a doughnut I know I shouldn’t eat. (Seeing one displayed in the window is an entirely different matter!)

The simple truth is that having Congenital Anosmia is like many things in life, the impact it has on you is going to depend a lot on your own view of yourself and life.

You either make the necessary adjustments and move on or you mourn the loss of something you never had in the first place and let it define who you are. Either way, you are going to have to accept the fact that it is just something you have to live with for better or worse.

Do you suffer from congenital anosmia? Do you have a friend or family member who does? How has it affected your life?

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About Martie Lownsberry

Martie Lownsberry lives in the United States, in the Northern lower peninsula of Michigan on a 7 ½ wooded lot just outside of a small town with the love of her life Vito, their two dogs, a number of Chinchillas, and at times some of their grown children. She is a professional Internet article writer and has written for many different clients both on websites and privately on a variety of subjects. You can read more at martielownsberry.com

Comments

  1. Catherine Buckle says:

    Hi there,

    I felt like I was reading about myself then for pretty much the whole article! It’s nice to know you are not alone 🙂

    I also got the “of course you can smell” so my parents never took me to the doctors or anything. Like you I found out a couple of years ago it had a name when I came across an article about it in a magazine and was like “that’s what I have!!”. I went to the doctor and she said because I was born with it, not to worry etc. But the more I read I get more worried 🙁

    I have had major issues with allergies since I was 18, however these have subsided a little over the past 4 years or so. Still, I have to take an antihistime everyday and also my sinus can sometimes get so blocked and at one point I had to use a nasal spray everyday! That’s very rare at the moment. I also suffer from allergic conjuntivitus, to the extent I was an outpatient at the hospital eye clinic for a couple of years, Again this was bad from the ages of 18-26 but isn’t as bad now, I can even wear contact lenses! Something I thought would never be possible.

    I have no idea if my allergies are linked and would love to hear from anyone with the condition.

    Cat Xx

    • Hi Catherine
      I’m not a doctor so I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t think that allergies could be connected to congenital anosmia as people can be super allergic to things they touch rather than then smell ( like latex and certain types of metal) so I wouldn’t think whether or not you could smell would have much to do with your immune system being out of whack. I’ve never had a problem with allergies. I would think that some allergic reactions could however, result in anosmia if the nasal cavities swelled to the point of becoming damaged.

      I’m not sure what you read that has you so worried, but at age 60 I can honestly tell you not having a sense of smell has never been an issue for me.

      Martie

  2. Hi. I also have congenital anosmia. It has never bothered me much in the past but now i am older i really longing to know what it is like to smell perfume. But i don’t think i ever will.My anosmia run
    s in the family. Unfortunately my niece haskennerleys syndrome. I am very lucky i only have the loss of smell. I DO GET grumpy though when people say i shouldn’t beable to taste. To me i can taste anything. I live in the mid north north of south Australia. It is nice to read about other people’s experiences with congenital anosmia. Jen

    • Hi Jen:
      I am glad you enjoyed the article. I understand what you are talking about when it comes to perfume. When I was single and wanted to date, the only way I could wear perfume was to take a male friend perfume shopping and have him pick out the scent. It always gave me an odd feeling when I would go out on a date knowing I was wearing a perfume another man picked out for me, but the alternative was choosing something that might make me smell like “wet dog” and never know it!

      Now that Pheromones are suppose to attract members of the opposite sex, I do sometimes amuse myself thinking how frustrating it must be for someone to use a perfume or cologne containing Pheromones to attract someone with congenital anosmia! Imagine spending all that money and not getting any attention at all!

      As for the sense of taste I always believed that my sense of taste was actually more acute because I couldn’t smell. While it can be annoying, when people keep insisting that you shouldn’t be able taste I actually found it more amusing than annoying. Though I must admit that when that weight loss product Sensa came out, I knew it would never work for me without wasting my money since it is suppose to work with your sense of smell.

      Just remember that your lack of sense of smell makes you unique and enjoy being slightly different.

      Martie

      • Thanks Martie for your feedback. i apologise for the state of my writing. sometimes my tablet has a mind of its own when i am trying to type.
        Years ago i went to a naturapath. i mentioned that i couldn’t smell and he said that i was lacking in vitamin b. Of course i thought it was rubbish at the time. What do other people think? I feel sometimes that i am lucky to not have a sense of smell, i could have been born blind instead! Jen

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