Daily Archives: February 19, 2014

Olfactory Hallucinations

For the past week or so, I’ve been smelling a smell and I can’t find the origin of the scent in my apartment.

It smells like perfume worn by an older woman, that kind of sickeningly floral smell with almost an herbal quality to it.

I have extremely sensitive sinuses, I generally can’t be around perfumes of any kind (soaps, detergents, deodorants, colognes, even actual flowers sometimes) without them triggering sinus pain and headaches. Naturally, when I began to be overpowered by the perfume smell in my apartment, I began taking steps to find the scent.

I sniffed blankets and pillows touched by my guests, I took out the garbage, I smelled the laundry my boyfriend just did (in case someone else’s dryer sheet had been left in the community machine), and I smelled all of my own clothes as well.

The verdict?

I can’t find it. I can’t find the smell coming from anywhere in the apartment… yet sitting on the couch it smells very much like I’m sitting next to a 70 year old woman, and the scent is overpowering.

At this point Corey is joking that I am psychic and perhaps these phantom smells are coming from the ghost of our apartment’s previous tenant.

I’ve reached the conclusion that the phenomenon is most likely (as I’m the only one that can smell it) phantosmia, or olfactory hallucinations. After all, we can experience hallucinations through the feeling of touch or through sight, is it really any different to experience them through smell?

This is not the first time this has happened to me. Usually I smell garbage though, a funky odor I can’t seem to find or get rid of even after I’ve taken out the trash. I don’t know at this point if the odor of perfume is really any better.

These sorts of hallucinations are probably most likely known for occurring with brain tumors, but they are also fairly common with schizophrenia and other mood disorders.

For the record, phantosmia refers to the hallucination of a smell in the absence of any other odors. There are other types of olfactory hallucinations called parosmia that is the misinterpretation of a smell into another smell. Pretty much the equivalent of when your dishwasher is running but your brain believes people are whispering in the other room (but with smells).

In any case, I hope this goes away soon. I’ve been under an intense amount of stress the last couple weeks, so I imagine that might have been what triggered it. It is just extremely inconvenient to be sitting on the couch dreaming about wearing a gas mask (HA! but I’d probably still smell it…) because, well, this stinks!