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!

3 responses to “Olfactory Hallucinations

  1. I spent weeks smelling bleach (I was well at the time). After seeing the doctor who ruled out my sinus she sent me to the dentist, who ruled out problems with my teeth and gums. As an afterthought my dentist asked have you tried an antihistamine. As odd as it sounds she had had a similar experience with taste and it had turned out to be an allergy. I took an antihistamine and it worked, whether because it was an allergy, through placebo or coincidence I’m not sure. A few months ago I started smelling flowers all round my house, unsure if I was well or not at the time but I just assumed it was an allergy and went on my way without antihistamines which interfere with my current pain meds. More recently I had days smelling my mothers tobacco haven’t quite decided if its an allergy, the crazy or my mother has decided to haunt me, still can’t take an antihistamine. Anyway the point of this random ramble is have you tried an antihistamine, you never know it just could be an allergy.

  2. I have the same thing! I smelled the old lady perfume at the beach in December and thought, that’s impossible! Then again on a mountain, then in bed. I have migraines, depression, panic attacks and so on but no one knows because I just keep on keeping on. I am curious to know if you found an explanation. Next week I am having an MRI to satisfy the hypochondriac within. If they say it’s nothing I will be quite pleased.

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