Fear Of Smells: Causes, Indicators, Treatments

Fear of smells or osmophobia, defined in medical dictionaries as a morbid fear of smells, is relatively rare as an independent phobia. However, it is quite common among migraine sufferers.

Some migraine sufferers report that their headaches are triggered by strong odors. Understandably, this connection could lead to a fear of smells. However, regardless of whether or not headaches are present, osmophobia can be overwhelming.

However, osmophobia is more than a fear. It is a true phobia in which the fear becomes extreme and, in some cases, irrational. The phobias can have debilitating effects in patients that interfere with their ability to complete daily activities.


A 2015 Brazilian study found that of 235 patients with headaches, 147 were diagnosed with migraines and 53 percent of those with migraine had osmophobia. The study also found that among headache patients, those with migraines and a significant number of years of headache history had more signs of osmophobia.

In some cases, a certain smell can trigger a migraine in the population prone to these severe headaches.

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The sense of smell is highly personalized, and what smells wonderful to one person may smell terrible to the other. In addition, smells are strongly linked to memories of past experiences.

Smelling your grandmother’s favorite perfume or the flowers that were in bloom the day you proposed to your wife can trigger a sudden flood of positive memories. Similarly, people suffering from osmophobia can be triggered by a wide range of possible odors.


  • Extreme anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to articulate words or sentences
  • Shaking or shaking
  • Difficulty breathing

Other disorders

In addition to migraines, osmophobia is sometimes linked to other disorders . For example, people with chemophobia, or a fear of chemicals, may have a strong aversion to any chemical odor. People with a fear of animals can react strongly to any animal odor. Those who fear water may be sensitive to the smell of the ocean.

Treatment for fear of smells

Like any phobia, osmophobia that is not related to a medical condition generally responds well to a variety of therapeutic techniques. Systematic desensitization, in which one is gradually exposed to the dreaded odor, is particularly helpful.

However, if your osmophobia is related to migraines, please let your therapist know. Your doctor will need to be involved in your treatment to make sure you don’t make your headaches worse.

Other Treatments

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients recognize their triggers and develop coping skills.
  • Medicines used to treat anxiety
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Exposure therapy
  • Psychotherapy

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.