SPD Information Symptoms Impact on the Senses

Impact on the Senses

The Olfactory (Smell) Sense

Overview of the Olfactory Sense

The sense of smell is detected through numerous nerve endings on tiny hairs in the nostrils. When functioning properly, these receptors will allow a person to smell their environment appropriately. They will be able to detect threatening smells, such as dangerous chemicals and mold. They will then respond appropriately with a fight or flight reaction to remove the source, or leave the vicinity. They will also smell pleasurable smells and respond positively. They will not be easily over-agitated or overwhelmed by the smell of mildly offensive smells like dirty clothing or body odor, or have the same reaction to cooking smells or other scents that many people find pleasing. They will also be able to habituate their sense of smell, to forget the annoying smells, like manure, after being exposed to them for a long period of time.

Olfactory Defensiveness

Those that are hypersensitive to olfactory sensations will often have a difficult time gaiting many smell sensations. Sudden, strong odors can lead to inappropriate fight or flight responses, even if they are not threatening or even noticeable to others in their surroundings. These smells can be so overpowering to their fragile nervous system that it leads to gagging and possibly vomiting. They will also have a hard time removing their focus from the sense, as their brain cannot habituate, which creates a necessity to leave the situation and/or cover their nose. As the olfactory sense is highly interrelated to the gustatory sense, they may also have a hard time eating certain foods, as they can only smell the overwhelming spices or oils, as opposed to the food, itself. They may also judge what foods they eat, what homes they visit, or which people they associate with based upon their odor.

Olfactory Under-Responsiveness

Those who are hyposensitive to smell may be incapable of even noticing scents that are normally very pungent or irritating to most people, such as dangerous chemicals or body odor. This can be quite dangerous, as they are unable to detect odor potentially toxic chemicals. They may also miss typically pleasant or arousing odors, like fresh cookies baking or flowers.

Olfactory Seeking

People who seek out olfactory sensations are chronically needing to smell things. They will frequently hold things up to their nose to get the scent they are trying to get. Even if they don't necessarily like a certain smell, they may have a hard time NOT continuing to smell it. Olfactory seekers may also make sure that their environments are always filled with fragrances, and may go to great lengths to bring as much scent into their homes as possible.

Olfactory Discrimination Disorder

When a person has difficulty with olfactory discrimination, it makes it exceedingly rough for them to determine the source of an odor. It will also be hard for them to be able to describe something by smell, and distinguish different smells from one and other, especially if the scents are at all similar.