The official admission took a while, but it was eventually discovered that the disappearance of the smell was one of the defining characteristics of COVID-19. It is now widely acknowledged that COVID-19 has a unique effect on odor receptors, and about 10% of people who lose their sense of smell still report smell and taste problems after six months.
This will have a profound impact. Therefore, we want to record what it feels like to have long-term smell and taste problems. We achieve this goal by partnering with AbScent, an anosmia charity, which provides an online support group for people with post-COVID smell problems.
By talking with people in this group, we can understand the wider impact of olfactory disturbances after COVID-19. At the time of our research, more than 9,000 people have joined the group. Every day we see new descriptions of the destructive effects of sensory changes.
We started posting questions to better understand what was going on, and the response was enthusiastic. People really want their experiences to be heard. After obtaining the consent of the participants, we began to analyze their reactions. We took every subject we detected out of the group and asked them to comment on our research paper before we finalized it. We want to make sure we tell their story correctly. This is what we found.
The end of food satisfaction
Even people around me have trouble understanding the severity of the loss and how it affects my life.
Before we discuss further, let us define a few key terms. Anosmia is the complete loss of smell. Parosmia is a place where the normal smell is distorted and is usually unpleasant. Taste is received by the receptors on the tongue. Flavor is the overall sensory experience of food, in which smell is the main contributor, but other senses are also involved. This means that even if your sense of taste (tongue) is good, loss of smell can severely affect the flavor.
The first thing that shocks us is how unpredictable and disoriented it is to feel the loss of experience. For some people, the effect is absolute:
It’s like a light switch: from 100% to 0% in a few hours…no distorted smell, no smell, nothing. It’s like my nose is closed.
For others, things are more fluid. Anosmia may be mutated into anosmia. Good food for one day may become nauseous the next day. This “chaotic narrative”—as sociologists say—means that loss of smell is difficult to tolerate, let alone management. An uncontrollable situation.
The effect on appetite is also unpredictable. As expected, people have trouble eating—especially when the normal smell is distorted. Some people are really struggling, reporting malnutrition and severe weight loss.
What is less obvious is that some people report weight gain. These people are usually people with loss of smell, they “chasing taste” after losing their sense of smell. If you realize the difference between wanting and liking in what psychologists call the happiness cycle, you can understand this.
Wanting is where you chase what you want to consume. To like is when you get it and you are tasting it. In anosmia, that pleasurable part no longer exists, but this does not prevent what is wanted:
Lack of food satisfaction, I see myself eating more to try to get that satisfaction… My weight is gaining due to the constant craving for things that will never be satisfied.
Intimacy is a smell
But it’s not just about food. Until you lose it, you won’t realize how important diet is for daily pleasure, especially social pleasure:
I am sad for my lost consciousness. No more tasting and cheese nights or gin cocktails with my “girl”.
Even more heartbreaking is the impact of sensory changes on intimate relationships. There are many posts describing that people can no longer smell the loneliness of their partner or their children. Once again, you don’t realize how important smell is for intimacy and connection until it disappears. Worse is the effect of smell:
His natural smell once made me want him; now it makes me vomit.
How do you tell your lover?
Some people’s relationship with themselves and the world has also changed. Some people who have no sense of smell report feeling separated from themselves and the world. For the sense of smell, it may be more disturbing, everyday scents can trigger disgusting odors and make the world feel like a dangerous and chaotic place.
Fortunately, for some people, these sensory changes are temporary. However, after a few months, many people fell into a profound sensory change that brought all the pain. Although there is evidence that olfactory training can help sensory recovery in other situations, we are still in the early stages of understanding and developing treatments to deal with the pandemic of perception changes.
This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.