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When Your Friend Is Highly Sensitive To Smell

Is that true? Are there really people who are sensitive to smell? Here I do not mean people with asthma or some other breathing difficulties. I mean people with, what can seem like, acute sense of smell. While majority of people would be sensitive to some smells, Highly Sensitive People might notice a few others. So, what do you do when that happens?

As always, it is great to be aware of what it actually feels like to your highly sensitive friend. Changing environments usually mean the change of different smells. For example, walking into a fast food restaurant I usually notice the heavy smell of cooking oil, but then walking into someone else’s home might bring out smells of what has been cooked recently or someone’s clothes. This is definitely not something I struggle with, but some people can find it distressing.

“As soon as I step out of bed in the morning, I’m inundated with smells. Some of the smells are good ones, because like many HSPs, I’ve carefully cultivated every feature in my home to be exactly as I want it.” 

Heather Ream, Highly Sensitive Refuge 2019

So first thing you can do if you have a highly sensitive friend being freaked out by some smell – is to not to freak out yourself. The thing is, sometimes we might smell something we’re not happy about, and even it takes us a very long time, we’ll find what is that we’re smelling that brings such discomfort to us. So, it might look like your friend is going crazy while you clearly do not smell anything off. Be calm and let them do their thing. You can even ask them how it smells like while offering to help them.

Then, it can help to track how much perfume you use if you do. A lot of perfume can make the nose tickle, especially if your friend is an HSP. If you’re buying perfume as a gift, be very sure about what smells they love because that will be part of their life and if they won’t be able to use it then you’ll just waste your money.

The Sweet Smell of ... Nothing - The New York Times
New York Times 2008

Close the garbage bin! So many times I’ve found myself entering my apartment and smelling this tough smell of rotting vegetables together with teabags and wet cardboard – common elements of our kitchen bin. So, by closing the bin whenever you can, can prevent this stink from irritating your HSP friend.

Now, I want to say that you shouldn’t smoke around your highly sensitive friend. But there are smokers among HSP’s (I used to be one of them). When I stopped smoking I realised that smoking actually helps not to smell so much stuff. However, if your friend is not a smoker or is an ex-smoker, I would highly recommend not to smoke around them because they will sense the burning tobacco and it does smell really bad.

And because sense of smell is linked with sense of taste, HSP’s are often very picky eaters. Unless some food has been incorporated into their diet from childhood, they won’t eat it if it smells ‘bad’. So, keep that in mind when preparing them food or taking them out somewhere.

To summarise, smell sensitivity is a very real irritant to many HSP’s and it is valuable to be aware of that and what you can do to prevent some of these irritations from happening. So far, the most research that can be found shows that HSPs do have a link with heightened smell awareness. But this is not smell sensitivity (which is a disorder), and should not be treated as such.

Thank you for reading this post, and I’ll see you this Saturday for a flash fiction piece about smell sensitivity to illustrate how it feels for HSP’s to deal with being overwhelmed by smell.

Featured image source is here.


By Jevgenija Zukova

I'm a second year university student doing Accounting and Finance course. I stand together with other female entrepreneurs to bring sensitivity into the business world, fun of art and creativity into local communities, and awareness of highly sensitive people.

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