Osmophobia. That's the word used to describe the sensitivity to smell that often accompanies migraine attacks. In it's strictest definition, osmophobia means a fear or aversion to odors, which is particularly applicable when you consider that those of us with odor-triggered migraines also fear the attack that is nearly certain to follow particular or strong odors.
There's definitely an element of phobia with what I think of as my worst odor triggers, artificial rose and artificial cinnamon. These triggers don't just bring on a migraine, the smell of them sends me into a panic as I desperately try to get away from them. Even after I've escaped the source of the smell, it seems to linger until I shower and do laundry.
A recent craft store visit filled me with dread at it's cinnamon smell -- a smell that pervades craft and grocery stores from September through December -- I questioned why I have such a strong aversion to cinnamon (and rose) when practically any odor, even ones I enjoy, can trigger a migraine for me.
Like so many deep-seated emotional responses, this one is rooted in childhood. The first horrendous headache I can remember having came in fifth grade when my teacher propped open the door to the break room, which had been doused in artificial rose-scented air freshener. Throughout junior high and high school, I have vivid memories of horrible headaches whenever classmates ate Fireball candies in class. These "headaches" were actually migraines, of course, I just didn't know the word for them at the time.
These two scents are not only migraine triggers for me, they are the first scents I can remember ever triggering migraine attacks. Artificial rose and artificial cinnamon represent the first times I remember feeling crippling pain, a pain that would eventually become so frequent and severe that it would alter every aspect of my life. No wonder those odors fill me with an irrational terror.
Have you taken our Migraine In America Survey yet?