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.
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