146 thoughts on “Does depression have a smell?”

  1. Im glad i found this, I think there is definitely something to this. I think it was in a high school psych class that i read something about a study where people could detect different emotions in the smell of someones sweat; whether angry or sad or afraid.

    To me it makes sense.. everything is connected. Just like how a persons face seems to turn when they are angry, our illnesses can manifest in different ways.
    Its probably so we can help each other/understand that something is wrong.

    I just found this because i had been wondering if depression could cause strong body odor. Ive been noticing my underarms have a strong smell, but the past couple days ive been showering before bed and Im not sweating or being active..im laying in bed all day. And ive never noticed it this bad when I was more active and doing things.

    I also tend to always have a sweet scent, i can smell it on myself and on my blankets, now im starting to wonder if this us what it is.
    Does it smell kind of like sugary cereal?
    Well..maybe its different for every person.
    Thank you for sharing your story, and you are definitely not alone in these senses.

    1. I’ve struggled with depression for years. The past couple years the episodes have become worse even on medication. This last one has been the worse. I came across this reading because I have noticed a different odor about myself and started wondering….why do I smell in spite of cleanliness, deodorant products etc etc. As if being depressed wasn’t enough. Thank you

      1. Well if it’s any consolation it’s not unpleasant scent. I’m so sorry your medication is not working. Are you going to try another? The medication thing is such a pain in the neck. Actually, it’s much worse than a pain in the neck. But let me know what you do? Let me know how I can support you.

  2. I am not depressed or diabetic, but my sweat smells sweet (to me) and not in a good way – it develops several hours after I actually sweat, so my theory is that it has something to do with the type of bacteria that I have on my skin. I haven’t been able to find anything about it but that doesn’t mean I’m not right 😉

    My son does suffer from depression and I first smelled it on him and in his apartment, years ago – the scent was overwhelming to me but his girlfriend couldn’t smell it at all

    1. That is so interesting how your sweat ripens. I am going to bet it is the result of some autoimmune issue. That’s just a guess though. And no one but me could smell Charles’ depression either. I thought I was nuts but now I think I had an olfactory glands that could smell it.

  3. Thanks for your advice. I would just add that I wasn’t going through their things, I just saw the medication bottles and was curious. Inviting someone into your home is challenging, signing a lease agreement for 6-12 months is a gamble, having an odor that seems uncontrollable is a definite challenge, finding out that they may have deep depression and taking 3 different types of medication is simply mind-blowing when you’ve never dealt with it before. So, I’m sorry if you think I was out of order but I think there’s also the responsibility to offer transparency. I think I should have been told in advance, and not find out by accident. Being prejudice is not my nature. But knowing would have helped to have an open conversation. I’m now burnng scented candles, incense and mopping the floor with pine sol.

  4. Wow… this has been informative.
    I recently rented a room to a new roomie, within a day I could smell this heavy, musky vanilla smell that makes me want to gag. I can’t explain it.
    I hear her shower, watch her wash clothes, but this smell is ridiculous and in her room and bathroom.
    In efforts to see if she had trash in her room, I discovered 3 bottles of medication. According to Google, they are for bipolor and schinophenia conditions.
    Im a little alarmed, not sure what to do, been googling a connection between her meds and her odor.
    What should I do?

    1. There are people with mental illness in your life frequently and you don’t know it. The stigma of mental illness keeps them from talking openly about it. The good news is your roommate is taking medication and managing the condition. I also think the scent is not constant meaning it comes and goes with the mood disorder. I personally did not find it unpleasant but that depends on the person. I also don’t think it’s something within that person’s control. And they are likely to not appreciate that you went through their things. Given this person is not causing trouble, I don’t think you need to do anything. Maybe it’s a learning opportunity.

      1. Thanks for your advice. I would just add that I wasn’t going through their things, I just saw the medication bottles and was curious. Inviting someone into your home is challenging, signing a lease agreement for 6-12 months is a gamble, having an odor that seems uncontrollable is a definite challenge, finding out that they may have deep depression and taking 3 different types of medication is simply mind-blowing when you’ve never dealt with it before. So, I’m sorry if you think I was out of order but I think there’s also the responsibility to offer transparency. I think I should have been told in advance, and not find out by accident. Being prejudice is not my nature. But knowing would have helped to have an open conversation. I’m now burnng scented candles, incense and mopping the floor with pine sol

        1. I do understand. I was making an effort not to shame you because I do understand that allowing a roommate does make you vulnerable. And while you are not prejudiced by nature, there is so much stigma around mental illness and people living with it have developed a habit of hiding it because otherwise they struggle to find jobs and housing. The fear that they will be rejected and have nowhere to live is genuine. Thank you for coming back and clarifying points and sharing your point of view. Both sides of this are important. Perhaps leaving them out was your roommate’s way of letting you know. I have not idea that that was the case but a passing thought. You are more than welcome to come back and update us and let us know if it’s constant but comes and goes based on how the mood disorder is manifesting itself in the brain. There are no studies on this that I know of. Thank you again.

  5. I have left several jobs due to comments on my odor. I am a very hygienic person and have no dental issues. I do have depression and anxiety. My family says they cannot smell it. My oldest son (16) has a very strong musty odor and refuses to take medication for his anxiety. Hope this helps someone/anyone. God bless you all!

    1. I’ve been having the same problem . I’ve suffered with this for many years and like you, I always bathe, but to no avail . I went to VBS at my church yesterday and same as everyday this week, I’ve watched people turn away, rubbing their noses at me when I approach them and it hurts . I didn’t ask for this and in spite of what they think, I’m not too lazy to bathe . Up until I had this problem, I never in MY LIFE would’ve thought that this 1 issue could strip so MUCH of my life away . Aside from church and work, I’m a recluse . I’m still researching a remedy for this, but people who have never been through this don’t know it’s PURE HELL .

      1. How painful and frustrating for you. I am sorry you are feeling ostracized.

        I am surprised others can smell it because in our case no one could even pick up the scent on my son except me. Do you use any oil in your hair? I’m just asking to see if it might be something else like the water your laundry is done in or something else that may be within your control. And I am so sorry you are feeling forced to isolate. You are welcome to come here and talk about it without judgement.

  6. I suffer from what is probably stress-related depression. It’s not fully diagnosed and probably counts as mild since I can continue to work, just reduced in ability to think clearly and in emotional resilience. I believe it is also somewhat seasonally related because I have different kinds of symptoms in Winter (just plain gloomy and sleepy) and Summer (much more anxious and prone to wild, introspective thoughts).

    During difficult patches in the Summer I have occasionally had an odour that really feels like it’s created just in my nose. I can’t really place it coming from any part of my body, it’s just always there. My wife also tells me when I “smell sad” and she usually detects this first thing in the morning. She describes it as a musty smell.

    I am also a trained research chemist and have smelt many different chemicals in the lab. My best guess is that it’s a cyclic amine, such as adrenaline or norepinephrine, or perhaps a metabolite of these. I have never worked with either but I will try to get a sample to sniff and confirm. I would be fascinated to know if any other researcher would pick this up,

    1. Alex thank you so much for that information. Do let me know what you find out. I am also curious if people just naturally smell the odor differently or different people emit a slightly different scent.

      1. Hello Anne,

        I suffer with depression and Anxiety and I noticed the smell myself about 2 years ago. Yes it is VERY distinctive not bad but bothersome. I know when I am in a cycle bc of the smell. I have been able to deduct the following; it is related to the apocrine glands. My skin and hair becomes much more oily, I also tend to sweat more (awake and sleeping). Either way I looked this up as well (a few months ago) bc I too was interested to find out if it indeed was even a “thing”. I dated someone who had severe depression and it occurred to me when I began dating him that it was a very similar smell (mostly in the bedroom).. Anyway- glad to hear I am not “alone” in this curious question.
        Much more oily and

        1. My son’s scent was only in his bedroom. That’s where I smelled it the most. There were whiffs but mostly the bedroom. Thank you for commenting. I’m going to look up the apocrine glands.

  7. I totally think smell is plausible for this. I have researched this and scientists are actually using smell to diagnose cancer now. People who have kidney problems will smell like fish, diabetes – breath will smell like vanish, schizophrenia – will smell like vinegar, typhoid people smell like fresh baked bread. Also people who have cancer have an unpleasant smell according to scientists, due to changes in the body which effects the hormones, ie. Our smell changes because of the different chemical/hormonal reactions in our body. I have a keen scence of smell, and I can tell when someone is sick, or when my husband is overly stressed. It’s an odor I cannot bear, no one else can smell it. My mother in law smells like pickles, and she has a thyroid disorder. It’s extremely strong to me, other people can smell it also, but to me it’s gagging. I think our body odor in a sense is an early detection in our senses to illness, and disease. We don’t listen to ours bodies much anymore, or over diagnose due to Google 😂. I think if anything changes from the norm it should be something we discuss with our doctors, even our smell.

    1. I’m going through situation depression over the loss of a relationship and noticed the smell on myself (armpits/groin) which is what prompted me to google the topic. I’m definitely swearing more, having hot flashes when the anxiety or sadness amps up, so I don’t know if that’s the cause or not. But there definitely seems to be something to the smell linked to depression/anxiety

  8. I appreciate I’m coming to this late, but was googling to find out if anyone else experienced this! My body odour and, ahem, farts, smell differently when I’m in a more depressed state. I was actually worried there was something wrong with my guts and that was what I was initially going to the GP to seek advice on, when I had a breakdown and it all started to make sense. If I don’t notice myself I can now pick up on changes like odour and things like my voice changing (deeper and more monotone). It’s often I notice this first and then realise I’m struggling elsewhere and can act to protect myself and recover. Thanks for sharing your insight in to this.

  9. I have PTSD and just realized that my odor changes with my mental state… if I’m doing good I don’t smell as bad. Prior to this I never had BO i was blessed in this reguard, but science this all started its day and night… I have real good hygiene, I stay at home and dealing with this. I have noticed that when I have a breakthrough I smell soooo much better… and it confirms to me in a way that I’m improving! So far it always comes back though… each time less and less intense!! Almost like a way to measure my progress it feels!!!

    1. Wow, Eddie. That is so incredible. I am wondering if one day that might be a way to measure recovery. It’s good news you are doing so well. Thank you for adding that hope. I will say that my son’s scent was not unpleasant to me but as he approached his death date it was stronger. And I didn’t realize that until your comment. But it was

    2. You’ve helped me confirmed what I thought was a crazy theory I’ve had for two weeks now. My husband suffers from PTSD and recently he felt is medication wasn’t working so they increased his dosage. Two months later he feels lower then before and has developed a body odor that is horrible. At first I thought maybe he wasn’t showering as much but even within 12-24 hours of showering the smell is there. Never in three years have I smelt this smell until now and the only thing I could come up with was, does depression/ anxiety/PTSD produce an odor? And after reading this I feel less silly.

        1. I was wondering the same thing because my boyfriend was going through a really rough time and he just smelled…. different. It wasn’t a bad smell, it just seemed off. I blamed it on his poor self-care at the time. When we finally got around to talking through everything, I could instantly tell he felt better but I couldn’t figure out why. When I went to hug him before I left that night, he smelled normal again. It was a comforting and familiar smell, but he hadn’t showered while I was there. I was doing some research and I found an article posted in the Journal of Psychology in 2012 that did an experiment on chemosignals. It turns out that humans can detect emotional changes through smell. It’s titled “Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions” and it was really interesting to read if you want to go check it out. Here is the link https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797612445317

          1. Thank you. Dogs know when someone is about to have a seizure so I am betting there is a change of scent there too. Thank you for posting the link. I suspected it was a scent that came and went too. That was our experience

  10. I smell cigarette smoke during my very stressful days/weeks/months……I have had MTI, CAT scan, etc….nothing concluding to tumors….so I am assuming its nose sinus issues…checked but negative. I can’t take meds for depression or anxiety….so I just pray more, smell is still here ! We don’t smoke & no visitors smoke….very frustrating. Counseling was waste of $90 an hour!

    1. Ive heard about this before connected to an illness. I am in no way a Dr., but thought I would pass it along.
      Some smell the odor in one nostril while others catch a whiff through both. For certain people with phantosmia, the phantom smell may be chronic while others say it comes and goes. Causes include a head injury, brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease, upper respiratory infection, and inflamed sinuses.

  11. I’ve kept smelling this smell on myself in and off for about a year. Drives me nuts because it gets on my clothes and my sheets and I feel disgusting

    It makes sense though now because my anxiety has been very high this past week or two. I remember before I had thought it was a side effect of my anxiety medication ( which I don’t take regularly so now I can easily connect the smell to the instances of anxiety)

    It’s a musty sweet smell too. I tried to have my roommate smell it and she said she couldn’t which makes me wonder about that as well

    1. Wow!
      That’s exactly the way I see it.
      First time it happened was a couple of years ago during one of the most horrible times of my life.
      Didn’t think much of it.
      A few months ago I was yet again put in a horrible situation that is not wrapping up anytime soon.
      And a smell about me appeared immediately.
      It took some time to connect the 2 events to the same smell.
      Now as things are being dragged out… (court/protective orders etc. scared to death most of the time)
      It comes on immediately when I get an update of any kind in regards to the case.
      I’ve given up on trying to fix it by showering several times per day, changing the sheets, all of it as it would be some strange body odor I could get rid of.
      The only way to “expunge ” it, is to try to not let that fear linger.
      Easier said than done right?
      Refocusing my energy is the best way for me to deal with it.
      Then suddenly the smell is just gone!
      Yes, pungent, musty, sweet would be words to describe it.

      1. You know Lily it’s not unpleasant. Most could not even smell it. I was the only one in my household. And the place where I could smell it were in his room where it was concentrated because that was where he slept. I really wonder if it can be smells at all by those who are not loved ones. Thanks for commenting

  12. My husband went undiagnosed with bipolar 2 for many years. He always smelled like sweet curry to me. He is now on medication that is helping him and that smeel has gone away. We are still on a long healing journey.

    Recently we have experienced some losses, including a parent. In the last few weeks his self care has gone down and it is difficult for him to eat. I thought he smelled sour because of bathing. He still smells sour right after a shower. I now wonder what is going on in his body and if there is something that this indicates so that we can better help him.

  13. Wow! I had never thought about smells and depression. For a
    few years now I’ve been smelling a sickly sweet smell and blamed everything from my laundry detergent, body/shampoo scents, diabetes (family history) and even my husband; but only I can smell it! Having tests for diseases that have a similar smell all came back negative.

    My family has been suffering my depression for about 14yrs, only 7 with the diagnosis (I don’t suffer I just ignore life). I have been medicated with Welbutrin since diagnosed.

    Do you have any insight as to how to “fix” this smell or even if it could be medicine related? I’ll definately have to bring this thought up at my next appointment.

    Thank you for giving me one more thing to discuss with my doctor.

    1. Holly – That is just like an empathetic person to worry about how your depression, an illness of the brain, effects your family. You are suffering, too. I have no idea how to get rid of the scent. But perhaps it might warn you when a depressive episode is coming and you give yourself more self care. For example maybe you visit your psychiatrist and see if there is additional med help or a support group and see what strategies they have? Just a thought.

      I have to say the smell is not unpleasant and I was the only one who could smell it when it came to my son. And if only you can smell it, it’s not hurting others. I do wish they’d do a study on this.

  14. I bring a different perspective to this discussion. I suffer from bipolar disorder and can actually detect when I am entering a new phase of my disorder (manic or depressive) by the faint smells that I can pick up on myself. It is not so much a smell that I experience, but rather a distinct taste in my mouth that seems to signify which mental state I am in. When I was younger I used to describe it by saying that I could smell and taste the neurotransmitters firing in my brain, but nobody ever believed me. I didn’t know that there were people who could pick the scents up on other people.
    P.S. thank you for all of your work in the mental health community. My father died of suicide 6 months ago and I really appreciate that you care so much as to help other people in similar circumstances. You are an inspiration. My condolences for the loss of your son.

    1. First of all I am so sorry you lost your dad the same way I lost my son. Losing s parent that way has to be devastating.

      And a taste with the scent. That is interesting, indeed. I have got to show this thread to researchers. I think it may help prevent or make people aware of their disease so they can combat dangerous feelings. I really appreciate your sharing. And thank you for the compliment. I have found a lot of healing by helping others.

    2. Dear Friend I will never meet
      I have bi polar 2
      I share the same brain disease as you
      I’m so sorry for the loss of your father
      He was suffering badly and probably was weary from doing so
      Please beautiful person do not let this disease crush you on top of the death of your father
      I too have had a double blow my bipolar 2 disease and the death of my daughter March of 2017 she was 24
      We need each other
      I need this website
      Please take care

      God Bless you


  15. Instead of connecting the smell directly to the emotion, the more likely culprit IMHO is an underlying disorder that causes both depression and the smell, which means the smell could be extremely important to research, not just as a biomarker but as a potential vector for treatment. I’d like to point to two resources I found interesting: 1. A TED lecture about the linkage between mental illness and gut microbiome, which specifically opens with a story about suicide and bad breath. Cannot find it right now though.
    2. For whoever pointed out metallic smell, the book about depression types by doctor wilson, who identifies depression caused by copper or heavy metal disorders. (I would not take this book as medical advice, but as anecdotal material.) nevertheless other metal disorders like Zinc could lead to differences in metallic smell/taste and are worth checking out.

    If the smell is indeed close to a pungent/fungal smell, yeast or fungal infections might be playing a role. Again, this is something I would not overlook and might be more of a cause than just a symptom. If anyone gets to check it and finds something – please report back!

    1. You are a wealth of valuable information. I will see Dr Lisa Horowitz soon and I will ask her. And a couple other researchers that work in this space. Would like to see what they say. Ok. I got some research to do based on this.

    2. I’d really like to see that TED talk. I specifically came looking today for things about depression and aroma because I frequently notice a smell like sweet vinegar around my former husband. I know he’s clean and washes his clothes So it was puzzling that, to me, he always smells funny.

      1. I am giving a TEDx on December 8 but not specifically on this subject because the only data I have is the comments here. But you can bet I will be asking researchers about this topic. My son’s scent was also sweet smelling.

  16. This is interesting. I stumbled upon it this morning and i had noticed a very distint smell on my husband that recently came back and he is in a very depressed state. Yes the smell is very okay and somewhat sweet smelling. I find it draws me closer wanting to hug and hold him more.

  17. I found your blog as I googled the smell of depression.
    My son and husband both have depression. I can smell when my husband is depressed. It comes and goes depending on how low he feels. I notice it most in the confines of the car.
    I’ve never smelt it off my son though.
    I read about a lady smelling Parkinson’s on people and wondered if there’s a health study, as smell orientated detection seems to be a real thing.

    1. You introduce some new and interesting points. Therapy dogs know when their master is about to have an attack of vertigo, PTSD, or a seizure. I am going to bet they smell it. And some of us have sensitive enough olfactory glands to pick it up. Thanks for commenting.

      1. I have been noticing an odd smell on my boyfriend in the last few months. He has been very anxious and depressed. At first I thought his clothes weren’t clean or he wasn’t but it was not that type of smell. Hard to describe though and he is a very clean person. Anyway I started connecting that the smell was there when he was in a anxious or depressed state so I googled it and found these posts. I have not mentioned it to him though. Will be very interested to follow this thread.

      1. Anyone knows why I am so tired everyday? And I always feel anger and anxious. I feel myself so dump. My brain can’t work well any more. I am just 40. I like to yell at relatives. It is kind of relieve for me to say bad words.

        1. Depression causes tiredness. It’s part of the disease. I want you to know this is treatable. It absolutely is. If you can find a NAMI mental health support group you can find the best mental health providers to help you. If you want help let me know and I will try to help you find resources. Thank you so much for commenting

          1. I think the state of depression and mania too etc is so so so stressful on our human body , it is crushing our brains and our bodies are responding YES YES there is truth in this ! My daughter who had acute paranoid schizophrenia had hydrosis constant sweating This was a reaction or by product caused from her psychosis and hallucinations and constant pouring of sweat my baby suffered so much to this fucking cruel schizophrenia Fuck You schizophrenia Kick rocks people who judge and do not love

  18. Thank you for bringing this subject up about smell and depression. I can say with all honesty it does smell, there must be an explanation out there somewhere? Help? My Friend is seffering from depression , although she is in denial ! I have had this strong odour before with other people and family members , but nobody believes you ?

    1. Nobody believed me either!

      See if your friend will go to a support group. Tell her you will help her find a group and go with her. NAMI has chapters across the US. they often have groups. Thank you for supporting a friend with depression. And just remember, you cannot fix this. You can only help if she will accept help such as what I am suggesting above.

    2. My wife is suffering from very bad depression and is in complete denial and won’t seek help. She blames and thrashes out at me for her position. All I try to do is get by and bring up our 11 year old son, work and do all the necessary chores etc. I am at the end of my tether. Depression does smell hence why I found this sight. It’s a musty sweet smell. I smell it all the time. I thought it was the old house to start with but The scent is there -100%. I have lived with her depression since 2011 – I can no longer live with her and it – It’s all too life consuming and as a result suffering with high blood pressure myself. It’s all a very painful experience not only for my wife. It’s like loosing the person that you loved for 20 years, practically bereavement without the death. Terrible – what can I say.

      1. Gary I am so sorry she will not seek help. You bring up a good point about grieving the one you love who is, in this case, still alive but trapped in her disease and trapping you and your family there as well. No matter what you choose to do with your marriage, there is a class taught by NAMI called Family to Family. It might be worth taking since she will be in your life one way or another since you have a child. https://www.nami.org/find-support/nami-programs/nami-family-to-family

        And that scent is the same one I smelled. Sweet and almost musty.

  19. I think I smelled it too. It’s a smell that can’t be distinguished, its like a musty-sweet-pungent,like a fungal something. so this is the smell i am smelling on my body,whenever I get stressed,it’s stronger. Sometimes I smell it on my friend when she’s also depressed. I thought my nose was just overly sensitive. when I was in school and in my lowest moment,the strong was stronger,I can smell it on some students as well. I thought I going nuts.

    1. I thought I was going nuts, too. And I do think not everyone can smell it. So it is something only those with sensitive olifactory capability can pick up. I keep asking my husband and a friend to go in my son’s room and smell it but they could smell nothing. It was so strong and pungent to me and frustrating no one else could smell it !

      1. I think too when one is depressed the showers stop the shampoos and body care too When I’m depressed I cannot move or brush my teeth either
        Showering once and twice a day and soaping all of our body parts and bouncing and behaving hair is : normal Depression kills normal it is as bad as this , the daily shower and dressing routine
        All my love to you out there
        From : Sarah
        Surving barely a woman of 55

    2. I’ve struggled with depression for years. The past couple years the episodes have become worse even on medication. This last one has been the worse. I came across this reading because I have noticed a different odor about myself and started wondering….why do I smell in spite of cleanliness, deodorant products etc etc. As if being depressed wasn’t enough. Thank you

  20. My son, age 19, has severe depression (I believe it is bipolar depression due to his manic symptoms in childhood). He isolates himself in his room almost 24/7. He rarely comes out. Over the past year or so, I noticed a strong, kinda sweet smell, coming from his room and I figured it was some sort of deodorant that he wears. For the first time in many months I was in the car with him today and it was overwhelming. I asked if it was his deodorant and he did not know what I was talking about. The fact that it stayed strong throughout the trip worried me. It almost gave me a headache and I had to keep the windows down the whole time. It was so strong. Not unpleasant as an odor by itself, but it was so strong. Is it a “depression smell” or is his body in a state of sickness because he never sees the sun or moves around, or sees the light of day? In a way, it reminded me of “old people smell” but different, sweeter.

    1. Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I smelled in my son’s room. A sweet sort of smell. Not unpleasant but very different. And I wonder if that scent changes with age. Because since I published this post, it can be a different scent with those who are older suffering from a mood disorder. I think it’s the state of sickness theory. Just that the onset of the depressive symptoms triggers the odor (for lack of a better word.) I’m not sure it’s because they are in a room I think it maybe a shift in brain chemistry and that has a scent. I’m not a researcher but that’s my thought process. Thank you for commenting

  21. I was always trying to figure out what and why I could smell this distinct odor that would at times be overpowering (a family member and a friend) were the two I can remember having this reoccurring odor at times…I thought it reminded me of a ham sandwich…seriously
    Thanks for the article, interesting…

      1. I came across this article and it never made me so happy. I thought I was the only one. I was searching for what that smell could be that smells sweet but nothing like I’ve smelled before. My daughter is bipolar and she always had this very sweet smell to her and I could never figure out what it was. We spent years trying to find the right combo of meds and when we finally did and they were able to finally to get her stable I don’t smell it anymore. I could always tell if it was going to be a real bad day by her smell. When I would wake her up in the morning sometime the sweet smell would be overpowering. Those days were the worst and I could barely get her out of bed. They should definitely do research on this.

        1. Oh my gosh that’s it! Exactly the scent my son had. And when it was worse, it became more pungent. During depressive episodes. Funny there is so little information on this topic. So glad I wrote this. I thought I was crazy. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Interesting it got better once the medication cocktail was right. I’ve not heard that before.

          1. I just googled this because I have noticed my husband has a metallic smell when he is suffering from psychotic episodes and thought it was just me. It’s good to know others can smell distinctive smells with a range of mental illness

            1. My husband has a metallic but smell. I log all his behaviors in my phone calendar. I went back today because he went manic again and ran off. The day before he left I swear all of a sudden at bed his temperament changed and this smell took over our room. I’ve very extremely sensitive to smells. Like so much so I stay sick the whole time when I’m pregnant. As a kid I could smell rain coming or snow. And now my husband will tell me I have a nose of a blood hound. So i look back in my calendar and see that I tend to smell this smell before he falls of the deep end.

              1. Wow. More evidence. And now that you mention the pregnant thing, I had that, too. I was hypersensitive to smells when pregnant both times and sick the entire pregnancy with my youngest child, the one who died by suicide. There is obviously something to this.

    1. Hi im imogen (London England) i suffer from really bad depression constantly. I only go iut when i must, usually at night time. I suffer from terrible Halitosis and saw one comment about too much zinc or copper. ???? Anyway thankyou fir making me laugh about the “Ham sandwich” first time ive smiled in a long time

      1. Have you had your tonsils removed? I suffered from terrible bad breath for many years and eventually was told by my dentist that my tonsils were infected. I had no idea. When I looked in the back of my throat I could see little white things in each corner. Those were “tonsil stones”! I had my tonsils removed and the bad breath went with them!

  22. I have personally experienced it. I am on antidepressant pills for six years with less or no improvements in depression. A month ago I changed my psychiatrist, and hence he added a new medicine namely quetiapine with already using antidepressant. This addition of new drug proved life changing for me and I started recovery from as old as six years severe depression.
    Now come to the point of odor. Before starting getting better from depression to when I suffered from depression I have observed a changed odor in my sweat particularly of my armpits. As I starting better, I the first step my sweat odor changed and normalized. My wife, parents and friends agree this.
    I would like to add another thing in this discussion of odor OS that during my depression my sweat used to left a yellowish staining on my clothes specially in my armpits which doesn’t happen after my recovery.
    I belong to Pakistan and here a great number of people are suffering from depression. Antidepressant are so costy and the socioeconomic condition of people are so down. After my recovery I have decided to play my role in providing antidepressant to people who can’t afford. For this purpose I am looking for donations and people who could help me in my mission.

    1. Wow. Thanks for all that history. No one has ever had that much information. Thank you for what you are doing to fill that unmet need in your country. I am doing that here in the US by helping families pay for psychological evaluations

      1. Dear Ms Moss
        I am most certain that mental illnesses cause the body so much trouble ADHD I noticed has more asthma and depression and bipolar has physical side effects body pains and digestive issues There is no doubt our brains are wired so differently than normal people who do suffer from mental illness
        Your site depresses the fuck out of me but I’m not going to stop reading your RAW website because this is the only place I can go some days to read and peer with people who are suffering too as my fellow travelers
        My love to you and anyone who reads this


        1. I resisted starting it because it would bring people down. But I didn’t give a crap. There are some positive posts here promise. But I keep it real. People need to understand that mental illness is real and that brains don’t distinguish mental ilyand physical illness. Does not separate it at all. But we do. It’s all linked and the science shows that. Thank you for helping me understand it. I think you are onto something. Charles has stomach issues all the time growing up.

  23. I have smelled it on 2 people. They smell like a dead body- recently dead body, like a day or two. That sweet miasma.

      1. Yes! I smell depression too. It is exactly what everyone is describing a sweet musty fungal smell. I first noticed it on family members but now I am smelling it on friends and even on students in my class. Maybe there is a scientist out there that can put all of us in a study so we can start identifying exactly what this depression is.

      2. I can smell it on my husband about a day before he has depression or “bad days”. The smell goes away when he comes out if it. There should definitely be a study done on it.

  24. There is so little information about this on the web. Thank you! This validates what I’ve been smelling with my best friend!

  25. Yes! I have noticed this and I’ve never mentioned it to anyone but I had this friend who suffers from severe mental illness and, depression. One day she asked to meet with me at a park, she was not doing so well. So I did and I’ve remembered the scent since. When I smell it on someone I get so distracted and think I’m going crazy, then one day I smelled it on my brother. What you described is exactly what I smelled on my friend and my brother. I firmly believe that depression does have a smell, else it was something that I still do not know.

      1. Its so strange i came across this. I googled this once, just to see if anyone else you know.. feels the same. Its crazy how people can relate. I honestly thought I was the only one. I’m a 17 yr old girl who has delt with depression since god knows how long. And when it comes to depression i know when its coming back to get me/others. I can sense all the signs. One of them being a smell. Like you said , it isn’t exactly a “Bad” or ” unplesant” smell but rather a “uncommon” smell. I mean when you sit back and think about the common sense side of it , it could be Many reasons. One of the many signs of depression is lack of personal hygiene. Because of that, the smell of idk “BO” can linger. And again it doesn’t need to be a bad smell but when someone is trapped in one place for soooo long. Like a room … caved in.. there WILL be a smell lol. But even then.. still… its just a strange strange smell that even common sense just cant explain.

        1. Thank you so much for commenting as a person with lived experience. It really helps those of us supporting a loved one with depression. I guess the good thing about being self-aware enough to smell warning signs a depressive episode is coming is maybe you can enlist strategies? Medication? I hope I’m not belittling your experience, Bianca. But maybe there is a good thing about this. It’s funny there is not more information about this topic any where.

      2. Depression does have a smell I smell it on me. I smelt it on a friend and I was ignorant and thought it was just not enough deodorant but it’s a smell that I have had enough or I’m too tired, just tired.

        1. I am sorry you feel so tired. Probably the depression. I will say that I find those who suffer depression to have some pretty amazing gifts. I hope you find treatment that works. Thank you for commenting

  26. I was wondering this tonight as the last six months I have smelled a different scent (kind of a sweet, musty, almost-fungal smell) in my 16-year-old daughter’s bedroom that smells almost exactly like the scent of my oldest daughter’s room when she went through an awful depressive episode. No one else has noticed it but me.

    That darn Junior year of high school is rough and something seems to trigger it in a lot of kids that age. I keep asking my 16-year old if she is depressed which she always denies, but there are way too many signs pointing to it. She doesn’t talk with or hang out with family or friends as much as she used to and just seems changed. My oldest was in denial as well until she had a complete breakdown and was unable to function pretty much the rest of high school. She is now 21 and doing so much better. I don’t want it to get to that point with my second daughter, but, yes, that distinctive smell is there.

    1. Melinda you are to be commended for trying to open up the conversation with your daughter. My son was equally as stubborn. Do not hesitate to ask her, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You cannot put the idea in her head. Studies have shown that. But it sounds like she might be contemplating it. Maybe, maybe not. But I regret not asking my son that question. I didn’t know to ask it. Funny how we moms pick up that scent. I was the only one who could smell it, too

  27. I am a 72 year old woman (my mind still insists I’m not a day over 49!) and recently, like in the last couple of weeks, I have been noticing a smell of a cross between rubbing alcohol and ether. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it but I notice it more often when I’m sitting at my computer. I haven’t told anyone else about this and am wondering what your thoughts might be. Thank you.

  28. My partner of 2 years has a history of self-medicating with alcohol when severely anxious and depressed. My sense of smell is not always discerning because of allergies. When he was going through his episodes and I found hidden vodka bottles I assumed the smell was the vodka. More recently he is trying not to use alcohol but I was confused by the smell. I thought he was still drinking. Today he assured me he was not drinking so I googled depression and smell. I am glad I did because I found this blog! Now I know I can believe him when he says he is not drinking, and now I can recognize the smell as a sign of his depression. Thanks to you all for sharing.

  29. Definitely. There is some kind of smell that happens! Years ago I was in a bad place, I had this smell that was disgusting in my car and in my kitchen. We couldn’t place the smell in the kitchen and it was only me who could smell it. My car was cleaned and I can still smell it!! So it’s obviously me. This was a few years ago. And now it’s came back. It was first in my bed side draw. Now it’s in the bedroom. My partner can’t smell this.

    1. You know Allison, no one else could smell what I smelled despite describing it. And at the time there was nothing online so I thought I was nuts. It’s obviously a thing given all the comments I get on this post. Funny how others can’t smell it

      1. Finally some clue to where this pungent smell around my husband coming from. He has been suffering from anxiety and depression for a couple of years, very recently I have noticed a sweet pungent smell from his sheets, shirts and around him. I enter his room and I can smell it. It’s not sweat or dirt. I have been worried that he may be physically unwell too because of this characteristic smell but guess this is just his mental state. And surely I only can smell it and know there is some change no one else notices.

          1. I smelled that on myself going through severe depression several years ago and I smell it during every reoccurrence. I actually was trying to find if other people could smell mental illness on others. I can smell when my partner is about to be manic. I smell it before the behavior change. Once I smell it my red flags go up and prepare myself. I have also told him about this but doesn’t believe me. I’ve been correct each time. I can also smell sickness on my kids before they have symptoms.

            1. It makes sense that one’s scent would change based on mood. But I think it is like certain sounds. It can’t be smelled by most. I think you have a particularly sensitive olifactoctory system to pick up all that. I believe you and thanks for sharing.

  30. I can smell this scent also, particularly on my mum – ever since I was little. She has always had depression but over the last 18 months has been diagnosed with bipolar, we’ve had a good year (after a stint in the psych ward) but just yesterday I was with her and the scent has reappeared, she knows I can smell the scent and we often talk about it. When I let her know yesterday I could smell it, she did say that she was feeling quite stressed & sad about her Mum as she is quite sick. So it is very interesting…. I also could smell it on very few customers when I use to work at a resort, and often thought if they were in the same boat as my mum. I could also smell it on a coworker, who I came to find out had post natal depression.

    I thought I was the only one!

    1. Ruby that’s remarkable that you have sensed this on so many. Usually only service dogs have a radar that fine tuned. Few humans do. What a wonderful daughter you are to support your mom. Thank you for sharing your story. When I wrote it, I, too, thought I was the only one.

  31. My mother would go through depressive states and I remember taking note of that with my sister when we were young. It’s as though her whole physiology would change, her face, and manner, and she would give off a distinctly different stronger smell.

    1. Hmmm. I didn’t detect vanilla. Just sort of sweet and pungent. So hard to describe a smell. Particularly one you have not smell d before. And this was like that. Unusual but not entirely unpleasant

  32. I know what are you talking about…my best friend has been depressed for years and her scent is so strong I can feel it everytime we hug or when she sits next to me. Sometimes it bothers me because it’s incredibly strong and a bit sweet like you mentioned. I didn’t know it was common thing or related to depression until my psychology teacher said that depressed people smell a certain way and she said that she could “smell a depressed person miles away”.

      1. Depression or anxiety seems to cause a body odor that’s sour or like ammonia when I perspire profusely during workouts. Took Zoloft for years and the odor vanished, when I weaned myself off it recently the odor returned.

        1. Wow. What’s so interesting is how differently smell the scent. I smelled a sweet smell but if you read all these comments, it varies. There has got to be something to this. And the fact that you didn’t smell it on yourself when you were on Zoloft. Was there a reason you weaned off of it? I just wondered because it seemed like it must have been working for you and I’m curious why you may have titrated off of it.

  33. I wondered about this for a while. I have felt depressed in the past few months and the smell is very distinct. I smell it but my wife cannot. It smells like old sweat or if you did a batch of laundry and did not put it in the dryer for days. Its a stale smell.

  34. Hello
    Thanks for posting this – I just ran a search on the subject as my mother in law has a funny smell about her which i find quite over powering at times that i can’t be near her

    She is a clean lady but lost her husband about 5 years ago and has never recovered – she has had many accidents since then which has led to her braking bones etc… which have not healed well, which all lead to her being down.

    She gets into really blue moods and most of the time looks unhappy

    I couldn’t work out the smell, but thought maybe depressed people let off a particular smell
    It does smell a little clinical – so thinking that this must be what is causing it

  35. Hello Anne,

    I know what you mean, I could smell a very distinct and strong scent around my brother. It makes me feel bad when I recall I was always advising him to use more deodorant.

    He was psychiatrically treated and 3 years ago killed himself. I can still smell it in some pieces of clothes after him even after multiple washing. I always thought it was just his unique odor.

    Weirdly enough, I have started smelling it from myself lately! True, I have been going through difficult times now.


  36. I was diagnosed as chronically depressed they tried multiple medications I finally gave up and just decided I was gonna have to be all right. However while I was going through my depression there was a certain sent to especially if I sweat. You could mostly smell it on my sheets. My husband sympathetic it only down yesterday when I asked if something was wrong he said I don’t know. It lasted all day and into the night. He just seemed so down for no obvious reason. This morning we try to talk about it a little bit but he still seemed down. I asked him if it something happened or if it was just general. He said just general. When he got up I could smell it on his pillow and sheets. I know this smell… it’s depression.

  37. I have a friend who can smell when I’m having a depressive episode. Whe can walk into the room and know that I’m sad before she even knows that I’m there. I’ve read all the things about emotions and pheramones having different smells, but this is different. I’ve come out of a depressive spell recently, and my friend doesn’t smell my sadness anymore. I can be crying right in front of her and she can’t smell my sadness. She can only smell it when I am in a depressive episode, not when I’m just sad. I’ve looked for this answer for so long, and this is the first time I’ve found something that makes some sense and seems to fit. The only thing is, she can only smell my depression, not anyone else’s. Maybe it’s because she knows me so well. She can’t smell it on anyone else, including our other friends who have depression, even though she’s known them longer than she’s known me. Does anyone have any more thoughts on this? I’d love to know as much as possible.

    1. Sally- I, too, was the only one who could smell it. I would ask others and they’d say there was no smell at all. My son Charles did not have to be in the room. I smelled it in his room. I had no idea what it was at the time and for years I researched it, too but found nothing. Only after his suicide did I realize I had been smelling depression.

  38. Yes, this is exactly the answer I’ve been trying to figure out for years now. I first picked it up on a friend of mine who I became very close with, he had this sweet strange smell hanging around him all the time. Then over the years from time to time I could smell it on strangers around me, someone I’d be serving at my bar, or someone in line at the shops. I smell it on myself when things get close to be very bad and it scares me. It’s always the same smell, I wondered, is it drugs? Alcohol? Tears? The only answer I could come to is that it’s sickness, I’m smelling mental illness. What makes matter worse for me is that I can identify it but there’s nothing I can do about it, how do you walk up to someone and ask them “are you alright? I can smell you’re not alright, what’s wrong? Can I help?”
    I’m so glad I found you

    1. Oh my gosh finally! I see the stats on google. Searches on google to this post account for about 12 per month. But no one ever comments and I’ve been waiting.

      That’s it. That sweet sort of smell. And I don’t know how to address it but so glad to find another human being who has picked up that scent. I guess reach out to that person with kindness. That’s all I can think of. I don’t think I’d say depression right then.

    1. I believe I have experienced this. I know that I feel it in my body before an episode starts, too. You are definitely onto something. Hugs from New England. 💕

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