So many times I would pass by Charles’ room and sometimes I would notice a smell. I would go in, try and identify it. Open the window to air it out.
No one else could smell it but I could. It was very different. Very distinct.
At first, I thought it might be drug related. But Charles didn’t smoke things in his room. And it was a smell that I remembered from before there were drugs involved. Only it got stronger as he became a teenager.
Not unpleasant just different and a little bit alarming for some reason. Hard to describe but it was sort of sweet.
When I got Charles’ clothing back from the police, I could barely pick up the scent but it was still there. At that time, it was the sweetest thing ever.
And I thought, I will never smell that scent again.
I forgot about the scent until recently.
I had a conversation with a woman whose husband suffers from depression. She said she knew he was in a depressive state prior to it happening because she could smell it. And she could tell when he was over it because it would then be gone.
I was shocked. I have asked this strange question to Google a hundred times. And to a handful of people. This is the first time someone else mentioned that depression had a distinct smell. She said the same thing I did. It was not a bad smell. Just different.
I’ve looked up sour stomach and various drugs. No luck. I just knew it wasn’t that. Someone else had this same olfactory experience. It took me years to figure out that it was probably the smell of anxiety and depression. A drop in serotonin perhaps? I have no idea. I am hardly a scientist.
I’m curious, though. Has anyone else experienced this?
257 thoughts on “Does depression have a smell?”
I may not have recognized the smell the way it’s been described here on so many occasions but my boyfriend’s breath during his depressive days smells like he had been drinking. That’s surely not the case as he has reached out for alcohol only a few times in the past 7 years when he stopped abusing it. He still needs to function trying to run his business but he struggles to eat when depressed. Maybe it is just the lack of food and burning through glycogen stores that creates this odour..?
Hmmm. Interesting. Usually, an alcohol smell is alcohol. Thank you for commenting and adding your story. I have heard the eating issue with depression for both men and women.
There’s a certain sweet but unpleasant odour I first noticed on myself and my cousin in our early 20s struggling with depression, particularly I would notice it coming from my hair not matter how well i looked after my petsonal hygiene. I notice it sometimes in other women especially seems to be depression linked to hormonal/menstrual problems. I am very sensitive to smell. When I smell it I immediately know that woman is depressed or struggling. My dad hardly ever talks about his mental health but I know when he’s not having a good time because he smells sour and musty, especially his car, even though he’s very clean. Just that smells evokes feelings of pain in me. Smell is amazingly underappreciated!
You pointed out how the scent seems to be individual to the person. So my son’s sort of sweet, heavy smell would have probably smelled the same to others had they had the olfactory capability to pick up the scent at all. That’s interesting because I’d not thought that the scent itself as distinctive, but that our sensory experience picking it up varied. I thought WE each smelled it differently not that each person had their own unique scent. It makes sense though. Thanks for that insight. I think you are right.
OMG I thought I was crazy. I have noticed this , a similar smell between family members, friends and random people I meet. I am so happy to see I’m not the only one.Depression seems to have the most noticeable smell.
I get the same thing with anxiety and illness. My partner tries to down play when things are not going as well as they are. So maybe I developed a hypersensitivity to it because I had to literally sniff it out.
Some of us sense it. Others of us don’t. Thank you for your comment
There’s a smell that people give off when they’re under stress, I have it at the moment (had a breakdown due to an unexpected death), the smell that I give off is like sweet vinegar, it’s most noticeable around my neck, chest and from my head
Does it bother you? I only say this because there are so few people who sense this of others. But it does often bother the sufferer. Thanks for your comment.
This is such a fascinating discussion and I’m so glad to have found it. My son was having a very unpleasant, unusual smell last fall and I kept commenting on it and neither he nor my husband could smell it. It went away for a good while and just reappeared. I commented on it yesterday and asked if he was feeling depressed (because we came to discover he was deeply depressed last fall after some surgery and I had this hunch). He said yes, he was feeling depressed and asked if maybe I could smell hormones. I googled and found this. Someone needs to do a study! We are all onto something. Thank you so much for sharing this. Be well and keep up the great work.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. And you have quite an advantage being able to detect when your son is depressed and being there to listen and support. And you sound like a great mom. 🙂
Thank you, Anne. I’m certainly trying – as I’m sure you did too. Thank you again for your efforts – I’m certain you are helping others.
Yes..I had it myself and I noticed a weird smell..then years later when my sister had it my mum tried to tell nurses about it but they did not understand..a weird smell
Thank you so much for sharing.
I too, have experienced this. Around a decade ago my sister was struggling with severe depression, including suicide attempts. We were very close, and when an episode was flaring, I noticed this very strong, distinct smell coming from her. As others have noted, it is not entirely a bad smell, sort of sweet, not lovely but not awful either. But very strong to my nose. I was seeing a psychologist at that time to help me process everything happening with my sister, and she said that she has had many clients report that they can smell when either themselves or someone they know is experiencing severe depression.
Just recently I went on a few dates with a man, I noticed that same smell on him. It took me immediately back to when my sister was ill. Just yesterday we had a chat and he explained that he is struggling with severe depression, and it all fell into place for me.
It is fascinating that some humans can smell this and others can’t. I am aware that I have a very sensitive nose and can smell things others can’t, ie if food is turning a little, or I can smell ants too (apparently only some people can!).
Thank you so much for sharing u you out experience with us. These comments get read and one day there will be more research on the topic.
You’re definitely not the only one interested in this. I’m pretty sure I read a while ago that dogs had been successfully trained to smell Alzheimer’s (?it might have been some other degenerative disease). Hell, the idea of smelling illness even turns up in the “Hannibal” TV series where Hannibal Lectre knows a certain character has encephalitis by smell.
Dogs can definitely smell things we can’t. And i would bet some humans can, too.
My partner had several losses of loved ones in the period of 3 weeks. I kept smelling a stale smell like old cigarettes and crying. That very same night he had a very bad breakdown, I mean rock bottom. I can not explain this. I block out anything not considered normal. Like a lot of stuff. If you are reading this you know what I mean. But yes pay attention to odd smells that are not explained.
Thank you for sharing your story and adding to our data. Yes remarkable how many have the scent but it smells differently per individual. You, my friend, must be very intuitive
My brother and his girlfriend suffer from depression and they have a apartment together and The smell was so strong in their apartment. recently my roommate had been depressed she didn’t tell me she was but I knew she was going through a hard time. and I could smell the smell coming from her room and when she was around me. And I could just tell it was the smell of depression but it’s so hard to explain that to anyone who doesn’t understand. Exactly how you explained it sweet/musty. I tried doing research on this topic and this is the first article I’ve found. And I’m so happy to see that I’m not the only one! Thanks for sharing your stories.
That is exactly how my son’s room smelled. Sweet musty smell. Thank you for giving me the right words and I appreciate your comment.
My boyfriend suffers from depression. He claims he has been this way all his life. I too can smell a “sweetness/musky” odor when he is battling the “depression-flu”.
I was thinking about this and comparing to my brother who suffers with epilepsy to my boyfriend fighting depression.
Epilepics have a smell they give off when a seizure occurs. I wondering if depression like epilepsy has a mental discharge an electrical discharge as it were. Could there be an electrical current flowing with depression as well?
When my boyfriend returns from the “D-flu” the smell has disappeared. Could low seritone chemical or electrical charges in the brain be what’s going on? And how can we use this information to help those suffering?
Thank you for putting up this post. I thought I was just making it up, that I smelled a strange smell when he is not feeling well.
Any other thoughts or research I can look at to use for reference or help my beautiful boyfriend? He scares me so much when he is on the dark side. 🙁 And feel so helpless trying to support a light in the dark.
I definitely think there is a correlation between the d smell and that of epilepsy.
As for how to support you boyfriend I would suggest NAMI family to family class or a NAMI family support group. It is important that you learn all you can. And thank you for caring to do so. There is also a podcast with Al levin called the depression files. And that might help too.
I had a mental health crisis in June (this year) which I can only describe as a complete breakdown. I was due at work in the middle of it so received a call from my boss. My speech was slurred and when I got to work I was accused of being intoxicated as I apparently also smelt of alcohol. I hadn’t been drinking though. How do I find an explanation for this as I am still receiving abuse for an alleged drinking problem?
Oh wow. I don’t think they can accuse you of alcohol if the don’t have proof of alcohol use. Breathalyzer is the way to check and if they did not do that or find prof then they have no grounds.
Rebekah you could be diabetic. You need to see your doctor and let them know. These are signs of diabetes.
I think there is something to this. I have been depressed lately. I was in a small office with a male coworker. I don’t think he noticed, but when the other coworker came in (which is pregnant) ranted about the smell and started spraying the whole area with room freshener. I know some pregnant women have a keen sense of smell. It made me wonder if it was me and my depression.
I had a keener sense of smell when I was pregnant. The scent my son had about him was not unpleasant however. But I guess that depends on the nose. It sounds a bit rude to me and I hope it isn’t making you self conscious.
Wonderful, my hubby and I always joked my nose would pick up mental health issues at a mile off. I missed the one closet to me though.
My hubby was diagnosed with manic depression about 4 years back and it all feel into place for me then he has been manic up and down his whole life but times have been bad and difficult often with no understanding until he was given a diagnosis and meds.
I used to say about his smell when he was getting heated or elevated/manic over something, he had no sense of it.
I work in mental health and disability but other than the smell for 20 years I never put 2 and 2 together.
I am so pleased others have spoken about this.
I also wonder if there is any research done in to this?
No research yet that I know of. But when they do, they will find this post. I wish they would. I think it could lead to so many things.
My ex husband would smell odd when he was in a funk. I knew what was coming when I smelled the funk smell. First he would emit a strange smell and sometimes his skin would take on a grey hue. It could be days or months before he would get out of it. Now I smell it on random people. Had a dinner party not long ago and a guest arrived wreaking of the funk smell, after spending an hour with that person I found out that he was feeling overwhelmed and depressed. People who play stressful video games for long bouts also have a distinct smell, I think it’s a stress smell. Very different from the depressed smell, but still equally attention getting and alarming.
Animals with a heightened sense of smell know our emotions. So it stands to reason that there would be humans that would also be able to pick up on these scents. The interesting part of this thread is how each of us picks up in the smell. So it’s different for each of our noses. Thank you for commenting.
My last partner also had this odor issue when he was extremely stressed out. He had some hypnotherapy sessions that took him deep into his past. When he got home, his eczema had broken out all over his entire body. Red and ghost white patches, scally skin from head to toe, and profusely sweating. It was awful. The smell from his sweat was a rancid yet sweet, metalic odor. We tried everything we could to rid the smell. It wasn’t until we spent weeks using herbal remedies for stress and of course, endless laundry, till the stank dissipated. It definitely went away once we worked on healing his stress levels and building up his endocrine system. He was literally molting and sweating for 2 weeks. Then months of continued herbal medicine and severe diet change to keep it under control. From then on, whenever I would smell that funk on him, I would get the adaptogens out and make sure we stayed in a drama free zone… well as best as I could.
I just noticed that metalic smell on myself and decided to see if there was more information on its cause. Looks like I may be hiding my stress from myself or there’s more to it than stress and depression. I hope to hear more research on this topic in the near future. Until then, it’s all about ashwaganda and chamomile for me.
Thank you for telling your story. I don’t think we can live stress free lives. But we can learn to manage it. The herbs are part of your toolbox. Writing, exercising, someone recently said beekeeping can all be coping tools to manage Stress.
I’ve been wondering about this for a while since I have been going through depression for about 2-3 years now.
I’ve noticed my room starts to smell like I left food in there or very musty like a cloud of dirt is stuck in there, I open the window, turn on the fan, and open my door but it didn’t seem to leave.
I could smell it every time I would approach my door, but it doesn’t drift out into the hallway. It as if there is a invisible wall stopping it from leaving my room.
But my family will come into my room and say nothing, I hear no complaints or comments on my rooms scent. Same with my friends, they come into my room with no reaction at all even though I smell it very strongly and always have the fan on.
I smell myself and wash myself to see if it comes from me. When I smell myself though, I smell a sickly sweet scent. Like candy- but it makes me want to throw up.
Anyways, I’m glad there is something about depression having a scent on the internet and I’m not just insane. I was happy to know I am not the only one who experiences this. Thank you for this article.
Exactly what I smelled in my son’s room. And it also was not in the hallway but recently after he died, I walked in the hallway and I smelled it there and it made me so happy. Like he’d been there. Anyway, no one else could smell it either. I thought I was out of my mind. I asked the cleaning lady, I asked everyone and they said they couldn’t smell it. I didn’t ask Charles. I didn’t want to make him feel like he smelled bad. So I don’t know if he smelled it or not. Thank you so much for posting.
My son suffered depression for years. He always had bad sweaty smell. When I asked him if he had a shower he always said yes. I was puzzled. Recently, he’s in better mood and communicates with us. I can’t smell any more. I feel reassured that he has finally recovered. I hope I could keep my sense of smell to prevent any trouble. It would be nice to see some research on this.
Wow. Isn’t that amazing. Thank you for sharing that story. And one day someone will do research on this. And they will have all this testimony to work with. Obviously I think there is a lot to this as well. I’m so thrilled your son has turned a corner and doing better.
Around the time when my son was 15-16 he started emitting a smell akin to what some homeless people sometimes emit sort of musty. He would shower and wear clean clothes everyday. Initially I used to get the smell only when I hugged him then it got stronger where his clothes, his room & even the hallway would start smelling. When the smell was at its peak he had decided on the plan he had been harbouring for 3-4 years but was saved by God’s grace. After hospitalisation & medication he seemed to get better temporarily but not really now the smell’s returned only its changed to a sour smell & gets stronger around periods or days when he’s really struggling. He’s 20 now and is not motivated to do anything he was academically gifted & musically talented and a caring child – now I don’t recognise the young man he’s become. Psychiatrists don’t want to change meds as right now he’s not suicidal and they are worried that changing meds may risk it. My heart breaks when I look at him.
It’s so hard to watch our loved ones tread water. But I think he’s afraid to move outside that comfort zone right now. There’s not much we can do other than lead by example. Unfortunately, we can’t make them try new things. And given his past, there is real fear that the thoughts might return. What helped me was finding a support group so I could talk about these things with others who understood. Their stories helped me and it also led me to a class at NAMI called Family to Family. It’s a free class to help me understand mental illness and it really did help. Thank you for commenting. I have felt exactly as you do.
Thank you Anne for your reply.
Have you had any progress with researching the link between depression/mental health and smell?
I believe it might provide insights into alternate treatment protocols. Links to bacteria and mental illness etc. since the guy brain connection has been researched.
I have not. I keep asking researchers I meet. One day I’ll find one. Or they’ll find this thread which is the more likely scenario. And the more comments there are, the higher it ranks and makes it more likely they’ll find all these rich answers. But I might even have enough here to start a presentation on it.
I realized a few years ago I could smell my own depression. I never thought much of it because I figured it could be in my head or due to poor hygiene when I’m depressed, but in hindsight I realize I still left it on my clothes even after I started feeling better and taking care of myself. I’ve noticed it with every depressive episode since 2018 and can place memories of it back to my teens in hindsight. I’m always stricken by it, every once in a while I’ll find a piece of clothing that escaped the laundry when I’m feeling better and I’ll go “whoa was I that depressed?”
It’s an awful smell but I kind of love it? It ranges from a musky beef jerky smell to a sour garlic smell to an acrid/sweet rubbery skunky smell. Sometimes it smells like rot, like the awful smell I get when I restrict calories too much and over exercise (which usually happens when I’m Manic). Sometimes I can bask in it but other times it’s choking and I feel like I can’t get a breath. I think the smell changes with how bad I am.
I actually thought to google whether depression actually has a smell to see if anyone else smells it, like some people can with Parkinson’s or cancer, because I’m drowning and drowning in it right now and I can’t be imagining it. It’s completely soaked through my clothes and it overpowers my lavender body wash and my cocoa butter lotion. It’s actually really nasty mixed with cocoa butter.
I’m able to tell the difference between e. coli and salmonella both in food and my body odor (and excretions) and I can tell when I’m coming down with a cold or the flu and I’ll make broth and get ready to hunker down. Thankfully I don’t know the smell of COVID-19 and I hope I never do or maybe I’ll smell it when I get vaccinated like I could smell it when they put me on a saline drip in the hospital. I can also smell heat, like if the oven is on I can smell it and I can smell the heat of my coffee coming off a glass bottle. The only other person I’ve known that could smell heat was my aunt. It could wake us from a dead sleep if someone started cooking at night.
Like others have said, I think it’s related to sensitivity of smell or a genetic predisposition of some sort. My ex couldn’t smell it or never commented on it, but she would tell me to take out the trash before I would ever smell it. I’ve had several managers pull me aside through the years and tell me I need to keep up with my hygiene only for me to say I showered that morning.
I’ve never smelled it on anyone else, at least not recognizably, though it’s a little hard to get close enough to anyone for a whiff of it through a mask these days.
Heather- This is packed with information. There is someone on this blog who wants to look into this more and your testimony is so important. Thank you for all the info and for sharing. What an interesting gift you have of olfactory sensitivity.
For a few years now I have been looking for references to this, and to date, this is the only real piece I’ve found.
My former partner, would emit a strong sweet, but acrid very distinctive smell before going into a bad depression and anxiety crisis requiring medical intervention. After putting 2 and 2 together, I could smell this odour before he felt the episode and we could take preventative measures such as put care procedures in place for when his crisis hit.
Why is there not more information about this out there?
What you said here is so important! “After putting 2 and 2 together, I could smell this odour before he felt the episode and we could take preventative measures such as put care procedures in place for when his crisis hit.” This is genius. And that’s why I wish there were more studies on this, too.
So my wife and I were just talking about this, and after a google search this was the only real hit I found.
Years ago I had a fling with a woman that always seemed to leave this sort of sweet-sour scent. I could pick it up while she was over and even for days after. She had been going through a lot of real bad shit and I could guess she was quite depressed.
That exact sweet-sour scent I pick up on my wife on occasion, who suffers from severe depression. I only recently, finally, made the connection to her depressive episodes. A day or two before she gets depressed I start to smell that scent.
I can’t remember how it came up, but I realized I could smell before depression would hit her.
I’m surprised that there isn’t more out there about this. Any studies that anyone’s found? There has to be more people that can pick up on this??
I actually know some researchers at NIMH. So I need to get their attention. Thank you so much for your contribution. I think the more comments we get here, the more interest there might be in research regarding this. But I do think it offers people a warning of sorts of what’s about to happen and for those who struggle with extreme darkness, it could help loved ones be on the lookout for alarming signs of suicide. Not everyone that lives with depression struggles with thoughts of suicide and not all who struggle with thoughts of suicide have depression, but it is often an underlying condition.
l began to suffer from depression and anxiety in my early 30s and started to notice smells, typically either a rich sweet perfumy odour, or the smell of roasting meat, or of decaying fish, and like others who have posted here, would spend hours searching soley associated with home. There followed a period where I was much more particular about washing myself and my clothes, fearing that maybe I was the source, (although I didn’t wear any sweetish scent, and ate neither fish nor roast meat being a vegetarian). This had no discernable effect on the ‘smells’. Over the years I have come to recognise that these smells accompany periods of depression as well as euphoria and anxiety. At particulaly low points the fish smell seemed to be a manifestation of my own moral or biological corruption, as if I was rotting alive. Perhaps some conditions distort smells encountered in a person’s normal environment and somehow use them to represent interior states as if they were a real external phenomenon. Though that wouldn’t account for other people smelling another’s depression.
I would love for them to do a study on all this. I think some people just can’t smell it. Others with more sensitive olfactory glands can. But it’s not surprising because animals know. And I think they smell our moods. I know my dog could.
I aliken it to that sweet smell to sickness…. my gran used to smell that way when she had ‘ taken to the bed’ the lovely old irish phrase for depression. I lived with her (with my single mother) when I was very young…. she was my world ,my main carer when my mam worked and when she was sick the house was not full, not empty just different. I’d be met with the smell in the brief moments I was allowed to visit her…
(Some days it felt like my whole life was in those moments) it was strange and intriguing…. sour and deep.. made me uneasy…. yet…like the sound of a pleasing dissonance. But probably because it was a smell wrapped up in my living heart, my best friend… I could never tell if I liked it…
I’ve noticed this on 3 other ppl 2 of them gone now… they lost the fight…
I noticed on me since I was a teen on and off… at first it was when I’d taken to the bed .. in those extra days it took me to recover from a flu… the extra days where everyday life seemed too much and different than before I’d been sick….
It became worse in early/mid 20s. Night sweats.. funnily enough when I was a part time carer for my gran… but that was just a coincidence as it has persisted long after she is gone from me(natural causes)
It’s not like normal sweat… it’s not even always accompanied by sweat… although it does smell warm even when it’s cold on yer skin…it feels thicker esp in the night when I’m sleepily tryna rub it away from my body so I can lie back down… I keep a towel near the bed for when the sheets are too wet and cold….
It happens too in my counselling session often (via zoom cos covid) warm or cold days… just chatting and after I often change… at least my undergarments and tshirt… I’ve had blood tests for peri menopause/hormone level and…. nada.. sometimes I sweat heavily without the smell.. it has no rules… when I’m very fast in my mind I notice it the most….
Perhaps anxiety but I know plenty of ppl who suffer from anxiety that dont smell like this… anxiety to me was always treble…like a mosquito hovering… this smell resonates so deep….
It’s nice to know I’m not imagining it… I worry about my sense of real all the time..so thank you x
Thank you so much for your story. This is a top visited article and so many will rad your important comment. I hope you will ot are getting treatment for depression. It can be treated and you can improve your quality if life. And on another note, I think all of us have a scent and I would bet everyone with depression or anxiety has one. Animals know. When I would be sad over my sons death by suicide my dog knew it and he’s hover around me and cuddle more. No one else could smell it but he could. So I think there are some smells we humans can smell and others we can’t. Thank you again
Thank you for the information and the work you do x
You are welcome. Come back my time.
Hi anne how are you its debbie im good my health isnt good but im ok sending you loveand peace you helped me see there is light there at the end best wishes takecare anne lots of love from me to you xxxxx
Debbie- It’s ALWAYS so good to hear from you. I got your message by email. Thank you so so much for the update and it’s so kind of you to drop by and do that. I really appreciate it. I’ve thought about you so often.
I’ve struggled with depression for years and,
That sweet smell!
It comes when I have the types of depressive episodes where I cry a lot (and not the one’s where I feel numb a lot). I struggled for so long with figuring out what the smell was, until I realised it was the sadness itself.
It’s a sickening and sweet smell, like medicine and yoghurt.
I can be in the middle of a distressed crying-session, but as soon as I catch a whiff of that particular smell, I panick and stop crying because it truly bothers me such.
I’m just so deeply curious about WHAT causes the smell, more exactly. The science around it. Very curious.
I am curious, too. My guess would be that so other deeply empathetic individuals can sense your distress and come to your aid. That’s my thinking anyway. Please don’t beat yourself up. I never found it unpleasant. I am sorry you are finding it jolting. Maybe let it play out and it will dissipate. But crying is so healthy. It’s such a great release.
Thank for mentioning the distinction between crying and more numb types of depression and the scent or lack thereof associated with each.
“It’s a sickening and sweet smell, like medicine and yoghurt.” This. I’ve only just started realizing I’m smelling it on myself lately. I kept thinking I was smelling this on my husband until this morning I thought I smelled it on a coworker, and we work outdoors, which makes no sense. I realized it was me when I got home and smelled it strongest, and I’m the only one home. It scared me at first though, bc I’ve smelled something very very similar around dying chronically ill people (EMT). But I am somewhat depressed and this makes more sense.
I also made the same mistake of thinking everyone else smelled like ammonia for months when my own liver enzymes were out of whack until I found out my gallbladder needed removal. I guess my sense of smell is good but I have a hard time admitted it’s me lol
Just know that very few can actually smell it. And to me, my son’s scent was not unpleasant. In fact, last month I walked into the hallway and smelled it and was overjoyed. I took it as a sign. His scent was individual, only to him and it seemed like he’d paid a visit from heaven. That’s how I’m seeing it anyway. But this talent can allow you to be proactive regarding your own health in so many ways. I can also smell when my husband has a sour stomach (not his farts) and I pick up a smell when I’m about to get a cold which isn’t often.
I have been arguing with my peer support person over this. She blames the smell on my cats but can’t say what about the cats it is. She is deeply offended by the smell and my refusal to do anything about it. I have honestly tried everything down to bathing and cloths from the driver right when she pulls up… funny thing is absolutely no one else smells this ! Everyone says I am just fine… even my picky nose dad. I’m also not the only one she has smelt this on. The other person also struggles with terrible depression. Being rejected like this for something I can’t figure out by someone paid to be a support person has almost put me in an urn. Luckily I have a loving husband who says “just dont listen to her” but it feels awful that I know she is talking about me to other people on the team and seems convinced I am dirty.
What the hell? This is a professional saying this. Your husband is right. This woman is a disgrace to the profession. How dare her to say that to you. I’m so sorry. Good for you for seeking help and I’m sorry she is saying such inappropriate things. And by the way, it’s not a bad scent. And she’s not rejecting you. She’s just rude and needs a session of manners camp. You are not dirty, or gross, or unclean. People, all people, have a scent!
Hello Anne. It isn’t very professional of a person in a position of trust to act in such a way. Sadly, it happens. I have had too many counselors who did more damage than good. I worked in an office for a short time. The female boss & owner of the company treated me badly. Blamed things she did, on me. It was a short time. After that, I started going to a counselor with a regular standing appointment. Guess who my counselors best buddy was? Yep. The female boss who treated me badly, then, fired me. I don’t know what boss lady said to her friend, my counselor. Just as I was beginning to be able to trust my counselor, she , conveniently, wouldn’t counsel me after that. I live in a small town, there is a deep need for counselors, not enough to help all of the people. I would have to drive 70 miles to see a counselor. I decided to not seek a counselor ever again. I will deal with my depression & anxiety on my own.
I am so very sorry. Women should support other women and not backstab. I know this jaded you. I do hope you’ll consider the option of online telehealth counseling. You may have a poor connection but if you can, I hope you’ll give this a try. Many of them are now doing this, it offers you more choices and flexibility particularly if you are in a rural area with few resources. I know this was a blow and it’s so unprofessional. Thank you for commenting
I remember when i was young my mom had a smell like you described, i just thought that is how she smells, but she stopped smelling like that a while ago, I stay with my bf now and the last few weeks he has been smelling like she did, at first i thought that i might be imagining that, but i had a dream about it that it might be depression.
Thank you for sharing. That is so fascinating. That they share the same scent and that it might mean the same thing.
I have been smelling this on myself recently, as I find myself in a debilitating depressive episode. I don’t typically have issues with body odor, and can often get away without deodorant at all, but lately my underarms have had a pungently sweet, musty, almost curry smell to them, that lingers even after showering. It’s not altogether unpleasant when mild, but it can become strong (like during a period of intense panic-induced sweating). I’m wondering if there is a link to cortisol or adrenaline.
Some of the comments on this thread liken the smell to a dead body… I wonder if on some level this could be indicative of the soul death experienced during deep depression.
Thank you for this article. Depression and anxiety are no joke.
That’s the smell. And it’s not like a dead body. Please doN’t compare your sweet living soul to being dead. It may be stuck in a gray cloud but it’s very much alive. And I smelled the scent yesterday. Not in me. Not on my husband. I think it was a sign from my deceased son. There was only one person who had that very distinct scent. And that’s what I am going with. Why not?
There was a year where my mom smelt like this, I kind of just knew it was the smell of her sadness. She was very depressed at the time and would spend a lot of time sleeping in her room. I knew that she was taking showers as well but the smell was still there anyways. I also seemed to be the only one noticing the smell and it was a very strong smell to me. I didn’t like the smell but I think that’s because I knew what it meant, had I just come across that same smell in a different situation I probably wouldn’t have any negative feelings towards it. Interesting to see that most of these comments seem to agree on the smell being a sweet one, it was sort of sweet and acidic smelling from what I remember but it’s difficult to describe.
Thank you for sharing your story. That was very close to my experience
I needed this so badly. I lost my partner Shannon 1/24/19. She took her life in our bedroom. She struggled for many years and fought hard in her mental illness. I often asked her randomly if her stomach was upset, never to offend her but i knew that sour stomach smell well due to two kids with sensitive stomachs. I never told her exactly why I would ask that question, but she always answered no. Every single time. That smell never left my head. I felt like I was losing it for smelling it when she always said she was fine. She wasn’t, but it wasn’t the same way I meant and she couldn’t describe it to me. This brought me a sense of understanding and peace. So much still left unanswered, always will be but little bits of I’m not alone.
Rachel. I am so sorry that you lost your partner to suicide. Thank you so much for you comment. Interesting you knew when your partner was in a major depressive episode when alive. Your comment here illustrates the love and support you had for your partner.
My “illness” is that of ocd, psychosis (schizophrenia) and olfactory reference syndrome (falls under the ocd category). I also have various other mental health issues. I google my problems daily (an unhealthy thing). Correction. I’ve been googling my problems from 2009 and onwards. First I thought I had a bad breath problem so I visited many halitosis sites and clinics (in London) to no avail and was always referred to ‘go see a therapist’. At the same time while I was searching for answers as well as getting reactions such as coughing and sneezing etc. from people which I’d attributed subconsciously to people reacting to my supposed ‘offensive’ bad breath. This prompted me to join the ‘people are allergic to me’ message boards. I have been on this site on and off for couple of years until recently I stopped altogether. I came to this site two days ago after searching ‘smell think depression’ and came across many sites including yours.
How this ties in with what your article has mentioned:
For the most years I have been in confusement from what I’m experiencing. I thought I had a physical smell related problem but it turned out it was mentally related concerning smells.
When my mind plays a particular smell I panic. The reason being I had bad ‘negative’ experiences with the word smell its origins and in general terms. My depressive mood stems wholey from this idea about myself exhibiting an offensive or even overpowering good smell to others. In real terms my mind is off key with this whole idea about smells. The smell is definitely originated from my mind. I would say 95% of the day I think about my smell and how it’s affecting others then the panic sets in where I start experiencing these other things such as a floating sensation and people inevitably react.
When I don’t have thoughts on smell which is highly rare but I’m working on getting better my panic is 0 and I am 100% zen calm. All my panic stems from this smell idea.
The reality is I can smell myself when my thoughts run haywire and when my panic levels reaches a peak. Panic is a fear button. Its the highest level of anxiety I beleive. My smell covers all the smells mentioned in the comments. Because the smell is harvested in my mind any smell that my mind has processed can be outwardly and inwardly projected.
All in all some mental ilnesses do have a smell. In my case it is that from panic and depression. Depression does cause me to smell different but also my thoughts running rampant added in with panic about smells results in an unhealthy cycle of depression.
I really appreciate your comment. I read every word twice. It’s fascinating what you have figured out. And in addition, your commitment to being the best you can be in impressive. That effort is really admirable.
The best way to move forward is to forget. Alas hard it is possible. My lifelong goal is to be the best version of myself. It’s not a matter of me figuring anything out. It’s what I’ve been living and experiencing the most part of what I remember in my consiousness. Unfortunately my first conscious memory is that of a smell related incident. Purely negative too. But I have come a long way and continue to forget this memory. Make it not a part of myself anymore as in its been processed rather than leaving it as an unprocessed memory/s (trauma) etc.
I had temporary relief where none of this existed in my mind. The only thing that happened was I forgot. It lasted just over a month. I didn’t get any pre warning that I would be better. What I do realise now is I made small stepping stones to getting to a better stage. Every small step accounted for a breakthrough relief. This is how I figured out it was actually mentally related.
Whoever said we smell with our nose is wrong. We smell with our minds. Our nose is where we smell it more accurately but by all means it’s not how we smell. The mind accounts for a lot. A person who loses their sense of smell for example can recall the smells they have smelled in the past (with their minds) not with their nose since they have lost that capacitance. They can effectively bring up a smell and be able to smell it in their minds. The mind is the most least understood thing and that’s why we have alot to learn still.
Some days I’m out of my mind (in the literal sense). Some days I’m not. Reason being thoughts are not attached to us. They come and go. That’s why the highs and lows.
You have worked hard. Amazing Loy hard. And you are right. One of the subscribers here said she was more familiar with crack cooking on the stove as a child and just the smell it sounds of something similar triggers her. There is a lot to smells and scents.
I have major depression, I recently (after being released from the hospital) started noticing a horrible smell in my apartment, more specifically my bedroom. It’s like bad milk or cheese and soy sauce. When I get depressed I will sleep for 15 to 20 hours at a time, this last episode was really bad. I slept from 7pm on a Friday to 9am the following Monday, I was drinking a lot too. Now that I’m feeling better the smell is really distressing. I have to keep my window open or I get sick.
I am so sorry it has affected you so negatively. Do understand that it’s not always an unpleasant smell to the rest of us. Thank you for your contribution to this post and leaving a comment.
I think the reason it smells that way to me is psychological. It doesn’t effect me the way it did. I’ve been out of my depressed state for about 2 months now and I’m feeling optimistic. I was diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder while I was in the hospital, now I’m getting help fo it.
Alexander- Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and offer more information and an update. That’s so thoughtful of you to share. And I think it will help others struggling with a mental illness. Asking and then committing to getting help is a courageous step.
Wow, I’m glad I found this post. I’ve had a smell at the back of my nose for years. At first I thought my apartment just stank. Then when I moved in with my boyfriend the smell followed me, so it couldn’t have been my apartment. I began to pay more attention to it and chart what happened. Over time I saw that I would get it really bad for a few days, then get really depressed a few days later. It was almost like an aura for a migraine. The stronger the smell, the worse the depression was. To me it smells like a combination of propane gas, burnt rubber, but kinda sweet and musky at the same time. It hurts my nose sometimes and gives me a weird sensation right between my eyes. Nobody has said to me that they can smell it off me. I’ve even asked people to have a smell! If the smell comes I know I have a day or two to clean the house before I’m incapacitated in bed for a few days. I wish there was a way to prevent it or get rid of it. Currently I drench myself in perfume when I get up and when I go to bed at night. A few on here have suggested reducing anxiety worked. I think I will really make an effort to do this.
In general my sense of smell is very acute. I can smell when somebody is coming down with a cold. It’s useful, but annoying!
I think your sense of smell is especially acute. Those who live with mental illness often have a lot of very special talents. But maybe it might be good to know that a depressive episode is happening. I’m glad you found us and left your comment. This page here is a research project in and of itself.
My mom has always been able to smell colds coming on when we were kids, and I can too with mine. It’s interesting others can too. My brother has always been able to smell when a cockroach is in the room, which is very specific and I guess useful, but I’ve never met anyone but him who could do that.
Wow. Thank you for sharing that, C.O. It adds an interesting dynamic to the topic. I think there is something to this.
My best friend who committed suicide had that smell. To me, it was a sweet sort of garlicky, oniony smell… and when he was most depressed, it was utterly overwhelming, as well as triggering feelings in me of panic. Yet, it took me YEARS to realize that what I was smelling was depression. What drew the link finally was me standing in the subway, staring off into space when a scent wafted by me that made me feel instantly alarmed, and IMMEDIATELY recalled my friend. Turning, I noticed a man standing, almost hanging off the pole across the aisle, and I had that “eureka” moment of, “he smells like DEPRESSION”, and not just any depression, but suicidal depression. He looked like an utterly broken man, and my heart broke realizing this.
I wish I had realized this long ago, before my friend took his life, because I would have been more active instead of reactive to his swings in mood. :/
But the nose is amazing, and it makes sense that some people would be more sensitive than others to the cornucopia of chemicals our bodies emit. I’m pretty sure I can smell melatonin (the darker a person’s skin, the stronger this smell like kelp or river water). And I’ve always been a bloodhound for even the most minute gas or sewer leaks. My roommates used to joke that I always knew what they had been up to, even if I was sitting in my room at the other end of the apartment and they had just walked through the door: whether they’d just come off the subway from work inside an air conditioned building all day, just come from a coffee shop or a bar, or just gotten off an airplane, or biked through the streets or ambled through a park.
So no, you definitely are not alone! It would be nice if science put these noses to work and test out WHY. Not all depressed people smell to me. It’s almost like there are those whose bodies are chemically depressed and then those who are going through an episodic depression due to life events and the smells are VERY different! My friend couldn’t seem to be happy no matter what, and it lasted for decades, and he tried just about everything to find some sort of happiness. He was a very sweet man, kind, and thoughtful, and he had a good life, good job, good home. But it was like a weight was always on his back, that he just couldn’t ever shake, no matter what. Something was WRONG. And that smell was definitely a part of it.
Ralph. Thank you so much for this detailed information. Wow. You should work for some industry or the government other that kind of olfactory talent. What you have written is absolutely fascinating.
My husband suffers severe depression and anxiety. I can tell his level of depression based on smell. It took me a long time to piece this together but now that I have I know when a spiral is coming. I imagine it to be like the sensation of a service dog?
That is exactly what I think. Like a service pup. I think they pick up the scent and some humans do. But that’s how service dogs know someone is about to have a seizure. So why wouldn’t this apply to those who live with a mental illness as well.
I have noticed this with my husband as well who is Bipolar, it took me many years to place it into context. At first I thought it was a side effect of his medications- but it seems linked to when he is low rather than manic. Most others can’t smell what I smell though- not just this but other things as well. I would like to hear others experiences on this
I smelled it when my son was low. I, too, thought it was a side effect of drugs or medication. But it was not. I can smell it, too, when my husband is struggling with grief from my son’s suicide. While he doesn’t suffer from depression he has depressive episodes at certain times of the year such as my son’s birthday.
My husband had a smell, he was 37 when he ended his life. I remember the smell so well, it was like an old man smell, not horrible – not pleasent either just very distinct. Even after having a shower the smell was there, we seperated a few years before he passed due to his PTSD and depression as we didnt want it to impact our son, but we seen eachother a lot at least 3 days a week and I would notice the smell. Its still on some of his things.. but this week I’ve noticed the smell on me, my son has even said I smell like daddy which is a worry as I want to be as mentally healthy as possible to give my son the upbringing he deserves. I don’t think I’m depressed, I do miss his daddy alot and I am troubled by the day I found him, could it be that?
First of all, I’m sorry you lost the father of your son to depression.
It’s interesting your son said that. It could be if you’ve been sorting some of your husband’s things that the scent is with you. Or it could be that grief-depression has a similar scent. Those are both guesses. Even if it turns out you have depression, too, you will know to treat it. Many who suffer mental illness can be and are good parents. But I suspect you have what I call “grief depression” which is situational and tied to a grief or loss event. I hope you have seeked out some support. That was a crucial part of my own healing after my son’s suicide. Thank you for commenting.
I have noticed this on my self as well. I also have an alcohol substance abuse problem. The smell was worse when I had been drinking. To the point, it was not coming off of my clothes when I would even wash them. My husband and I even started separating our laundry. His smelled better, mine did not. As I’ve quit drinking, the smell has gotten better but still comes in waves. At first, I chalked it up to detox. Then, I thought it was hormones (still a possibility). I get depressed when I’m PMSing really bad so not sure if it’s coming from hormones or something to do with my mental state. I’m really glad you posted this though. I feel less alone/crazy.
Wow. Well, substance use disorder, as well as depression, are diseases of the brain. I think the scent is from those who have diseases of the brain. I do think that it smells differently to some people and then others don’t smell it at all. There are enough comments here that there is a definite pattern. THank you for commenting.
I realize that I may be necroposting, and if that’s the case, I apologize. Though I’ve been struggling with issues similar to those described here and in the comments section. I suffer from depression and anxiety. Have for a long, long time. And now, as I’m approaching my 40’s, in addition to having to deal with these conditions on top of what I consider to be a very lack-luster life, I smell. I shower every day before heading out. My clothes are seldom older than two days out of the laundry. I brush my teeth every day and use mouthwash. And I smell. I switched to anti-bacterial soap in the shower. I wear antiperspirant on my underarms and my groin. And except for my underarms and groin, I smell an hour after the shower.
I first notice it on my hands. It’s not your normal “BO” smell. It’s something different. It doesn’t smell good to me, but it doesn’t smell too bad to me either. It’s this sickly-sweet-musky smell, sometimes a bit acrid. I’ve smelled it in other people’s houses before. I always thought it was just the smell of “dirty.” I’m not going to win any housekeeping awards, but I find it hard to believe any smell outside of molding/rotting, terrible cigarette smoke, or literally never showering and never wearing clean clothes could stick to anyone so strongly right after a shower and slipping into fresh clothes. And that’s not the worst of it. My issue is that other people can smell it, too. Not everyone, apparently. Those closest to me either can’t smell it or don’t really want to get involved. I’ve gone to the doctor about it – says he doesn’t smell much of anything. I’ve literally walked away from a decent paying job because of it. And I’m reaching my wits end. Others have mentioned, and they’re right, if someone isn’t dealing with this, then they can’t possibly know. Only when your very presence gets you ostracized, can you begin to understand.
Just imagine how it would be to have to go out into public every day, knowing that you have an “odor” that you can’t beat. Imagine trying to have a social life. Hell, imagine trying to maintain peace at work. Skip the hard parts; imagine trying to go to the grocery store to get things so you don’t have to go back outside again and “mingle” for a while. Your entire life begins to revolve around trying to minimize other people’s exposure to you at any and all costs. Which, of course, only makes the depression worse and, when going out, amplifies the anxiety. I get days where I can wake up for about two hours and just go back to bed. I dread waking up again. I sabotage my life so that I don’t have to deal with others. Every day is a struggle to find enough reason to push through that day. And as the smell seems unbeatable, every day, it gets harder to do even that much. Now, I’m not well-to-do, and the medical coverage I have will only do so much.
Also, just in case people might be thinking “maybe there’s something in your house”, 1) you might be right but, 2) I stayed with a friend for several weeks, did laundry and showered there, and got rides from him. To those that could smell it, the smell lingered. This left me with the conclusion that I’m producing something that some people can smell, and those that do smell it usually smell it as something negative. Which, I can understand. After all, who really wants to work next to the stinky guy? It just sucks when you’re the stinky guy and there seems to be literally nothing you can do about it. Anyway, sorry if this was a necropost. It was mildly therapeutic to rant for a while.
It makes sense. And thank you for commenting. I understand that this stresses you out and makes you feel isolated and unpleasant. For me, the scent was not unpleasant, just curious.
I have noticed that those who do take an antidepressant don’t have it or it makes it not nearly as strong. In other words, the meds tone it down or eliminate it entirely. It seems to be more apparent when in a depressive episode. And lightens up after that episode. Few can pick up the scent. No one could smell it but me in my family. I must have asked 15 people. But it was only me. Thank you so much for your comment. Your “rant” is appreciated here. It helps me work through my stuff, too.
Yes, depression has a smell. It differs from person to person; I would think the variation is caused by individual body chemistry. I have lived with major episodes of depression since childhood, but it was not until the last 10 years I was able to identify my own and my mother’s depression by the particular odor we each have when it occurs.
I cannot smell it on myself when I am in the same room for a period of time, but if I leave the room for a short time and then return, the scent is very distinctive.
I had never thought of it as a sweet smell, before, but I guess that is as good of a description as any. I also agree with someone who said it was also a bit acrid.
The scent is less offensive to those who know you and care about you. I would imagine it is distinctive to others though. No one has ever mentioned it to me, aside from my mother.
The scent lessens and my symptoms improve a lot when I eat more whole, plant-based foods and less processed foods.
Amazing observations and after all the comments here I was coming to many of those same conclusions. I think you are right that different people smell different things and those closest to us find it more pleasant. Thank you so much for your comment. It sheds a lot of light on the subject and connects a lot of dots.
I have the EXACT same issue, good sir.
My apologies, Adria! I meant to reply to John C above.
Hi John, I can’t help but necropost in reply to this because I am in the exact same situation. I’m a female, almost 30, and I have lost many friends and jobs because of this, which has only exacerbated my depression and anxiety even further. I joined a discord group called The Gut War (the invite link is under the YouTube videos with the same name) where I have found others with similar scents, though much less mention of relation to mental health conditions. I also began studying Ayurveda (the art of digestion) because I believe that digestion plays a role. My doctors can’t find anything wrong, but my Ayurvedic teacher believes I developed a pattern of holding stress in the GI at a young age. I would like to talk more if you or anyone else is interested, though I know that I am posting at quite a later date than the majority of people here. Thank you, Anne Moss Rogers, for bringing this community together and this issue to light.
Lily-That is fascinating. Thank you for commenting. And for being proactive in looking for a solution.
So sorry… all the comments relate to depression and musky, onion sweet smell but no one has mentioned mold or mycotoxin toxicity as a cause. Dig gor the root cause! It’s an epidemic and can cause suicidal behavior from water damaged buildings. Not all family members will react the same way.
I have heard that Sue. A friend of mine had a serious mold allergy that drove her suicidal thoughts and once she treated those, she no longer has the thoughts of suicide. In my son’s case, I am sure his scent was related to his depression.
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.
I do think it’s different for everyone depending on their senses. But what you describe is what I smelled on my son. A sweet, not unpleasant smell but very distinctive and not all the time.
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
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.
I know that smell ,I work w a co worker that has that distinct smell , it is awfull , I’m sorry but I have too avoid him the Oder just overwhelming, and I’ve had headaches , and after smell effects which last for 5_7 days , , My question is does he know that he’s smells ? Allot of times were in the same work vehicle all dam day , I can tell he is bi polar and overweight issues , I have too roll down my window get some of the stench out it Fkn awfull , I’m by far not perfect , but daaaaaamm
I think the smell could be something else. It’s usually not an unpleasant smell. Those who have detected it on themselves are very self conscious about it. But a bad smell could be tied to anything- acidic stomach, skin disease etc. While those who struggle with mental illness might have a scent when in a depressive state, it’s usually not a consistent thing although little is known about it.
Thank-You Mi Lady “ I didn’t mean too vent like that, inexcusable on my behalf , i just can’t get that smell out of my head, I ask my girlfriend to smell me at times cause I’m thinking it’s me, that’s how bad it is , I even take a hour hot showers lozz of soap, I wish he sees a doctor and get proper treatment for Pete’s sake, Merry-Christmas, Steve
pS I love your board 🎋
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
HEY! stop going through your roommate’s personal stuff dude.. so unethical. smfh.
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!
Thank you for sharing on this thread S. Very helpful. It’s funny how some can smell the scent and others cannot.
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 .
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
That is so fascinating. Thank you for sharing.
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
Interesting about the hot flashes. I certainly understand the swearing more. Loss made me short tempered and angry a lot, not just sad. And loss of a relationship is also a grief process.
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.
Voice changes, too. How interesting. Thank you for commenting and adding your observations and I am glad they are warnings for you.
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!!!
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
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.
Since writing this and getting so many responses, I feel less silly too. I wonder if it could be something that would help determine if a medication is working or not.
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
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
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!
I haven’t heard that one Christine. But there is something to all these scents. Thank you for posting
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.
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
Isn’t it odd so many can’t smell it? It made me think that it wasn’t real. And it really is not unpleasant. Thank you for sharing your story.
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.
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
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.
I think it indicates a depressive episode. If he is not being treated for depression you/he can ask for a psychological evaluation to get to the root of the issue. Depression can be treated.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wow. I wonder if people who are empathetic like you are drawn to the smell. That’s really interesting. And thank you for supporting someone with mental illness and living them they way they are.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you so much for commenting. The more info we have here, the more we can learn. There is so little information out there on this topic which surprises me.
I smell it on myself and I’m worried.
Worried about the smell? Worried about depression? Let me know what’s worrying you about it. It’s not a smell everyone picks up and it’s not unpleasant.
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.
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
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
You go Sarah. I am so glad you wrote from your heart. Watching your child suffer from internal demons is the worst.
I think you need to write a letter to schizophrenia for this site! https://annemoss.com/contact-2/submit-a-story/
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 ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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
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
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.
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
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…
Thank you for sharing your thoughts H. Appreciated.
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.
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.
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
Wow. That’s interesting. I wonder if there is a specific scent for a specific type episode. For example, metallic for psychosis and sweet for depression. Thanks for posting.
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.
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.
Kristal Hill: hi, do you have any update on the status of your husband, sorry if this came across super morbid but I think I have what he has, not sure, thanks!
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
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!
Interesting thought and good question.
GERD can also cause bad breath. Many people with depression and anxiety also have GERD.
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.
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
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
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.
I have smelled it on 2 people. They smell like a dead body- recently dead body, like a day or two. That sweet miasma.
Sweet maisa. I will look that up.
Yea a guy at work smells pungent sweet and at times like a dead person.
Yes I googled this same with my husband I can smell when he’s down
Thank you for commenting. It’s funny there is not more information on this subject
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.
We do need a scientific study! Thanks for commenting.
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.
That is interesting that you can’t smell it when he comes out of it. Consistent with what I hear from others. Next time I am up at NIMH, I am going to mention.
There is so little information about this on the web. Thank you! This validates what I’ve been smelling with my best friend!
I have smelled this! I thought I was crazy
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.
Wow. So glad I wrote this post so others like you could share your stories.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
It sounds like something else since it’s in a specific spot. I don’t know what it would be though. Carbon monoxide has no smell. Gas smells like rotten eggs. Is it an older house?
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.
You are welcome Jim. Thank you for commenting. I’d love for them to do a study on this. I do know a lot of people at NIMH because I speak there so I will mention it next time I am in MD
I would to see the results if a study is done.
Next time I talk to Dr Horowitz I will ask if anyone is studying this. She is my main contact there
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.
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
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.
That’s it. That is the scent I smelled, too. Sweet and pungent.
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.
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.
I’ve noticed this, too. In my mom. I can tell when she is about to have an episode of depression.
Wow. So this is real. A lot of us sense it.
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!
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.
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.
So interesting. I researched this topic over a year ago and there was so little on it I thought I was crazy. Thank you for sharing that.
Is it a sort of pungent vanilla smell?
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
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”.
Oh my gosh so a psychologist mentioned it. Thank you for your comment and information.
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.
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.
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.
What I smelled was more of a sweet smell with kind of a dirty laundry scent. Thanks for commenting.
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
Thanks for commenting on this. I learn from every comment.
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.
Wow. This is amazing. I’m not crazy after all
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
You know animals can sense it. So it stands to reason that we would, too.
Yes,,,, and–I have often thought how a therapy animal would help my boy.
Apparently there have been some studies that show emotions do have a smell. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerdooley/2012/11/08/people-can-smell-emotions/#6ecdf40f66b2
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. 💕
This is an actual phenomenon. Several years ago, my partner at the time had thyroid cancer and had it removed. I’ve known this person for years prior and never smelled a thing before, but once the cancer was diagnosed he smelled like urine. His body, his clothes and his room all smelled. I was young and didn’t think anything of it, but hated giving him hugs or being too close. I finally said something and he was alarmed and said that he does not smell it on himself. It was bad. Now, several years later my current partner has been smelling “garlic” on me and has complained for months here and there. He says it’s on some days, off some others. Months later, we realized now, that the smell was due to my mild depression, because now that I’ve weaned off it, he says I smell “healthy/normal”, and I actually do feel healthy and normal. I just came home to go into this rabbit hole of finding out what others have also experienced! Thanks for this.
Garlicky. I’ve not heard that description before. But I think we all smell things differently. Thank you for sharing, Sky.
Very curious indeed!