Olfactory avoiders are highly sensitive to smells and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by new, strong, or particular scents. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.
See below for some ways to identify and support olfactory avoiders.
Olfactory Avoiders May:
- Complain about smells that are very faint or unnoticed by others.
- Hold their noses or gag when encountering strong smells.
- Refuse to eat foods with strong, new, or specific smells.
- Avoid using public restrooms or eating in public spaces.
How to Support Your Olfactory Avoider:
- Minimize the use of air fresheners and artificial scents in the home.
- Be conscious of strong cooking smells and scents in perfumes, lotions, and soaps.
- Use natural or mild cleaning products and keep rooms well ventilated.
- Use a mild, comforting scent to “refresh” after a negative experience.
Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.