Depression makes things smell worse

Stress and anxiety can have a negative affect on our sense of smell, according to new research.

A study, recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has concluded that those suffering from stress tend to find that things smell worse.

It explains that anxiety causes 'crossed wires' between the part of the brain that processes smells and that which processes emotions. Therefore, if someone is feeling depressed, things tend to smell worse too.

In an interview with, the study's lead author Wen Li explained: "In typical odour processing, it is usually just the olfactory system that gets activated but when a person becomes anxious, the emotional system becomes part of the olfactory processing stream."

"The environment smells bad in the context of anxiety. It can become a vicious cycle, making one more susceptible to a clinical state of anxiety as the effects accumulate. It can potentially lead to a higher level of emotional disturbances with rising ambient sensory stress."

Those in counselling training often have to gain a deep knowledge of the symptoms of depression, so this research could be of great interest to them.

According to, it's the first study to examine the link between depression and sense of smell.