Maria Browning, a perfume enthusiast who blogs at Bittergrace Notes, writes about her recurring impulse to indulge massively in scent:
The madness always comes upon me in the depths of winter, and I can feel it building already. I’ve dabbed or sprayed on at least five different perfumes today. I’ve got scented candles burning and I just spritzed my bedroom with Bal a Versailles. I’ll probably dose the blankets with something else before I go to bed tonight.This isn’t about her natural curiosity for sampling and collecting scents. It is, she says, about “craving an olfactory smorgasbord.” Wondering whether these “benders” are the result of some weird brain chemistry, Browning searches the Internet (and FirstNerve!) for information but comes up empty.
Even in our drowsy state of pre-Solstice hibernation here at First Nerve Manor this sounded like a challenge. Has anyone examined the link between short day length and the urge to smell?
Some years back we met a interesting psychiatry professor named Teodor Postolache with an interest in Seasonal Affective Disorder and smell. He published a study that examined nostril-by-nostril odor identification ability in SAD patients and healthy controls. The two groups didn’t differ on this measure, but there were intriguing correlations between single nostril performance and measures of depression.
This led Postlache to a second study, in which odor sensitivity of SAD patients was measured once in winter (the depressive season) and again the following summer (the “up” season). Surprisingly there was no seasonal difference in olfactory sensitivity. However the SAD patients were significantly more sensitive than the normal controls.
In humans, marked seasonal behavioral rhythms with recurrent winter depression may be associated with a more acute sense of smell.
Hmmm. None of this is definitive but it does make one wonder: Is the perfume bender a form of self-induced mood modulation by the olfactively-inclined? And what does it mean that the holiday season is the biggest time of year for giving fragrance to other people?
[For the record, our scientific ruminations are just that. We do not presume to diagnose our fellow bloggers or even to imply that they require diagnosis. We think perfumes benders sound like a great topic for investigation for the light they might throw on olfactory psychology.]