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Question
Posted by: Anon | 2012/10/08

I smell smoke

Hi Cyber Shrink

I have a bit of a fear of fire. If something catches fire in the kitchen, I''m the first one out the door and then my whole body turns to jelly. I didn''t even realise how bad this fear was till I was out camping with friends one year and out camp site caught fire, and I ran for the hills, leaving all my belongings and friends behind.

About two winters ago, I was working late at the office, it was dark, and I had my heater on. I suddenly smelt smoke, and when I looked up, the whole office was grey with smoke. I immediately thought that a co-worker must have left their heater on and it caught fire. I ran downstairs to escape, realised I''d left my key to the door upstairs, had to go back up to get it, and then saw that there was no smoke. It turned out there was no fire. I had somehow imagined it all.

Lately I smell smoke all the time. When I smell it I get a huge shock, and try locate the source before I burn to death. I smell it at work, in my car, and even at home (it smells like an electrical fire).

Lately I''ve been waking up int he middle of the night because I think i smell fire, I jump out of bed and go look in the kitchen, and then the rest of the house, and find nothing. I go back to bed, but I panic that I might have missed something. Is this OCD? Should I worry that I might have a brain tumor? Or is it linked to the fact that fire worries me a little?

Thanks so much

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Your attention seems focussed on the smell and maybe the appearance of smoke, but your story suggests a fire phobia, in the sense of an exaggerated sense of risk, and a response that's not entirely helpful, to the possibility of fire.
Of course nobody should be delighted to see signs of fire, but over-reacting to the possibility is usually rather unhelpful.
Very rarely hallucinations of smell may occur in some forms of brain tumour, but this is exceedingly unlikely in your case, and there's surely be other clear signs pointing in that direction. Slightly more commonly, some people with epilepsy, experience an "aura", a warning sign of an impending fit, which can include convincing smells, sometimes described as being like something burning, often more unpleasant than the usual smoke one encounters.
At least see a GP to check on these possibilities ( a physician or neurologist if he finds any more signs worth checking on ) ; otherwise a psychiatrist could confirm whether this is indeed a phobia, and could treat this successfully, often with a combination of meds also used to treat depression, and Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ( CBT ) a form of talking therapy that helps one unlearn unhelpful fears, ideas and behaviours like those which occur in a phobia.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

2
Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012/10/09

Your attention seems focussed on the smell and maybe the appearance of smoke, but your story suggests a fire phobia, in the sense of an exaggerated sense of risk, and a response that's not entirely helpful, to the possibility of fire.
Of course nobody should be delighted to see signs of fire, but over-reacting to the possibility is usually rather unhelpful.
Very rarely hallucinations of smell may occur in some forms of brain tumour, but this is exceedingly unlikely in your case, and there's surely be other clear signs pointing in that direction. Slightly more commonly, some people with epilepsy, experience an "aura", a warning sign of an impending fit, which can include convincing smells, sometimes described as being like something burning, often more unpleasant than the usual smoke one encounters.
At least see a GP to check on these possibilities ( a physician or neurologist if he finds any more signs worth checking on ) ; otherwise a psychiatrist could confirm whether this is indeed a phobia, and could treat this successfully, often with a combination of meds also used to treat depression, and Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ( CBT ) a form of talking therapy that helps one unlearn unhelpful fears, ideas and behaviours like those which occur in a phobia.

Reply to cybershrink
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012/10/09

Your attention seems focussed on the smell and maybe the appearance of smoke, but your story suggests a fire phobia, in the sense of an exaggerated sense of risk, and a response that's not entirely helpful, to the possibility of fire.
Of course nobody should be delighted to see signs of fire, but over-reacting to the possibility is usually rather unhelpful.
Very rarely hallucinations of smell may occur in some forms of brain tumour, but this is exceedingly unlikely in your case, and there's surely be other clear signs pointing in that direction. Slightly more commonly, some people with epilepsy, experience an "aura", a warning sign of an impending fit, which can include convincing smells, sometimes described as being like something burning, often more unpleasant than the usual smoke one encounters.
At least see a GP to check on these possibilities ( a physician or neurologist if he finds any more signs worth checking on ) ; otherwise a psychiatrist could confirm whether this is indeed a phobia, and could treat this successfully, often with a combination of meds also used to treat depression, and Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy ( CBT ) a form of talking therapy that helps one unlearn unhelpful fears, ideas and behaviours like those which occur in a phobia.

Reply to cybershrink

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