Despite being happily married for 20 years, Charlotte Self simply couldn’t reconcile the emptiness she felt with the man she loved.
"I would hold him and feel nothing, it was like hugging a cushion," she says.
But rather than marital problems, arguments or infidelity, Charlotte’s antipathy toward her 45-year-old husband had a surprising cause: she had lost her sense of smell after a head injury.
In July 2008, while riding a bike in the countryside, Charlotte clipped a drain cover and landed head-first on the road. She was not wearing a helmet and gashed the back of her head. Shaken, she managed to ring her husband, who took her to hospital.
"I knew the smell of Duncan it was what made me feel comforted, loved and, subconsciously, attracted to him. But it was only once it had gone that I realised how powerful my sense of smell was in relation to the physical side of my relationship."
"Almost immediately after the accident, in July 2008, I began to lose all sense of physical closeness"
It’s thought that more than 200,000 British people have lost their sense of smell, a condition known as anosmia. It’s usually caused by a form of congestion, such as nasal polyps (fleshy swellings in the lining of the nose) or by nerve damage due to a trauma to the head.
"The sense of smell links directly into the part of our brain most closely associated with our mood and emotions — it works in a different way from our other senses in this regard," says Duncan Boak, founder of anosmia support group Fifth Sense.