Nose picking is a habit that most people engage in, usually several times per day.
This is the technical terminology for someone who has a compulsion to pick their nose. People often think of nose pickers as little children, but it's a condition that can affect adults as well.
If you think you may be experiencing rhinotillexomania, there are numerous treatment options available. Below, we’ll explore rhinotillexomania in more detail and look at treatment options for this condition.
What Is Rhinotillexomania?
Rhinotillexomania can be defined as a compulsive picking of the nose or nasal septum. While some people may think of nose-picking as something that only children engage in, surveys suggest that almost everyone does it to some degree. One survey found that half of the respondents pick their nose about four times a day.
Therefore, not everyone who picks their nose has rhinotillexomania. People who pick their nose may not have any compulsion to do so. However, the habit can still result in some of the dangers listed below. One of the main differences between rhinotillexomania and simple nose-picking is the compulsion that exists within the disorder and the repetitive, body-focused behaviors that characterize it.
Treatment for rhinotillexomania can help individuals manage the symptoms of the disorder. Typical treatment options include talk therapy or medication, or a combination of the two. A psychiatrist or psychologist may be able to determine whether a person has the condition and then come up with a plan for treatment.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies rhinotillexomania under obsessive-compulsive disorder and related disorders. If rhinotillexomania is caused by OCD or another type of anxiety disorder, the individual may be prescribed medication, such as an antidepressant. It’s recommended that you always consult a doctor before deciding to start or stop a medication.
If you experience rhinotillexomania, you may benefit from speaking to a licensed therapist. Given that rhinotillexomania is listed in the same context as trichotillomania (a compulsion to pull one’s hair), a therapist may use therapeutic methods that apply to this condition, such as habit reversal training, cognitive therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy.
Solutions To Reduce Harm
If you're not ready to seek out counseling just yet, consider trying out some of the following strategies to safeguard your health in the meantime. Additionally, should you choose to see a therapist, you can still try to implement these methods into your life as an additional source of help.
Avoid Using Your Fingernails
While you’re working on picking your nose less, it may help to avoid using your fingernails when doing so. Consider using a cotton swab instead of using your fingers to pick your nose. This may lower your risk of developing a perforation of the nasal cavity or an infection.
Blow Your Nose
Instead of picking your nose, you might try blowing it into a tissue instead. It may not provide the same relief and satisfaction, but it may help you reduce the urge to pick.
Use A Bandage Or Fidget Toy
One strategy to reduce nose picking is to wrap the finger you usually use to pick y our nose in a small band-aid. The strange sensation of the bandage on your nose may keep you from picking your nose without thinking about it.
Also, there are many different options that can provide relief from stress and anxiety. Fidget toys may be useful because they can help keep you distracted from picking your nose and keep your hands busy. Without fingers to pick and an extra distraction, it might be harder to pick your nose.
Who Has Rhinotillexomania?
Rhinotillexomania tends to occur in children and young adults. Rhinotillexomania usually doesn't have anything to do with hygiene or necessity. Instead, it's typically a compulsive way to ease tension or stress.
Someone who feels a large amount of stress or who experiences an anxiety disorder may be susceptible to the disorder. Those with other types of compulsion disorders, such as different forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, may be more susceptible to rhinotillexomania. Additionally, they may be more likely to live with a combination of various conditions with similar causes.
Symptoms Of Rhinotillexomania
An individual with rhinotillexomania typically picks their nose because they feel an irresistible compulsion to do so. They may continue to do so even to the point of severe irritation because they can't seem to stop themselves from doing it. People who engage in nose picking may experience excessive nosebleeds (recurrent epistaxis), which might lead to infections or other problems with their nose.
These individuals may also experience excessive tension and anxiety that can lead up to rhinotillexomania. They may then feel relief or gratification after they engage in the activity but feel shame or guilt because of the behavior. They might attempt to hide the behavior, but it can still be somewhat apparent to those around them.
Someone who engages in this type of behavior may engage in other similar behaviors as well. Some people who report picking their nose excessively have also reported behaviors such as picking at their skin, biting their fingernails, pulling out their hair, and picking at their cuticles. Someone may pick at various parts of the body or different areas more or less frequently than they do others.
Getting Help For Rhinotillexomania
If you’re experiencing compulsive behaviors that feel out of your control, you may benefit from speaking to a licensed counselor. If you don’t feel comfortable with traditional in-office therapy, you might consider online therapy. With online therapy, you can connect with a therapist from the comfort of your home via phone, videoconferencing, or live chat, which maybe more comfortable if you’re experiencing obsessions or compulsions. You can also contact your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can.
The Efficacy Of Online Counseling
Individuals experiencing compulsive behaviors may benefit from online counseling. In an assessment of an online video teletherapy treatment, researchers found that the intervention “resulted in clinically and statistically significant improvements, with a 43.4% mean reduction in obsessive-compulsive symptoms.” Additionally, participants experienced fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar concerns.
"Lindsey is very good at putting things in perspective. She is a great listener and offers realistic, loving advice without being judgmental or harsh. I feel like she has helped me to see things in a way that makes me able and willing to change my negative behaviors without feeling like my life is going to end and I'll never get over the loss of my old ways….”
"Busola is amazing, I've only had a few sessions with her but she makes me feel listened to. She understands what my primary needs are for each session and addresses them. Moreover, it doesn't feel like just time to talk and unload everything on someone, but she addresses negative behavioral patterns and helps create an action plan for them."
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Does Rhinotillexomania Mean?
Rhinotillexomania is the formal term for a mental health condition characterized by compulsive nose-picking. This condition is sometimes accompanied by other compulsive behaviors, such as nail biting or skin scratching.
Is There A Medically Reviewed Research Study Published On Rhinotillexomania?
Yes. One study published in Cureus on the repetitive behavior caused by rhinotillexomania found that it can cause inflammation of the nasal tissue.
Why Do People Pick Their Nasal Passages?
People pick their noses for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, an allergy or a sinus infection can make them pick their nose. Other times, people might pick their nose out of stress or anxiety. In rare situations, nose-picking is a compulsive and repetitive behavior.
Does Picking Your Nose Help Clear Nasal Mucus?
Nasal mucus is typically caused by allergies or sinus infections. People sometimes try to pick their nose with a tissue to clear it away. However, saline sprays may be a more effective treatment for clearing your nasal cavity. It’s recommended that you speak with a healthcare provider before using saline sprays.
Can Nose-Picking Cause You To Develop A Dry Nose?
A dry nose is not always caused by nose picking, but body-focused repetitive behaviors like nose picking may contribute to a dry nose.
Do People Pick Their Nasal Passages Because They Are Living With A Mental Illness?
Sometimes, people who pick their noses live with rhinotillexomania. This is a compulsive condition that may require counseling and sometimes medication to treat.
How Do I Stop Compulsive Nose-Picking?
You may find it helpful to use a few strategies to stop nose-picking, such as putting a small bandage on the finger you typically use to pick your nose. You might also use a fidget toy to keep your hands occupied and distract yourself. You may also benefit from speaking to a licensed therapist about compulsive nose-picking.
Does Picking Your Nasal Passages Compromise Your Immune System?
Picking and eating substances from your nose can increase your risk of developing an infection, which can be harmful if you have a compromised immune system.
What Side Effects Occur To Your Nasal Cavity When You Pick Your Nose?
Chronic rhinotillexomania can lead to external nare stenosis, nose bleeding (recurrent epistaxis), infection, and septum perforation.
How Do You Treat Rhinotillexomania?
You may benefit from speaking to a licensed therapist about treatments for rhinotillexomania. A therapist may use a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive therapy, habit reversal training, and acceptance and commitment therapy.
In some cases, a physician may prescribe medication, such as an antidepressant, for individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What Causes Excessive Nose-Picking?
Excessive nose-picking which can be described as a compulsive, repetitive behavior can occur in rare situations. It’s mentioned in the DSM-5 under obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Some people may pick their nose because it can relieve them of some discomfort. Others may engage in it because they are bored or nervous. Excessive nose-picking can be caused by anxiety or stress and could go along with scratching or nail-biting.
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