Does Rhinotillexomania Treatment Work?

Updated February 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Picking your nose is a habit the majority of people have engaged in at some point in their lifetime. However, others feel that they cannot stop nose-picking and live with a mental health disorder called rhinotillexomania. This is the technical terminology for someone who has an irresistible compulsion to pick their nose. People often think of nose pickers as little children, but it's a real disorder among adults as well. As explained by the National Library of Medicine, a preliminary survey of rhinotillexomania in an adolescent sample concluded with the statement that "nose picking is common in adolescents." Rhinotillexomania requires medical treatment, and there are numerous treatment options available to people who struggle with this repetitive behavior.

What Is Rhinotillexomania?

In short, rhinotillexomania can be defined as a compulsive picking of the nose or nasal septum. It's part of a family of different compulsive skin-picking disorders, and it can be quite harmful. While many of us think of nose-picking as being gross and something that only children engage in, it can actually cause serious damage if it continues. This is because your nose and nasal septum are areas of your body responsible for a large portion of blood circulation. Interrupting that flow can lead to harmful physical consequences.

It's essential to note that not everyone who picks their nose has rhinotillexomania. For instance, small children are less likely to have this disorder at all. Even older children and adults who pick their noses may not have any compulsion to do so. As indicated by some surveys, nose-picking is almost a universal practice done on average about four times a day. If the activity is intentional and done of your own free will, then it is not considered a compulsion or a disorder. However, the habit can still result in some of the dangers listed below. The fundamental difference between rhinotillexomania and simple nose-picking is the compulsion that exists within the disorder and the body-focused, repetitive behaviors that characterize it.

Compulsive Behaviors Can Be Difficult To Manage Alone

Treating Rhinotillexomania

Treatment for rhinotillexomania can work and help individuals manage the symptoms of the disorder. Typical treatment options include talk therapy and medication, or a combination of the two. Seeking out professional help can help an individual determine whether they have the condition and then work with the provider to come up with a plan for treatment. In some cases, there is an underlying cause or problem causing the disorder, as it's considered an obsessive-compulsive or impulse control disorder. If rhinotillexomania is caused by OCD or another type of anxiety disorder, the individual may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Always consult a doctor before deciding to start or stop a medication. 

Alternative Solutions

It might feel embarrassing to talk about rhinotillexomania, even with a professional counselor. If you're not ready to seek out counseling just yet, consider trying out some of these alternative solutions and techniques listed below. 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

You don't necessarily need to stop picking your nose altogether. You may simply need to avoid using your fingernails when doing so. Consider using a cotton swab instead of using your fingers to pick your nose. This can significantly lower your risk of developing a perforation of the nasal cavity or infection (bacterial infections may cause upper respiratory infections and be the carriage of staphylococcus aureus).

Blow Your Nose

Instead of picking your nose, try blowing it into a tissue instead. It may not provide the same relief and satisfaction, but it can help you reduce the urge to pick. 

Use A Fidget Toy

There are many different options that can provide relief from stress and anxiety. Fidget toys are highly recommended because they can help keep you distracted from picking your nose and keep your hands busy. Without fingers to pick available and an extra distraction, it might be harder to pick your nose.

The Danger Of Rhinotillexomania

The blood that circulates through the nasal cavity is directly linked to the blood that circulates through your brain. This means that if something happens to the blood flow, it can impact your brain and the way it functions. Compulsive nose-picking can result in infections (bacterial infections may cause upper respiratory infections and be the carriage of Staphylococcus aureus) in the nasal cavity and can also enter the blood and flow into the brain. This is because of the connection that it has to other areas. If the infection spreads to the brain, it can be extremely dangerous and even lethal if left untreated for an extended period.                      

Who Has Rhinotillexomania?

So, who exactly is at risk for rhinotillexomania? When it comes to compulsive nose-picking, rhinotillexomania begins during childhood and continues into adolescence and even into adulthood. However, for most people, the actual disorder seems to occur sometime during adolescence or early adulthood. National Library of Medicine (Rhinotillexomania: psychiatric disorder or habit?) conducted a population survey which showed that nose picking is an almost universal act in which adults engage— this practice may not be pathologic on most occasions. Rhinotillexomania doesn't have anything to do with hygiene or necessity. Instead, it's a compulsive way to ease tension or stress.

Someone who feels a large amount of stress or who struggles with 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 are more likely to live with a combination of various disorders with similar causes. Of course, as with many others, rhinotillexomania has a few possible causes, which can make it difficult to understand where it comes from. Consulting with a doctor can be important, as they can provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment for you if you compulsively pick your nose.

Symptoms Of Rhinotillexomania

An individual with rhinotillexomania constantly picks their nose because they feel an irresistible compulsion to do so. They will likely continue to do so even to the point of bleeding or severe irritation because they can't seem to stop themselves from doing it. There are several things that may cause nosebleeds (recurrent epistaxis). Some of these may include colds (upper respiratory infections) and sinusitis, blowing your nose with force, inserting an object into your nose, injury to the nose and/or face, and nose picking. People who engage in nose picking may experience excessive nosebleeds (recurrent epistaxis), which might lead to infections or other problems with their nose, and even make them develop severe headaches.

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 may still be somewhat apparent to those around them.

Someone who engages in this type of behavior may engage in other similar behaviors as well. Many who report picking their nose excessively with the possibility of rhinotillexomania have also reported picking behaviors such as picking at their skin, biting their fingernails, pulling out their hair, and picking at their cuticles. These behaviors are all considered different types of skin-picking disorders and may occur at different frequencies. Someone may pick at various parts of the body or different areas more or less frequently than they do others. They may also pick at various areas at different times and may engage in other behaviors related to skin picking.

Compulsive Behaviors Can Be Difficult To Manage Alone

Online Counseling With BetterHelp

If you’re struggling with compulsive behaviors that feel out of your control, you can find support in online therapy. BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist who specializes in disorders like rhinotillexomania. You won’t need to worry about driving to appointments or moving your schedule around to accommodate sessions. Instead, you can relax on your couch and get advice from a professional through video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging. Online therapy could be a vital step in your healing journey, particularly if you prefer more flexibility and freedom in your treatment.

The Efficacy Of Online Counseling 

Those struggling with 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. 

Counselor Reviews

"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. It's the way she phrases things and makes me see it in a new way that makes me able to have a light flip on that was out before."

"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."

The Takeaway

Rhinotillexomania may seem like an unhelpful habit that needs to be broken, but it’s much more than that. Individuals with this serious mental health disorder often require professional intervention to overcome it. By recognizing and understanding rhinotillexomania, you can begin to seek treatment from a qualified mental health provider and stay out of harm’s way. 

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