Does Rhinotillexomania Treatment Work?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated September 5, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Nose picking is a habit that most people engage in, usually several times per day.

One study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 7.6% of the respondents picked their nose more than 20 times per day. However, others feel that they cannot stop nose-picking— a condition called rhinotillexomania.

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.

Compulsive Behaviors Can Be Difficult To Manage Alone

Treating Rhinotillexomania

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. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

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. 

Compulsive Behaviors Can Be Difficult To Manage Alone
Getty/Halfpoint Images

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.

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….”

"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."


Rhinotillexomania is a compulsive habit of nose picking that can lead to damage to a person’s nose and increase their risk of infection. If you are experiencing rhinotillexomania, know that you are not alone. You may benefit from speaking to a licensed therapist, whether in person or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people overcome compulsive behaviors. Take the first step toward getting help with rhinotillexomania and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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