Rhinotillexomania: A Disorder or a Strange Habit?

Rhinotillexomania, more commonly known as nose-picking, is a behavior that many people engage in from time to time. Though it is typically considered a habit rather than a disorder, rhinotillexomania can have severe consequences if it becomes excessive. In this blog post, we will explore the symptoms and causes of rhinotillexomania and treatment options for those who struggle with this compulsive behavior.

Is Rhinotillexomania a serious condition?

Many medical professionals consider rhinotillexomania, also known as compulsive nose-picking, a severe condition. Though it may not seem like a big deal to some people, this disorder can lead to serious health complications, including infection and permanent damage to the nose. If you or someone you know suffers from this condition, it’s essential to seek professional help to manage it effectively.

What Is Rhinotillexomania?

Rhinotillexomania is the compulsive urge to pick or scratch at one’s nose. Although it is not currently recognized as a mental disorder, it can lead to significant distress and impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. People with rhinotillexomania typically report a strong urge to pick or scratch at their nose, which may be accompanied by anxiety, tension, or relief.

The behavior is often done in response to an internal sensation, such as an itch or a feeling of something being stuck in the nose. In some cases, people may also pick their noses in response to external triggers, such as seeing someone else picking their nose.

Common Symptoms of Rhinotillexomania:

Rhinotillexomania is a relatively common condition that can cause a variety of symptoms. The most obvious symptom is the constant picking of the nose, which can lead to redness, soreness, and even bleeding. In severe cases, it can also cause damage to the nasal passages and create an opening for bacteria to enter the body. Other symptoms may include inflammation of the lining of the nose, a buildup of crusty material in the nostrils, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be suffering from rhinotillexomania, it is vital to seek professional help. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems.

Causes of Rhinotillexomania:

Rhinotillexomania, also known as compulsive nose-picking, is a relatively common behavior with various causes. For some people, it may be simply a nervous habit. Others may pick their nose in response to an itch or irritation. Sometimes, nose-picking may be motivated by a desire to remove perceived imperfections, such as boogers.

However, nose picking can also be a symptom of underlying medical conditions, such as allergies or chronic sinus infections. In rare cases, it may even indicate a mental health disorder, such as body dysmorphic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you’re concerned about your nose-picking habits, you should consult a healthcare professional to rule out any potential causes.

Underlying Causes of Rhinotillexomania:

While the underlying causes of this condition are not fully understood, several possible explanations exist. For some people, nose-picking may be a way to relieve anxiety or boredom. For others, it may respond to an itch or irritation in the nose. In some cases, it can be a symptom of another underlying condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or dermatillomania (a skin-picking disorder).

  • Anxiety or Boredom: Some experts believe that anxiety and boredom can both be triggers for this behavior, as they may lead to a feeling of restlessness or intrusive thoughts that incite someone to pick their nose in an attempt to relieve these symptoms. Additionally, nose-picking can provide temporary relief from these sensations, reinforcing the behavior and making it more likely to occur again in future situations of anxiety or boredom.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can cause various compulsions. While the precise reasons why OCD might lead to this particular compulsion are not fully understood, it is thought that picking one’s nose may provide a temporary sense of relief from anxiety or stress. In some cases, people with OCD may also have obsessive thoughts about germs or dirt, which may lead them to believe that picking their noses will help them avoid contamination. However, this usually only leads to further distress and anxiety in the long run. 
  • Dermatillomania: There is not much information available on the relationship between dermatillomania and rhinotillexomania, but they are believed to be related. Dermatillomania is characterized by the compulsive urge to pick at one’s skin, and rhinotillexomania is characterized by the compulsive urge to pick one’s nose. It is thought that both of these behaviors may be related to a desire to remove perceived imperfections from one’s appearance.

Is Rhinotillexomania Harmful?

Rhinotillexomania is a relatively common disorder that can cause significant embarrassment and social anxiety. Although it is not considered harmful in the traditional sense, it can lead to serious medical complications if left untreated. In some cases, nose picking can cause the breakdown of nasal tissue, leading to nosebleeds, infection, and even permanent damage to the nose.

In addition, those who suffer from rhinotillexomania are at an increased risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other mental health disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive nose-picking, it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

Treatments For Rhinotillexomania:

The most common treatments for rhinotillexomania are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), habit reversal training (HRT), and medication. Some people may also find relief from support groups or self-help books.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common treatments for rhinotillexomania. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps to change negative thinking patterns and behaviors. It effectively treats various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. CBT can help people with rhinotillexomania identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their condition. The goal of CBT is to help people with rhinotillexomania to live a more joyful and fulfilling life.

Habit Reversal Training (HRT):

Habit Reversal Training (HRT) is a behavioral therapy commonly used to treat rhinotillexomania, also known as nose-picking. HRT is based on the principle that habits are often learned through conditioning and can be unlearned by breaking the link between the behavior and the reward. The first step in HRT is identifying the triggers that lead to nose-picking.

Once these triggers are identified, patients are taught strategies to avoid or cope with them. Patients are also taught replacement behaviors that can provide the same level of satisfaction as nose-picking. HRT typically requires a commitment of several months to be successful, but it is an effective treatment for many people with rhinotillexomania.


Medication is one of the most common treatments for rhinotillexomania. There are various medication options available, and the best course of treatment will vary depending on the individual. Some common medication options include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and medication to help reduce cravings. In some cases, medication may be prescribed in conjunction with therapy or other forms of treatment. If you are considering medication as a treatment option, it is crucial to speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits. Medication can be an effective treatment for rhinotillexomania, but it is not suitable for everyone.


If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above and believe you may have rhinotillexomania, please consult a doctor. While it is not currently classified as a disorder in the DSM-5, this does not mean that it cannot be harmful or debilitating to your everyday life. There are many resources available to help those who suffer from this condition, and with the support of loved ones and professionals, you can overcome rhinotillexomania and reclaim your life.

Last Updated on December 9, 2022 by Lucas Berg


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