Nose Picking (Rhinotillexomania)

nose picking - Rhinotillexomania When compulsive skin picking takes on the form of habitual nose picking (rhinotillexomania), there is particular need to beware the risk of causing very severe illness if the habit is allowed to develop to excess. Nose picking (rhinotillexomania) may need some of the same psychological and medical interventions that other forms of compulsive skin picking employ. The two disorders are so similar in nature that most treatment options for one works for the other.


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The Greek origins of the medical term for nose picking (rhinotillexomania) can be translated as "nose" (rhino) plus "habitual picking" (tillexis) plus "rage, fury" (mania) and together they provide a very telling description of the disorder. It's frequently because we are feeling suppressed rage and fury that we pick away habitually at the contents of our noses, even when we do it to the extent that we cause pain, which leads to more rage and fury. After all, the stuff in there's got to come out sometime. Right? Everybody picks his or her nose from time to time. According to the records inscribed on a papyrus scroll from ca. 1330 BC, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen provided the food and lodging of his own personal nose picker. And the imperial nose picker was paid three heads of cattle for his work, too. Most of us probably wouldn't want our own personal nose picker, especially those of us who have the tendency toward compulsive nose picking (rhinotillexomania). There's satisfaction in doing the work ourselves. There's relief. There's also danger.

Nose picking (rhinotillexomania) can lead to infections in the nose, which is situated very close to the brain. They share the same blood supply. Getting an infection anywhere in the area doctors call the "danger triangle" presents a good cause for alarm. The danger triangle can be traced from one corner of the mouth, over the bridge of the nose, and down to the opposite corner of the mouth. Any time infection in this area occurs, there is the very rare but very real risk that the infection can spread to the brain.

Most people who pick their noses for strictly hygienic purposes have little, if any, need to fear such an infection. However, anyone suffering from the compulsive form of nose picking (rhinotillexomania), who is at risk of picking excessively and to the point of impeding the healing process, is at greater risk of infection. The earliest medical intervention possible for the compulsion to pick may eliminate the necessity for antibiotics and emergency medical interventions due to infection later.


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