We’ve all caught someone at sometime picking their nose. Some try to do it discreetly while others do it publicly without being embarrassed. Maybe you do these too.
Nose-picking is a disgusting habit and it is socially unacceptable. But is the habit alone, normal? Why do we have to pick our nose? What’s the science behind nose-picking?
Believe it or not. There was a study on nose-picking published in January 1995 in the Journal of Psychiatry. Saying that,nose-picking is scientifically referred to as, rhinotillexomania. (rhino=nose, tillexis=habit of picking at something, mania=obsession with something).
So, the next time that you see a person picking their nose, tell them that they are a rhinotillexomaniac.
The study, on the other hand, sent a survey by mail to 1,000 adult residents of Dane County, Wisconsin. Of the 254 that responded, a whopping 91% of their respondents confessed to picking their noses, while only 1.2% could admit to doing it at least once each hour. Two subjects indicated that their nasal mining habits interfered with their daily lives (moderately to markedly). And, to their surprise, 2 other people reported so much nose picking that they had actually picked a hole right trough their nasal septum, the thin tissue that separates the left and right nostrils.
Five years later, doctors Chittaranjan Andrade and BS Srihari of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, decided to look a little deeper into nose-picking. In their survey a total of 13 students said that they used tweezers to pick their noses, and 9 students used pencil. 9 of them admitted that they even eat those boogers after they pick their nose…
Isn’t that DISGUSTING enough?
Nose picking isn’t just a harmless activity, though. In some extreme cases, nose-picking can cause, or be related to, more serious problems, as Andrade and Srihari found when they reviewed the medical literature. In one case, surgeons could not achieve complete, lasting closure of a perforated nasal septum because a patient couldn’t stop nose picking, preventing the surgical site from healing.
There was a 53-year-old woman who was documented of having chronic nose picking not only led to a perforation of her nasal septum. She actually carved a hole into her sinus.
Not only that, there was a 29-year-old man who had a previously undocumented convergence of trichotillomania (hair-plucking) and rhinotillexomania (nose-picking). His behaviour involved compulsively pulling out his nose hairs. When his hair pulling got too extreme, his nose would become inflamed. To treat the inflammation, he began applying a solution that had the side effect of staining his nose purple. To his surprise, the purple stain concealed his visible nose hairs, making him far more relaxed. He was actually more comfortable leaving the house with a purple nose than with visible nose hairs. His doctors, who succeeded in treating him with drugs, describe his compulsion as a manifestation of body dysmorphic disorder, which is sometimes thought of as an “obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder“.
So, given all these risks, and the potential for provoking disgust in other people, why do we still do it?
There are no clear answers, but as Tom Stafford wrote recently about nail-biting, perhaps it’s a combination of the simple satisfaction we derive from ‘tidying-up’ and the fact that our nose is within easy reach all the time – in other words, we pick it ‘because it’s there’.