The Curious Case of Nose Picking

My Nose-Picking Dilemma And My Approaches To Quit It.


5/19/20236 min read

I was going about my day, getting ready to hang some clothes, when I noticed something funny—I caught myself picking my nose again!

Can you believe it? I had already done it like 5 times since I woke up. This got me curious about why I kept doing it, even though I know it's not a good thing to do.

One of my girls also enjoys picking her nose a lot. In fact, she does it so much that I worry she'll keep doing it when she grows up, just like me.

Did you know that in a study done back in 1995, they interviewed 1000 people, and guess what? 91% of them admitted to being nose pickers! That's a lot of people!

I know quite a few people who love picking their noses.

When my brother was little, he used to pick his nose so much that it would even bleed (as an adult, somehow, he doesn't do it anymore). And my cousin, who we used to take care of, would do it secretly when she was in her hanging cradle.

We would put her to bed, and if we sneaked up to see what she was up to, we'd find her with two fingers in her nose!

There's even a funny joke about nose picking in Chinese.

It goes like this: When someone asks who feels better after sex, the man or the woman, the joke is, which feels better after picking your nose—the finger or the nose itself? Don’t be offended ladies, it’s just a joke!

Consequences Of Digging: Health Risk Revealed

But you know what? Nose picking can actually be harmful and it can lead to some problems. According to Healthline, nose picking can lead to:

  • Infection: When we pick our nose, it can introduce bacteria into our nose and cause an infection. So, it's important to keep our hands clean and avoid picking our noses.

  • Nosebleeds: Picking our nose too much can irritate the inside of our nose and make it bleed. It can take a long time for the nosebleeds to stop, and that's no fun!

  • Damage to the nasal septum: Inside our nose, there's a wall that separates it into two halves. Picking our nose too often can damage that wall and make it harder to breathe.

  • Spread of germs: When we pick our nose and then touch other things or people, we can spread germs and make others sick. That's why it's important to cover our mouths when we sneeze or cough and wash our hands often.

  • Sores and Inflammation: Sometimes, when we pick our nose, it can make the front part of our nose red and painful. We might even get little pimples or bumps. Ouch!

  • Septum Damage: If we pick our nose too much, it can damage the septum, which is like a wall inside our nose. It can even make a hole in it, like having a little opening in the wall of our nose.

Why Do People Pick Their Nose?

Some people pick their nose because they have overly dry or wet nostrils, and digging helps to ease the itch. However, I personally don't belong to this group.

In rare situations, nose picking can be a compulsive, repetitive behavior.

This condition is known as rhinotillexomania and is often accompanied by stress, anxiety, and other habits like nail-biting or scratching. For individuals with this condition, nose picking can briefly provide a sense of relief from anxiety.

For most of us, nose picking is simply a matter of habit. We have become accustomed to picking our nose the moment we wake up or in certain situations.

For example, we may be triggered to pick our nose when we're feeling bored while passing urine or when we're lost in thought while working. Interestingly, most of us are less likely to pick our nose when we're fully engaged in activities such as having a deep conversation with friends, playing video games, or exercising.

Understanding the reasons behind nose picking can help us become more aware of our own habits and motivations, which is the first step towards breaking free from this behavior.

Why Do I Want To Quit?

Addictive Nature of Nose Picking: What Makes Quitting So Challenging?

Now, I want to stop picking my nose, and here's why:

First, it's not very hygienic, and it can be embarrassing to do in public. I want to be a good role model for my girls, especially since I've noticed that one of them is starting to pick her nose a lot too. I can't ask her to stop if I'm doing it all the time!

I'm also worried about the germs and bacteria I might be putting into my nose when I pick it, especially when I'm working on my laptop.

And you know what's really embarrassing? Getting caught by my own children while I'm doing something that I tell them is wrong and should be easy to stop. It's like being caught with your hand in the cookie jar!

Well, there are several factors that contribute to the difficulty:

  1. Sensory Stimulation: Let's face it, picking your nose provides some unique sensations that can be oddly satisfying. It's like exploring the uncharted territory of your nostrils, complete with nerve-endings sending signals of pleasure or relief. It's like a mini adventure for your fingers!

  2. Cleaning Satisfaction: There's a certain joy in extracting unwanted visitors from your nasal passages. It's similar to tidying up a dirty room and feeling a sense of satisfaction afterward. When our noses feel clear and unobstructed, we may perceive them as being cleaner and healthier. This belief reinforces the behavior and contributes to its addictive nature.

  3. Habit Formation: Nose picking can easily become a habit, especially when we do it repeatedly over time. It creeps into you like an assassin behind our back. Once a habit is formed, it can be challenging to break because our brains become wired to expect and seek out the behavior in response to specific triggers. Breaking this habit requires some serious ninja-level discipline.

  4. Stress and Emotion Regulation: For some of us, nose picking can provide a momentary escape from the stresses of life. It's like a little stress ball for your fingers, providing a temporary distraction or comfort during moments of anxiety or boredom. It's like a mini spa treatment for your nose, minus the cucumbers.

  5. Reinforcement from Childhood: Ah, the nostalgic memories of childhood and the forbidden thrill of picking your nose without a care in the world. If only we knew then what we know now about the consequences. But hey, at least it gives us a good laugh when we think back on those innocent booger-filled days.

  6. Unconscious or Automatic Nature: Sometimes, nose picking becomes such a subconscious act that we catch ourselves doing it without even realizing it. It's like our fingers have a mind of their own, always seeking out those hidden treasures. This automaticity adds to the addictive nature of the behavior, as it becomes a default response in certain situations or when experiencing specific sensations.

Understanding these factors can help us recognize why quitting nose picking is challenging.

By being aware of the triggers, finding alternative coping mechanisms, and staying persistent, we can gradually break the habit and develop healthier behaviors.

Practical Tips To Stop Nose Picking

  1. Make it difficult to pick: One trick I'm using is to bandage the finger I usually use for nose picking. It makes it harder to get in there! It may feel a little weird, but it helps me remember not to pick. A quick note that I changed to tape instead as having the tissue bandage is hindering my work. You may want to try using plaster instead if you have spare.

  2. Find alternatives: Instead of picking with our fingers, we can try gently blowing our noses or using a tissue to clean them. Blowing your nose can be just as effective in getting rid of any discomfort or itchiness.

  3. Be aware of when you pick: Knowing when and why we usually pick our noses is important. I noticed that I tend to pick when I'm bored in the bathroom or when I'm working on my laptop. To avoid it, I bring a book to the bathroom or find other ways to keep my hands busy while working.

  4. Be aware which finger you use: I always thought that I use my left hand dominately. And when I tape it then I realized I had been using my right all along. Better to tape them all up.

  5. Be patient: Breaking any habit takes time and effort. It's normal to have setbacks along the way, but don't get discouraged. Stay committed and keep trying. You'll get better at it with time!


Remember, it's important to take care of our noses and keep them clean. If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns about your nose, it's always a good idea to check with a doctor.

By quitting nose picking, we can set a good example for others, especially younger kids who may be watching us.

Let's keep our noses clean and healthy, and find better ways to satisfy any discomfort or curiosity we might have. Together, we can break the habit and have healthier habits for life!

Good luck on your nose-picking quitting journey!

With love.