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Taking one’s pick with rhinotillexis

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Tutankhamun employed someone to do it for him, while the Roman Emperor Constantine threatened to execute citizens caught in the act. Rhinotillexis, or nose picking, has probably always been a common habit but studies have estimated that more than 90 per cent of adults are active nose pickers.

Eminent archaeologist Wilbur Leakey discovered a well preserved papyrus used to record the accounts of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun. This noted the payment of three head of cattle in addition to board and lodging for the king’s personal nose picker.

A more recent study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, investigated the prevalence of the habit among adolescents and found that practically all of them do it. The purpose of the study was to determine the proportion of the population affected by rhinotillexomania, or nose picking sufficiently obsessive to qualify as a psychiatric disorder. Nearly 17 per cent of the sample considered that they had a serious problem.

The study also found that fewer than 4 per cent of the adolescents claimed never to pick their noses, half picked their noses four or more times daily, while around 7 per cent indulged at least 20 times a day. More than three-quarters used their fingers exclusively, while the rest used a variety of tools, including tweezers and pencils. And 4.5 per cent admitted to eating their nasal debris.

Nose picking is rarely dangerous but it occasionally causes nosebleeds or nasal infection. It can be associated with other habitual behaviours and in extreme cases can be a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder or body dysmorphic disorder.

Parents whose children pick their noses are advised that they could use the habit to gain attention and to avoid appearing too irritated or embarrassed. Busy children rarely pick their noses, so giving them something constructive to do with their hands reduces picking time.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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