Nose Picking: Habit, Obsession or Harvest?

by Peter Andrew Sacco, Ph.D.

Can nose picking be an addiction? That is the million dollar question as good as gold. For others, their precision, perseverance and dedication to their trade, two knuckles deep would make you think they would be very proficient at mining for a substance other than gold.

As Editor-in-Chief of Vices: The Magazine For Addictions, Habits and Mental Health, the most popular and only one of it’s magazine in the entire world, we decided to see how readers who write in to us are coping with the New Years Resolutions they made just over 6 weeks ago. What better time to check progress reports than Valentine’s Day, the first biggie celebration day since January 1st. Our year end anniversary edition came out the first week of January and is still floating around and being read by throngs with and without addictions, habits and mental health. Wait, let me take that back. Our readers all possess a great degree of mental health!

One of our writers submitted a wonderful article on habits…Nose picking to be exact. I thought for those of you who are still struggling with digits in your nose, there is hope for you yet. There are no more excuses for getting caught with pinkies in nostrils at stoplights, index fingers buried in nasal cavities while cruising on the freeway and no more reasons to panic when you can’t find an immediate place to wipe that nasty booger when someone walks into the room. Nose pickers of the world, stand up and be united. Today, is your day too to feel loved. It’s Valentines day!

Prostitution is the oldest profession dating back to the dawn of man. Even back then, while men were sitting on their dinosaurs, camels, or horses, or waiting in chuck wagons and chariots, anxiously awaiting a beckoning from a lady of the night, they alleviated their boredom with index and pinky fingers rhythmically scraping away in their nostrils. The dawning of art, mastery and science of nose picking had begun. And just as prostitution has evolved through time and advanced with technology, so have nose picking activities which can now be found in trains, planes and very expensive automobiles. Anytime, any place is always the right time. Nose picking that is!

Professionals, parents and pickers themselves have all been asked… When?

When do you know when it’s just a habit? When does nose picking become an obsession? When is exactly the point of no return? When does having a finger up your nose constitute a required cleaning versus raping the nostrils of an already depleted harvest? When, when, when! When do you reach the point of no return and the light bulb start flashing to the words of revelation and acceptance… “I have an addiction to rooting my nose!” “Help me, I can’t stop!”

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Most research and allegations point the green finger towards men as the population most at risk for perpetrating the raping and reaping of the nose. No one can say for sure as to whether women share the same intensity in their picking habits, but this much is certain, they are either really deceptive and diabolical in their rituals, or they have mastered near perfect abstinence!

For those reading this with or without a finger up their noses, or if you suspect a loved one or someone close to you might be a problem nose picker, there are the criterion and symptoms to look for. Note: Symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, in at least 2 or more settings, you must have 10 or more of them, and must not otherwise be listed in the DSM-IV under any other mental health illnesses.

1) I can’t go a day without having a finger in my nose.

2) Sometimes I am in situations where I really feel the need to pick and can’t because there are people present. This causes me to experience great emotional and psychological frustration and turmoil.

3) Sometimes I have to pick so bad that I don’t care where I am and who’s watching.

4) I pick to the point of causing bleeding, cuts and scabs in my nose. Even if there are cuts, I go back for more.

5) I still choose to use my finger even though I have tissue present and the option to blow.

6) I enjoy the physical sensation of having a finger up my nose.

7) I greatly enjoy the texture and appearances of my boogers and sometimes enjoy playing with them before flicking them away.

8 ) I fantasize about eating or do already eat the fruits of my nose harvests.

9) I have proficiently mastered the use of all my fingers for my digs.

10) Whenever I am driving or stopped at a traffic light I can’t help but pick.

11) Whenever I am in my car, I fall into the magical thinking pattern and believe no one can see me picking even though they are looking directly at me.

12) Others find my nose picking very disturbing and traumatizing but I still do it anyway.

13) Nose picking is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before falling asleep.

14) Often times I wake up in the middle of the night just to find myself engaging in a good nose pick which keeps me awake.

15) I use objects other people use such as car seats, sofas, chairs, sheets, blankets, or carpets to wipe or flick my boogers on.

16) I have even resorted to wiping my boogers on the bottom of my shoes, the crotch of my pants or even some discrete bodily region to get rid of the evidence.

17) Most of my day involves thinking about, planning around or engaging in my nose picking activities.

18) Whenever I see someone else picking their nose I get the intense urge to start picking my own.

19) I have been in the company of others who along with myself engaged in a group picking.

20) No matter how many times I have tried to stop or tame my picking, I just can’t control it and make it go away.

As a general rule of thumb, or make that an index finger, if you possess 10 or more of these symptoms and truly believe you don’t have a nose picking obsession or addiction, then you are truly in denial.

Vices advises seeking professional help or seeking out a support group in your area. If you are living in a rural area, you might have to start your own. You might also try some of the more traditional aversion techniques used to stop nostril engagement:

– bandages on the finger tips

– hot sauce on the finger tips

– swimmers nose clips

– tying your hands to your sides

– wearing leather/winter gloves

– getting a nose job to make the nostrils smaller

– using a buddy system to watch and stop you

– wrapping your knuckles whenever you think about it and make those puppies swell

– break the tools of the trade

– amputate the tools of the trade

Some of these aversion techniques are extreme and barbaric and we don’t recommend you using them. Remember, help is out there and it is always best to talk about it and also listen to your loved ones who care about you. Fret not! There are others out there just like you who share the same affliction. If you need reassurance, just keep your eyes peeled next time your at an intersection or on a highway. You have brothers and sisters who are hurting too! They are itching for instant nostril gratification.
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