Causes and Treatment of
Bed Bugs Mental Illness
recent NYU study indicates that a bed bugs mental illness related
problems are real. An actual infestation or the
that an infestation will occur can act as a trigger in individuals that
already have a mental illness. It is not a cause of psychosis or mental
illness, but a trigger. Patients report that bed bugs created stressors
that can bring
out a mental illness along with feelings of isolation, depression and
hopelessness. In others, the belief that they have bed bugs or other
insects crawling on their body can lead to a condition called delusory
parasitosis, with the specific diagnosis often referred to as Ekbom
Bed Bugs Mental Illness Trigger
In a new study published by the New York University Medical
Center, it was reported that bed bugs can cause the
type of stress which can trigger latent or a worsening of a
pre-existing mental illness.
Bed bugs themselves bring on a psychological response in
people. There is a social stigma among friends and family who
to not want the infestation spreading to them. In apartments
in particular, where bed bugs can spread from unit to unit, individuals
suffering from the problem quickly become outcasts. The study
refers to this as social isolation.
Those suffering from a bed bug infestation suffer from stress
related to the high cost of treatment, the inability to stop an
infestation, not to mention emotions such as hopelessness and
In some individuals in the study, mental health related
symptoms subsided after the bed bug infestation was treated.
In one case, symptoms returned when the infestation returned.
Bed Bugs Mental Illness and Paranoia
is the specific condition where a patient will complain of feeling
insects on the body, when in fact, none exist. It is a common condition
where an individual will even go so far
as to call in an exterminator, when in fact, none is needed.
The specific condition is called Ekbom syndrome (ES),
condition that effects approximately 100,000 people in the United
It is not unusual to believe that insects are crawling on the
skin, it is a sensation that happens to most of us at some time.
It is referred to as being "delusory" when there are no
insects involved and that the individual believes that there are no
other explanations for the problem.
This bed bugs mental illness condition usually occurs in older
Associated behaviors include quitting work, throwing out or
destroying furniture, abandoning homes, obsessive cleaning, over use of
pesticides and the use of home remedies to remove insects.
When doctors are first approached with a description of
a bed bugs mental illness such as insects under the skin, they assume a
problem is scabies,
since this involves microscopic mites burrowing under the first layer
Patients are often tempted to scratch a skin itch triggered by
the belief that an insect is present, introducing infection into the
skin and an actual skin problem.
Scabs on the arms of an Ekbom Syndrome patient that used tweezers to
remove bugs that did not exist from the skin
The first step in delusory parasitosis is to eliminate
possible "real" causes of the itchy skin condition. This can
include physiological causes (allergy, nutrition problem, environmental
allergies, contact dermatitis), disease, medications (most common
medications list skin irritation as a side effect), as well as
There can be many psychological triggers for skin itch or
sensations including self touching, skin scratching (form of self
assurance), anxiety, tension, stress, and depression. Being
tired can also lead to skin itch. Feelings of
loneliness can also lead to the skin problem. Living with
someone that scratches can also cause you to scratch, as it is a
behavior that is highly contagious.
Delusory Parasitosis Treatment
As indicated above, there are so many causes for the condition
that it is important to eliminate those that are not psychological
first. This includes calling in an exterminator, and
reviewing the use of over the counter and prescribed medications and
Once these are eliminated, doctors can use a variety of
medications to treat the syndrome. Patients are often treated
in the dermatology department, to convince them that their skin issue
is being addressed. Specific medications are prescribed to
address stress and anxiety. When patients start taking the
medication, often, they stop obsessing over having an infestation.
They continue to believe that the infestation was real, but
are willing to believe that it has now been eliminated. Many
patients on medications are able to resume functioning in an normal
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References Bed Bugs Mental Illness:
Crains New York
Nancy C. Hinkle
Ekbom Syndrome: A Delusional Condition of "Bugs in the Skin"
Nancy C. Hinkle