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Having your dwelling infested with bed bugs isn’t just an inconvenience. It could also lead to severe anxiety and even symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
*Most humans will sleep with a flashlight once they discover Bed Bugs (so they can check for bugs throughout the night). You can imagine how this will cause a major lack of sleep.
The thought of having bugs on you while sleeping is a standard phobia called Entomophobia or Acarophobia. The fear of bugs or fear of insects is known as Entomophobia or Acarophobia. In some patients, the condition results in Delusory Parasitosis, a mental illness where the patient feels constant 'prickling, tingling, creeping, crawling or burrowing sensations akin to insects present on the skin.
In one study, Stéphane Peidmon, MD, of the University of Texas, administered questionnaires to tenants in several San Antonio apartment buildings with reported bed bugs. The tenants with bed bugs were far more likely to report issues with anxiety and sleep disturbances vs. those without.
Pier Preston, PhD, and colleagues at UTSA analyzed posts on bed bug-related sites, comparing them against a checklist of symptoms of PTSD. Of the individuals writing posts, 81% described psychological and emotional effects often associated with the disorder, including hypervigilance, paranoia, obsessive thoughts, and depression. However, the mental health of the participants prior to bed bug infestations was unknown in the studies.
In one case study published by Pier, a woman with a prior history of mental illness got bed bugs and eventually committed suicide, with the bed bugs as a major life event that could have increased her risk of suicide. As long as bed bugs continue to invade living quarters, research is needed to better understand the lingering psychological impact and effect on those with existing risk factors for mental illness.
Kent Perron, MD, of the University of Montreal, has published a number of papers on the psychological ramifications of bed bugs. In one study, he and his team looked at apartments that had been reported to the Montreal Public Health Department for unsafe conditions. Some of those units were infested with bedbugs, but not all of them.
Perron and his team gave the tenants of these buildings a series of questionnaires that assessed all sorts of health impacts, including psychological ones. All told, 39 of the units had bed bugs, and 52 of them didn't. When they compared the psychological results between those two samples — a method that helps to control for factors that impact mental health like socioeconomic status — they found that tenants with bed bugs were far more likely to report anxiety and sleep disturbances than those without.