The Lamen

Bedbugs can leave their victims with anxiety and nightmares

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Going through an infestation of bedbugs isn’t going to be easy. It can even leave some people with a deep-rooted fear.

Photo: Bing AI

Published on Oct 26, 2023

The common bedbug, Cimex lectularius, doesn’t seem like a big deal — they’re pesky bloodsuckers that even a child can squish, and the bites don’t even hurt (for most people). People who have experienced a bedbug infestation might say otherwise.

Bedbugs have plagued developed nations for decades, running into their hiding spots after feeding on their unsuspecting host. These tiny pests don’t leave you with much more than small, red bumps — but that’s barely scratching the surface.

A series of viral posts across social media showed bedbugs crawling across trains and subways across France, fueling nationwide anxiety as they readied for the Olympics. This unforeseen outbreak brought to light an often-forgotten side-effect of such infestations: psychological trauma.

Context: Bedbugs aren’t known to make people sick, and their bites typically go unattended unless the population in your household explodes. Even if an extreme infestation can lead to severe blood loss, such cases are far from common. The emotional trauma, however, is significantly more serious.

Details: A case study profiled a woman with multiple psychological disorders. Suffering from multiple bedbug infestations, the woman developed a phobia of bedbugs. Eventually committing suicide, she left behind a note stating “she had been depressed since their arrival and would be going to a better world.”

  • Another study found emergency patients infested with bedbugs were more likely to be diagnosed with alcohol abuse, psychosis, and schizophrenia.
  • Online surveys and reports have claimed bedbug infestations produce nightmares, emotional distress, a sense of isolation, insomnia, anxiety, and PTSD.

Yes, but: Such reports should be taken with a grain of salt since bedbugs often serve as a stressor for people already suffering from another psychological condition. It’s the invasion of personal space that might cause this stress.

Dealing with them can get even more exhausting, and repeated infestations are linked to PTSD and suicide ideation. But falling into psychosis isn’t necessary.

As Prof. Jerome Goddard writes, “Try not to panic. Keep in mind that bed bugs are only insects. They’re not magic. Believe me, they can be killed and eliminated from a dwelling.”