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What are Some Symptoms of Parasitosis?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Parasitosis is the feeling that one is being bitten or is infected by unseen parasites. Skin irritation may be present, or the patient may feel sudden sharp pains that mimic bites. Illusory parasitosis has numerous causes, but tends not to be caused by unseen bugs. Actual parasite infection of the skin by an unseen parasite is usually limited to contraction of scabies.

Delusional parasitosis, on the other hand, is usually caused either by excessive use of hallucinatory or amphetamine based drugs, or by mental illness. In this condition, those affected may feel they have bugs crawling on them, pins and needles sensations, or feel like they are being bitten. Usually, this type leaves no marks, though patients may scratch their skin and thus cause irritation.

Illusory parasitosis is difficult to treat because skin irritations may result from a number of causes. The patient may show skin irritation, skin bumps, express the feeling that they are being bit, or feel overall itchiness. They may also express that they feel as if bugs are crawling all over them.

Some main causes may be exposure to known skin irritants like household chemicals, or cosmetics. Often the substances causing this condition cause allergies in the patients. Toxic substances in the environment like fiberglass or a polluted air system may also cause the skin to be ruptured. Even the relative dryness of the air or very hot days can result in skin irritation.

Usually, this condition is treated by finding the cause. This may include finding out what type of chemicals those affected use to clean, and will usually include skin testing to determine allergies. When an allergy is determined, treatment or removal of the allergy causing substance can cure the condition. If environmental factors are the cause, those exposed to irritants like fiberglass may need to wear different apparatus to work in order to limit exposure.

Delusional parasitosis tends not to be treated by skin experts or dermatologists, since the cause is mental illness or abuse of drugs or medications. Usually those affected persist in their belief that certain bugs are attacking and feeding on them. When those with illusory parasitosis are told about potential factors or allergies that can cause irritation, they will usually believe this. The person with the delusional type will not believe this and insist upon their theory that microscopic bugs are causing the problem.

Some cases of delusional parasitosis are transitory, occurring after taking a hallucinogen, or excess amphetamine. When the drug clears from the person’s system, the feeling leaves as well. Long term use of amphetamines, can cause this feeling to be present at all times, essentially inducing mental illness.

Manic states of bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia are common causes of delusional parasitosis. For those affected, the feelings are quite real, resulting in many scratching their skin to the point where it can bleed or become infected. Treatment for cases due to mental illness tends to include administration of anti-psychotic medications to help the patient recover from his or her delusion. Where drug use is the cause, helping the patient recover from such use can usually end the feeling of being bitten.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon996142 — On Jul 15, 2016

How do you suddenly become delusional? If the doctors do not do exhaustive tests , how do they know its delusional? Do microscopic parasites exist? Are they notoriously hard to diagnose? Do diseases happen, that aren't medical school textbook? How do the rashes bites, and pus-filled nodules develop, if you are not itching at all? Magic brain power?

Do scabies exist? Do bird mites exist? Do springtails exist? Do they attack humans? Now I understand delusional parasitosis exists, but the real horror is real parasites being missed because of the doctor's bias and refusal to think something he doesn't know about can happen.

Also, how do you pass delusions to those of your immediate family? That's crap. Doctors are monsters and this mentality has killed millions of people in the last ten years.

Now do an article on bird mite infestations, Lyme disease and Norwegian scabies. You are not better than someone because they woke up one night with moving sensations and horrible bite rashes and they want answers, or at least a real examination and to be taken seriously. My doctor told me ticks couldn't live where we are. One year later? Definite, provable Lyme disease.

By anon952521 — On May 21, 2014

I have this but it is slightly different. I will be sitting somewhere and feel the feeling like my leg is being bit. I will look down at the same time and there is nothing there? I do get little tiny red marks and then I scratch them and they end up turning into sores. My legs look horrible.

Also, my skin doesn't heal well. I put Neosporin on them and they don't go completely away so I have marks on my legs and my arm. It is very frustrating. I am wondering if I have parasites? I suppose I need to go to the doctor. I also wish I could figure out why my body doesn't heal from sores.

By anon348611 — On Sep 18, 2013

My father had this condition and I still believe it was an after effect of shingles. Shingles causes nerve damage and makes the person feel like bugs are on them. Well, in my dad's case that nerve damage was, unfortunately, coupled with continuing mental decline, probably a kind of dementia. Also, a psychiatrist thought that possibly he had had a stroke. So there are other reasons this can happen besides drug use. Just wanted to put this out there in case it can help someone.

By anon335837 — On May 23, 2013

I have a number of bothersome concerns, to the point where I feel I may be losing my grip on reality. I know the body I inhabit very well, never putting aside the fact that I'm human, so I could be wrong. I have been diagnosed OCD, so I am always aware of the patterns of my being, inside and out, to the point where I keep notes. I try to map my reactions to emotional stimuli, as a cause of my experiences. There are times when I feel bombarded by creepy crawly encounters.

Maybe I should fear this line of thought where I am persistently mapping everything involved in my encounters of annoying, parasitical-like events.

I got scabies at a Slayer concert. I have a mental coping mechanism formed through consistent reprogramming of my human strength and understanding that a lack of proof is not proof on its own, and that to face my fear, I must live with what worries me. I also suffer from a compulsive pending doom syndrome. So, over-thinking things is not good.

I need a formula to guide me and provide me with questions as a means to be mindful, like slowing down when my mental rambling begins and I'm searching for impeding answers. I have to stop all thinking and remember I do not have to solve everything! I also try thinking of a good song I like. Carrying a tune in my head helps combat the compulsive thinking, as does seeing things from a new point of view, or just asking for help.

By anon333288 — On May 04, 2013

Holy crap! People, realize this: These people hate you for not believing them, because they are right. Look into it beyond the internet, please. It might be good to find someone to talk to who understands this problem from personal experience. I have. I lived in a horrible apartment for six months. The place reeked of mold, and was apparently infested with springtales, collumbola, pepper mites -- call them what you want! I have been infested with this parasite since I moved out. I have tried to outrun them, thinking I could. I am their home, their host. It stinks!

Others who had come to that apartment (that was infested) also experienced crawling and the feeling of bugs all over them. My extensive stay there, and my potentially weak immune system at the time, made me a great candidate as their host. I had just had a baby. I will never tell another stupid doctor this problem because they have thought I'm drugs, which is all the stupid medical notes on this type of problem says! Remember folks: The world (and that includes doctors and the medical community), has not reached the pinnacle of knowledge. At one point the earth was flat and the center of the universe. Are we really that arrogant now?

By anon328121 — On Apr 01, 2013

My 86 year old mother spent quite a few years in and out of psychiatric hospitals because of the "bugs." We had four years respite from it but now they are back. She says they are biting her face, neck, arms and other unmentionable places. She was prescribed olanzapine once and respiridone another time and it cleared up the problem. This time, she has had skin scrapings, etc. and they have come back negative so it's the same delusional parasitosis problem again; it's absolutely awful!

By anon321055 — On Feb 20, 2013

I don't know if it's better to know that there are more people out there with this problem, or worse. For the past nine weeks, my mom started waking up saying that she was being bitten in her sleep. She does have mysterious marks on her skin that nobody can seem to explain. Some of them have even gotten infected and had taken a long time to heal. Anyhow, the bugs that were in her bed she originally thought were just spiders or something. Slowly she changed her story to them being bedbugs. Then they were fleas. Then back to bedbugs. Then she said they were flying gnats. Then she said they were termites. Now it's a mixture of gnats and termites. Every time she changes her story she is certain that those are the bugs. Nobody in the world can see these bugs. We've called three exterminators and all three have said there was nothing and that all the "bugs" she was showing them were just wood shavings, crumbs and lint. That's basically all I see too, when she shows me and my brother the “bugs.” They never move, they have no arms, no legs; they're just pieces of lint or dirt or any other type of speck you'd find laying around.

Anyhow, this paranoia has progressed to the point where she bathes like three times a day, puts on all sorts of skin oils and creams and uses special insect soap and sprays insect repellent all over herself and even squirts rubbing alcohol up her nose because she believes the bugs are in her nose too. She now thinks the bugs are trying to burrow under her skin, and thinks that they're trying to burrow into her eyes. For all the hundreds if not thousands of dollars we've spent on insect repellents, and bug bombs, and sprays, and shampoos, and equipment, and all the time we've put into using them, the bug problem is getting worse for her. Not better. Her eye now looks severely swollen and discolored, probably from chemicals that she's put in her eye, and she still thinks the bugs are there. She even thinks they're in the car, and not only that, but that they follow her around in stores and such. What's worse is she thinks that the bugs are genetically modified organisms created by the government as a weapon and are designed not to die.

I'm at my wits end, and currently my mother has disowned me because I finally couldn't take it anymore and I said that she should consider mental illness as the cause of this. I wasn't trying to be hurtful; I was literally sick of seeing her suffer and just wanted to help solve the problem. She hates me now and feels like she has no family and possibly now is suffering from depression. I love my mother and I don't want this for her. I want to be there for her and get her better, but nobody knows what's going on. My mom is 60 years old. For anybody else whose family members are having this problem, how old are they? What medications are they taking? Post as much information as you can, please.

By anon318552 — On Feb 07, 2013

So much of what I'm reading about the bugs under the skin, sounds like Morgellons. Look it up.

By anon309520 — On Dec 17, 2012

I crapped out an entire colon filled with roundworms (live) after taking some laxatives and doing enemas.

Long story short: I took them to the doctors for testing, but the test came back negative, and I was prescribed an anti-psychotic medicine for "delusional parasitosis."

Doctors are dumb. Now I'm taking something else to kill them myself.

By anon294723 — On Oct 02, 2012

For a year now my Mom has said that she has bugs living inside her. We have been to every doctor imaginable and they all tell her it's in her head.

She is in pain constantly, is weak and has lost a ton of weight. If there is nothing wrong with her then why is all this happening? The doctors just don't seem to care at all. I'm so frustrated. My Mom has something wrong with her and no one seems to care at all.

By anon293109 — On Sep 24, 2012

I have a friend whose arms are infected and swollen. She insists she has these bugs under her skin, and she shows us her arms and nothing is there. This is all over her arms and it looks terrible where she's clawed it. We are afraid it may lead to amputation.

Could meth or heroin do this? We need help fast. Now she thinks that the flies were put under her skin by government. What is the cause? I think it is the drugs.

By anon247733 — On Feb 14, 2012

I saw a worm come out of my face so I know it's not delusional, despite what the doctors tell me.

By anon185927 — On Jun 13, 2011

I have a mild case of illusory parasitosis. It was brought on by a bed bug infestation, not any drugs or chemical allergies, or pre-existing mental conditions.

Yes, I wind up scratching almost constantly. No, I don't inflict harm on myself past a few tiny scratches which heal in a couple days, and it's rare that I'll even get that far.

Yes, I realize that it's quite possibly all in my head, and there are no more bugs - bed bugs, mites, or otherwise - that are biting me.

What I would like to know is how to treat this. I don't want to hear things like "go to a psychologist." I want to know how to fix this myself without spending lots of money.

The itching sensations are quite real, even if the insects aren't, and I want it to stop. Please.

By anon140910 — On Jan 09, 2011

For three years I drank a lot of beer, coffee, and diet coke every day. I drank nothing but beer coffee and diet coke. I drank 80 ounces of beer, 140 ounces of coffee, and 80 ounces of diet coke each and every day. Cutting back seemed to help stop the delusional parasitosis.

By anon105216 — On Aug 19, 2010

In the last six months my mother has had two episodes where she is totally convinced that she has something living under her skin.

She picks her skin with sharp objects causing herself to bleed, and she then feels relief. as a family we are at our wits end, we have taken her to countless doctors and dermatologists, but no one seems to offer practical advice how to cope with this awful problem. There should be more support! --michelle.

By anon71680 — On Mar 19, 2010

My husband has been suffering from 'springtails' or parasites for over a year now. He is hospitalized at the present time.

Initially we took him in for damage to his eyes. his corneas were deeply scratched; he could not see. once in the emergency room, the doctors were told the parasites did the damage, and they were 'eating' him alive. he determined at that time he could not live like he had been, which was staying submerged in a salt-water bath for 18 hours a day, .applying chemicals to his head (where they live in the hair follicles), shocking his head, applying heat through lamps and blow dryers, spraying on acetone and alcohol constantly.

He also recently had dug the burrows from his head trying to 'open' these tunnels so he could kill them. The psychiatrist is telling me this is a slow process, although the drugs they are giving him seems to have taken the biting sensation away. He has been admitted for four days now and says it is like a 'vacation' compared to how he had been living. one puzzling fact to me is that two family members 'got the bugs' from him. They were able to get rid of them after a couple of months. This lent credence to the delusion.

he explains that he can't get rid of them because he is the "host." I welcome any encouragement or ideas. This has ruined our 17 year marriage.

By anon14866 — On Jun 25, 2008

MY mother went through the same thing! Although she still will not admit that the problem was "in her head", the bugs went away when the doctor finally stopped prescribing Dexadrine to her.

By doreen — On Aug 14, 2007

My Mother digs large holes into her flesh to get rid of the bugs that are living under her skin, she has to make them bleed well or she says she has not got them out completely and they will come back, she has seen a skin specialist at the hospital who has told her to keep digging them out, the tablets she takes says kills them but make her too tired and therefore cannot keep on them she knows these tablets are for shzsophrenics but the ingredients in them also kills her bugs?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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