Psychological effects of bed bug attacks (Cimex lectularius L.)

Am J Med. 2012 Jan;125(1):101-3. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.08.010.


Background: In some individuals, psychological sequelae resulting from bed bug biting events include nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance (to keep the bugs away), insomnia, anxiety, avoidance behaviors, and personal dysfunction. These symptoms are suggestive of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Methods: We used a previously published PTSD checklist to analyze online blogs and other Internet sites where bed bug postings occur to assess postings for evidence of emotional trauma.

Results: One hundred thirty-five postings were read and analyzed, and 110 (81%) of those postings reported psychological effects from bed bug infestations. Scoring with the PTSD checklist revealed a range of 0-52 (mean 13.25; SD 9.38); one met the criteria (≥50) considered positive for PTSD.

Conclusions: Based upon our survey of online postings concerning such effects, an as-yet-to-be-determined proportion of individuals who experience bed bug bites develop moderate-to-severe negative emotional symptoms after infestations. These individuals should be identified in the course of their interactions with health professionals so that appropriate mental health care may be provided.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bedbugs*
  • Humans
  • Insect Bites and Stings / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / parasitology