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Pest Control when the bugs aren’t real… Delusional Parasitosis

Posted on Nov 13, 2015


First and foremost; what is Delusionary Parasitosis?  Delusional Parasitosis is a relatively uncommon disorder in which sufferers hold a delusional belief that they are infested with parasites, such as: lice, mites or bedbugs.

This disorder has been found to originate in various ways, often being rooted in a previous disturbing encounter with an infestation of one of the parasites listed above.  In my personal experience as a pest control operator, it usually starts with an infestation of bedbugs.  The sufferer can offer up such a vivid account of the parasites on their body, that it becomes contagious to their family. In 10 to 25% of all cases, the sensation can be shared by family members. This phenomenon is called folie partagee. Simply meaning “shared madness”

Although delusional disorders are rare, many doctors believe that Delusional Parasitosis is far more common than the statistics suggest.  Before any medical professionals are involved, it’s usually a pest control operator that is making initial contact.

The first and most important thing we can do as being pest professionals is to inspect and rule out any actual parasites or anything that could be biting.   Typically, Delusionary Parasitosis isn’t even considered until having multiple accounts with the same individual.   The next stage between the sufferer and the pest professional is called the “matchbox sign” It’s named for the proclivity of sufferers to present an expert with a matchbox (or other container) said to be holding the parasites.  Usually, it’s full of skin flakes, lint, dirt or some other unknown debris.  After multiple encounters, I try not to directly challenge the claim of being infested, but to firmly and gently direct them to a mental health professional.

Delusional Parasitosis can be a serious condition. People suffering from this condition may self-mutilate, scratching themselves to the point where they can cause serious skin damage and bleeding.  Without help, the condition rarely resolves itself.  

It’s an unconventional collaboration, but with an examination of a medical professional and an inspection from a pest management professional it’s the only way to nail down a diagnosis of Delusionary Parasitosis.



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