Having skin reactions but not being able to find the cause does not mean you have “headbugs” it just means you have not found the cause of the issue yet.
What few people can appreciate is the negative effect that often follows when people are essential told “its all in your head”. In many ways this just adds to peoples anxiety and desperation of the issue.
It would ultimately be more professional for people to say “I cant understand what is causing this and refer you on to someone with skills in this area”. Sadly this does not happen and we end up having to explain that “headbugs” like “delusional parasitosis” is in fact a diagnosis of “I don’t understand this.”
Headbugs - the more likely reality
If someone does not actually understand what is actually causing a skin reaction they may attempt to excuse themselves from involvement with a proclamation of “headbugs” or “delusional parasitosis” when they would be better served by explaining that they are at the end of their options and cant pin down the actual cause. There is nothing wrong with someone doing this without the proclamation in the same way a general medical professional will often refer things on to a specialist.
The aim of this section of the site is to share and link to resources of possible causes to help people logically work through potential causes of their symptoms in a constructive way.
- Particle / fiber interactions – Carpet beetles, paper fibers, synthetic fibers are all common causes. Their solution is environmental not pest control.
- Medical – from allergic reactions to photo-sensitivity as a side effect of medication these can all appear to be the same as insect bites.
- Other insects – from mosquitoes to fleas there are plenty of other potential insect causes.
- Other organisms – in rare cases the only species found to be present were in fact not thought to be capable of causing issues to people such as hexapods. Often the solution is only identified by excluding the more obvious and looking at what remains.
- Allergies/dermatitis – these can become issues suddenly, because of a threshold or because of a lower/higher immune system and may produce significance in their pattern of appearance rather than their localized appearance. The most common of these being dust mites is actually a reaction to their droppings, not as often reported them biting.
- Environmental (direct) – we can sometimes respond consciously and sub-consciously to the environment around us and a skin reaction can be nothing more than a more obvious sign of an issue you are reacting to than a feeling of being itchy which might be ignored.
- Environmental (indirect) – we can also react to other issues that arise as a result of environmental changes in the location. Most notably booklice or pscoicids which are an indicator of damp and thus mold spores. While people are unlikely to react to the insects themselves they tell us what might be causing the issue.
- Psychological – people can develop or have a strong reaction to the stress or anxiety connected directly to the reality or the anxiety of potential bed bug and insect problem or as a result of unrelated issues. While some of this is a natural response and survival instinct the natural anxiety triggering which can be associated with bed bugs can lead to patterns of thinking and behavior which are not always beneficial.
In the case of anxiety as a contributing factor being told you have “headbugs” can reinforce the existing feelings of shame and isolation and effectively blames the person who is in most need of support. At the same time the person delivering the diagnosis may have the most appealing of bedside manner further compounding the discomfort felt. Equally the referral to the appropriate resources may itself be initially perceived as reinforcing this as being a mental health issue when in fact it is only because these professionals are best positioned to explain how to reduce the impact on daily life.
It is often common to need to seek to resolve multiple aspect of the same problem through education and understanding as much as through intervention and remediation. The psychological aspects and support being something that is best delivered by friends and family as well as therapeutic professionals rather than expecting the pest management industry to develop these skills.
The complexities of this issue has lead us to develop a data based approach to narrowing things down which is only possible by engaging with a defined process and collecting the data in a standard format. Otherwise the variables become too complex to isolate and the process of analysis is ultimately flawed. We hope that with time and engagement from the medical community we can help derive a more useful set of clinical processes to make this approach more widely available.
Equally we hope that this document helps to better understand the complexities surrounding cases where no confirming signs of bed bugs are present and that it gives encouragement to people to remain positive and to look at things logically.
We welcome comments and feedback through our contact section.