Imagined Itches: Post Bed Bug Stress Disorder

Bed Bugs

I recently spent six weeks in Mexico in a small village bordered on one edge by the sea and on the other by a large fresh water mangrove estuary. The natural state of things was intensified by the rainy season, this meant a lot of bugs. The beautiful sea shore was a mine field of sand flies while everywhere else was swarming with bat-size mosquitoes. After six weeks, my skin was a mess of red welts and the scabby remains of bites I’d over scratched.

En route to Canada I spent a few days in Puerto Vallarta in a relatively nice, well-sealed air conditioned hotel. On my second morning there, I woke up with about ten red itchy welts along the outside of one of my legs. Irritated, I shared this information on Facebook and my aunt, who has spent a lot of time traveling in North Africa, informed me that it might be bed bugs and that if we had them, we would surely carry them in our clothing and luggage along with us wherever we went. Immediately, I became obsessed – examining sheets, duvet covers, in between mattresses and within the smaller folds of my clothing and suitcase. Apart from being disgusting, one of the most difficult things about bedbugs is that they are nocturnal, very small and good at hiding; so it’s not easy to determine if you have them.

After that morning, apart from the odd set of bites I could trace to time outside, I didn’t seem to get any additional welts and my bed mate remained mostly bite free; in the absence of a bed bug sniffing dog, I’ve decided that we did not have bed bugs; but not before spending hours on Google reading about them and looking at horrible pictures.

The most interesting thing that I read about the pests is the phenomenon of ‘Post Bed Bug Stress Disorder’, which I can very much relate to though I don’t think mine is a serious case:

Many formerly rational people are waking up in the middle of the night inspecting themselves or their children for bed bug bites. They often feel phantom bed bugs crawling on their bodies while lying in bed. Perhaps the most worrisome are those individuals who are sleeping in ounces of DEET, spearmint oil or other less-friendly concoctions in the hope that bed bugs — real or imagined — will be thwarted from biting them …

These people are suffering from what I like to call PBBSD — Post Bed Bug Stress Disorder — an illness characterized

by irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety and bed bug hallucinations. Yes, these people also suffer from the physical effects of bed bug bites, but the bites go away. (source)

In 2008 a former Fox News employee successfully sued the maintenance company at NewsCorp headquarters for post traumatic stress syndrome brought on by a bed bug infestation in the building.

“My client is so acutely injured that she can’t take the subway and she is being seen by a doctor three times a week,” said Mr. Schnurman [the plaintiff’s lawyer], who has handled “hundreds” of bedbug cases, most of which have been settled out of court. “She would literally take off all her clothes at the door and put on house clothes before she would even touch her baby. (source)

Oh, and by the way: bed bug infestations are on the rise.

Night, night!

Image: Whose that jumping on the bed?!? by Sappymoosetree

Amy Thibodeau

View posts by Amy Thibodeau
Amy Thibodeau is originally from the Canadian Prairies, spent the last few years in one of the world's greatest cities, London, UK and is spending the next year traveling around the world. She is interested in everything, but lately is mostly fixated on art, politics, creative writing, cuddly animals and experimenting with different kinds of photography. You can find her on her personal blog Making Strange, posting to her photography project Lost and Looking, on Twitter @amythibodeau, or working as a freelance content strategist via Contentini.