This Rare Psychiatric Condition Causes People To Falsely Believe They’re Infected With Bacteria, Worms, Or Parasites

Maria Vitkovska - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

Do you ever feel like something is crawling on your skin, but nothing is there when you look down to check? These brief phantom feelings happen to most of us from time to time, and it’s really no big deal.

However, for a handful of people, the feelings are actual delusions that are part of a rare psychiatric condition called delusional parasitosis.

Delusional parasitosis causes individuals to falsely believe that they are infected with bacteria, worms, parasites, and other tiny organisms. They might think a parasite is in or on their skin, which makes them feel itchiness or pain. It affects about 2 to 27 out of 100 people per year.

Some people develop the disorder on their own, while others have the delusions as a result of an underlying health issue or substance abuse. Typically, delusional parasitosis patients are older women, but younger people can experience it as well.

There are two types of delusional parasitosis: primary and secondary. With primary, symptoms of delusional parasitosis surface without a known cause. The secondary type occurs with other health concerns, such as a thyroid disorder or a mental illness.


According to the Minnesota Department of Health, patients will not only believe that the infestations are in or around their skin, but they are also under the illusion that the parasites are in their homes or surrounding environment.

An uptick in cases occurs during the winter months, which coincides with drier conditions in homes. Patients have also reported trying to solve the problem themselves through self-mutilation, using dangerously high levels of pesticides, and disinfecting their homes.

Additionally, they might take samples of hair, lint, and human tissue to a healthcare provider to try to prove their infections, even if the test results come back negative.

Maria Vitkovska – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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