Human Health Considerations: Mental Health Effects


Asshoff, R., P. Hallerbach, and K. Reinhardt. 2020. Teaching changes interest and attitudes of students towards bedbugs. International Journal of Science Education. 42(11): 1818-1833.  DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2020.1788745

“Parasites evoke an array of emotions that subsequently can govern our action as well as our precautionary measures. If parasites are unknown, an important question is how people can be educated about this parasite. Bedbugs are blood-sucking human parasites that (i) stigmatise hosts, (ii) are hardly correctly identified by people in the western world and (iii) have seemingly undergone a huge resurgence. Here, we study how education influences students̕ beliefs and attitudes towards bedbugs. A biology lesson for students aged 14–16, where we showed living bedbugs and taught about their biology, served as a test. We measured pre- and post-test affective, behavioural and cognitive components of attitudes and interest. Learners showed a significantly higher post-test interest in bedbugs compared to pre-test interest. In the pre-test, 98% of learners did not identify the bedbug correctly and partly had wrong ideas about the reasons for its spread. The post-test revealed a negative, and significantly reduced affective component of attitudes, compared to the pre-test. The behavioural component, expressed in proactive behaviour, increased significantly. These results show that teaching episodes sensibilise learners to bedbugs. This may be important to society to help reduce the stigmata unjustly associated with some human parasites.”


Goddard, J., and R. de Shazo. 2012. Psychological effects of bed bug attacks (Cimex lectularius L.). The American Journal of Medicine. 125: 101–103. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.08.010

Bed bug bites can cause insomnia, anxiety, avoidance behaviors, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance (to keep the bed bugs away), and personal dysfunction—such symptoms are suggestive of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A PTSD checklist was used to evaluate 135 online posts of individuals recounting bed bug bites, and 110 of these demonstrated psychological effects from bed bug infestations, and 1 post met the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD. Individuals who experience bed bug bites and develop moderate-to-severe negative emotional symptoms should be identified by health professionals and targeted to receive appropriate mental health care.

Rieder, E., G. Hamalian, K. Maloy, E. Streicker, L. Sjulson, and P. Ying2012. Psychiatric consequences of actual versus feared and perceived bed bug infestations: a case series examining a current epidemic. Psychosomatics. 53: 85–91. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2011.08.001

“Objective: To describe the psychiatric sequelae of the bed bug (Cimex lectularius) epidemic and distinguish between the consequences of actual and perceived infestation. Methods: We describe several clinical vignettes from our experiences as physicians in New York City and use these to initiate discussion of a modern epidemic. 

Results: The psychiatric sequelae of the bed bug epidemic have not been addressed in the medical literature. Psychiatric manifestations can depend on patient level of functioning prior to infestation and include new-onset depression, anxiety, and insomnia as well as exacerbation of underlying psychiatric illness. Bed bug infestations and associated fear can also lead to substantial decreases in work-related productivity and quality of life. Impairment may be of sufficient severity to cause suicidality and warrant inpatient hospitalization. In certain individuals, a perceived, but unconfirmed, bed bug infestation may indicate the onset of psychosis. 

Conclusions: The psychiatric implications of bed bugs are important to consider and treat when attempting to control and contain infestations. Widespread efforts at public education may be helpful in containing infestations and minimizing psychiatric sequelae. Healthcare providers who either diagnose bed bug infestations or treat patients with existing infestations should screen for psychiatric symptoms or monitor for patient decompensation.”

Susser, S. R., S. Perron, M. Fournier, L. Jacques, G. Denis, F. Tessier, and P. Roberge. 2012. Mental health effects from urban bed bug infestation (Cimex lectularius L.): a cross-sectional study. British Medical Journal. 2: 1–6. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000838

Researchers used established medical indices for determining anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances in apartment tenants who were exposed to bed bugs or unexposed (controls). Individuals who experienced bed bug exposure had higher levels of sleep disturbances and anxiety symptoms. More symptoms of depression were reported in the bed bug-infested group, but this finding was not statistically significant. Greater clinical awareness is needed for patients to receive appropriate mental healthcare. These findings highlight the need for more collaboration between medical professionals, public health staff, and community stakeholders.