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Bed Bug Effects On Mental Health

Updated on August 5, 2016
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Melody has volunteered with the CDC and is a member of the Medical Reserve Corps. She brings awareness to public health concerns.

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PTBBS

Eeven though bed bug related anxiety and stress can be debilitating, there is no bed bug stress disorder; at least, not yet. If the stress of bed bugs causes anxiety, which meet clinical standards of any given diagnosis, then it will fall in to a generalized category.

However, bed bugs are temporary; the stress goes away once bed bugs are gone. For this reason, most doctors are reluctant to make an anxiety disorder diagnosis caused by bed bugs. This does not mean they discourage treatment for bed bug related anxiety and stress.

Unofficially, more and more people are calling stress related symptoms caused by bed bugs PTBBS, or Post Traumatic Bed Bug Syndrome. Post traumatic stress is usually caused after a person experiences something truly shocking, such as death, or experiences a serious injury.

In my opinion, it is not likely for scientists to group bed bug related stress with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, a person already has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be negatively impacted by bed bugs, which would exasperate the symptoms.

There was one case of a woman suing a company with claims that she had PTSD from bed bug bites. The New York Observer reported that an expert, Dr. Lynn, stated that PTSD was present in this case, but only due to the fact that the person was already experiencing PTSD.

In short, you are not likely to suffer a debilitating, severe or permanent stress disorder because of bed bugs. You might suffer, and it may be serious, but when the aggravation of bed bugs ceases, you will return to normal. Some people may choose therapy to help them, and others will face it on their own.


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Understanding Bed Bug Stress

Symptoms of bed bug related stress can manifest in four main ways: physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral. Sleepless nights caused by bed bug anxiety worsen many of the symptoms.

To understand bed bug related stress, or what many are calling Post Traumatic Bed Bug Syndrome, we must understand what stress and anxiety are, and the four main ways they manifest.

The best place to find information about stress and stress disorders online is a non-profit, non-add, website called Helpguide. They have beautiful charts to explain the effects of stress, so I won't try to compete. While their stress guide is not directly related to bed bug stress, it is a wonderful resource.

According to Helpguide, anxiety is the bodies natural system that creates physiological and emotional reactions that threaten our safety. Bed bugs do not spread disease, but they can cause massive amounts of worry and fear.

Bed bugs can cause financial problems, social unrest within the family, places pressure on our time and cause physical discomfort. Together, these factors create tension, worry and fear. That is our anxiety response to bed bugs.

Anxiety plays a role in our fight or flight response. While similar to anxiety, stress is a slightly different thing. It is fed by anxiety and feeds back into anxiety. If this feedback loop is not broken, people can develop both anxiety disorders and stress disorders from bed bug infestations.

According to Helpguide, stress is also a response system. However, it revolves around how we perceive the world around us. Stress is not the situation itself; it is the perception that any given situation holds some type of threat.

It is important to differentiate between stress and anxiety in any situation. When talking specifically about bed bugs, understanding the differences between anxiety and stress can help us develop ways to cope with the situation.

Knowing the difference also helps families understand that, while most of the family will experience some level of anxiety because of bed bugs, not every family member will automatically feel stress.

Those who feel both anxiety and stress from bed bugs are especially vulnerable to developing a severe stress disorder, or reaction, because of bed bugs. Those people are also at risk for sleep deprivation and its negative effects.


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Symptoms of Bed Bug Related Stress

  • Poor decision making
  • Confusion
  • Lack of focus
  • Quick to anger
  • Not able to relax
  • Change in diet
  • Chang in other habits (smoking, drinking and so on)
  • Unexplained pain (or those with unrealistic explanations)Yes, Stress physically hurts!
  • inability to sleep
  • Lack of emotions or excessive emotions
  • See Helpguide for more examples.

How to Cope With the Stress of Having Bed Bugs

Since stress is revolved around how we perceive bed bugs as a threat, changing our perceptions can go a long way in preventing bed bug related stress and stress disorders. There are many ways a person can control how they perceive the world around them.

  • Get educated about bed bugs. Understand they do not transmit disease.
  • Take action, create a bed bug plan, call a professional, get bed bug supplies.
  • Treat symptoms. Physical pain and itching have an impact on your perception.
  • Focus on what you can do to get rid of bed bugs (not all the bad stuff about bed bugs).
  • Create mental images of being bed bug free, doing things you enjoy and being successful.
  • Use buffers to reduce the effects of stress. Buffers are planned activities that are enjoyable. Make it something you love so much the last thing you think about is bed bugs.
  • On the flip side, do not procrastinate or put off bed bug extermination. The longer you allow bed bugs to go on the higher chance you will service stress that might lead to a stress disorder.
  • Remind yourself, bed bugs happen. They can happen to anyone. They are temporary and will be gone!
  • Read books about positive thinking, relaxation and so on.
  • Believe!

Sometimes a great way to deal with stress is to activate more than one sense at a time. By thinking, writing, and speaking we can create a a holistic kind of healing that can help us work through stress.

When working with a community action program we did not just help people seal their homes against bed bugs and spray. We tried to help people cope with what they had beed though.

We passed out "A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook", and would give the people we helped homework. We saw positive results from the use of the workbook. If you need a little extra help you can pick one of these workbooks up from Amazon.

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Helping Children Cope with Bed Bug Stress

As adults, we have a great deal of control over what we perceive. Bed bugs defiantly cause anxiety and stress, but humans have the power to combat that. Each person in the family needs to find the source of their own strength and courage. However, children will need some help.

You need to get a hold of your own stress and anxiety first, then you can help your child o the same. Otherwise, the children might pick it up your stress without you knowing it. Once you have your stress under control then you can fully address the child's needs.

In children, you are likely to see behavioral issues arise, which stem from bed bugs. However, it is easy to miss the connection. If your child is acting out, it is important to address the underlying cause.

As parents, we have to interpret our child's behavior, and find what is fueling the behavior. If you find that a child is experiencing behavioral problems because of bed bug stress and anxiety. It is important to figure out how to help your child change his or perspective about the problem, while solving the problem.

If you have difficulty getting control of your own stress or anxiety, or that of a child, you have options. You can talk with your doctor, see a therapist or read one of the many self-help and parenting books written by professionals and experts.

The more control you have over your perceptions, the easier it is to fight bed bug related stress and anxiety. The less stress and anxiety you have, the more you can focus on bed bug extermination. Without stress disorder symptoms, you will be far more effective during the bed bug eradication process.

If you have young children, it is essential you get rid of bed bugs as soon as possible. While thee hubs promote do it yourself options, people with young children should call a professional. The reason is because stress can have long term physiological effects on children.

There are many different types of stress in children. Psychologists term short term, low level stress as positive stress. This type of stress has the least amount of repercussions for a childs growth, health and well being.

However, low-level stress, as caused by bed bugs, over a long period of time becomes toxic stress. When this happens the child's endocrine system is at risk. This could cause many different types of physiological problems, which could lead to illness.

Toxic stress can last a long time after the stressor is gone, and the health effects last well in to adult hood. If you have bed bugs and young children, you need to actively reduce stress levels in your children. You also need to remove bed bugs with the help of a professional so the child will not have lasting stress effects.

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    • Bedbugabscond profile image
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      Melody Trent 2 years ago from United States

      Cortizone is a good way to reduce itching. As long as you don't scratch and cause open sore your body will heal itself. Also, oatmeal lotions help, too.

    • profile image

      michelle 2 years ago

      I hate bed bugs too. But everyone deals with it in there own way. How can u heal your body from it.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image
      Author

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for sharing your grandmothers technique! That is something I never thought of. Beating bed bugs with a soap would collect bugs, but it would also get the frustration out too! Thanks for reading!

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Well researched and informative article.

      thank you. It's become an increasing problem in the UK in hotel and motel rooms.

      Nasty little blighters - my grandmother used to keep a tablet of soap soaking in water then at bedtime the covers would be whipped back as the lights were switched on and us kids would quickly bang the soap down on the bed, all over, and catch the bugs on the soap.

      Doesn't bear thinking about these days but as you say it is still a problem.

      kind regards peter

    • Bedbugabscond profile image
      Author

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      Changing our perceptions about fears is very difficult. It takes support from friends and family. Since some people can not share their bed bug problem with friends or family, it is not a bad idea to seek professional help if the stress is overwhelming. Thanks for reading!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      I never knew this side of stress - bed bug stress, I understand I am really scared of spiders. People do need help to change their perceptions.

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