Bed bugs have been making headlines as their recent infestations hits cities and towns all over the world. These non-discriminating pests are known to infest roadside motels and even luxury homes. More and more people learning that having a bed bug infestation is not an indication of their home’s cleanliness or lifestyle, but quite simply a matter of bad luck. This so called bad luck has made itself infamous in the exterminator industry, costing families and homeowners alike thousands of dollars to rid of an infestation. It’s not just money however that’s on the line when it comes to a bed bug infestation. In fact, recent attention has been brought to the debilitating psychological effects that just one infestation can have on an individual.
Bed bugs violate our most personal space; our homes, our rooms and our beds. Despite it being a known fact that bed bugs do not discriminate, embarrassment is the initial and most significant feeling expressed by many once bed bugs are discovered. This shame tends to open up other emotions; denial, anger and fear – a terrible combination when it comes to accepting the reality of the situation. In addition, people who experience bed bug infestations often end up being ostracized by the community and treated almost like lepers by people who are aware of their infestation. Enduring the feelings of being a social outcast can cause long term damage to a person’s social profile and can even lead to severe social and situational anxiety.
Bed bug infestations can also lead to physical discomfort that can cause long term psychological damage. People who have suffered with infestations have been records to display sleeplessness and increased nervousness and anxiety. Some individuals have even exhibited signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Delusory Parasitosis. In a study of over 400 individuals who lived in bed bug infested homes it was found that:
- 29% suffered from sleeplessness
- 22% suffered with emotional distress
- 20% had anxiety
- 40% were in a constant state of stress
These individuals and others like them have also indicated that their sleeplessness is a result of anxiety before going to bed or suffering from delusions.
“You try to sleep at night but every slight movement in your bed, every small itch keeps you alert and makes you think they’re there, they are in the bed with you. You spend the whole night like that, and eventually it’s like they are still there, controlling every aspect of your life.” Was a quote shared by an individual who had to live through three home infestations.
People who also suffered from infestations noted their neighbors and friends treated them differently, even after an infestation was resolved. Some admitted that when neighbors were later infested, they were blamed for bringing the bed bugs into their home. Friends of recently infested individuals also refused to visit and sometimes even declined social outings for fear of catching bed bugs. This constant outing by friends and even family has made infestation sufferers develop social anxiety, where they become inept in social situations due to the traumatizing effects of a bed bug infestation.
Infestations can also induce stress as the potential loss of possessions, the time demands in preparations and the high cost of a professional extermination weighs down on the situation. For some people this can be extremely overwhelming and in one unfortunate documentation, a woman was triggered to commit suicide after experiencing a repeated infestation.
A bed bug infestation can definitely bring about a significant change to quality of life, but there are ways to reduce or eliminate the psychological effects associated with a bed bug infestation.
Recovering From a Bed Bug Infestation
Being ahead of a bed bug infestation is your best method in avoiding another one. Purchasing mattress liners or mattress protectors are an excellent way of inhibiting the infestation of bed bugs. These pests are known to live and nest in mattresses, so by blocking off their primary shelter you significantly decrease your chances of an infestation. If you have both a mattress and box spring, be sure to encase both items to maximize protection.
- Travel Smart
Although some sufferers of bed bug infestations opt out of traveling after a recent infestation, others do not have a choice. However just because you go to a hotel or a home that could potentially be infested, doesn’t mean you have to bring it home with you. When you enter your hotel room, make your first stop the bathroom where you leave your bags and other personal items on the tile floor. Bed bugs are more likely to be found I cabinets, drawers and within the furniture or bed. Next inspect the bed for any signs of bugs, this includes black spots (fecal matter) or blood stains. Move your search to the hanging pictures or furniture in the room to be ensure that there are no pests in the room. Additionally, if you need to move items in the main room be sure to place them on sheets of plastic or in plastic bags. Laying your bags on a table or on top of a plastic sheet can help prevent the bugs from moving into your luggage. They have difficulty traveling across smooth surfaces and are likely to make no effort if plastic sheeting is in their way.
- Make Some Changes
Though there may be psychological damage, sometimes you can trick your mind or at least offset its focus on your bed bug trauma. Purchase new bedding and linens. Some people have reported that the simple act of throwing away their previous infested linens brought some comfort and closure for them. Additionally, try to change the layout of your room or move your bed. Sometimes the configuration of a location can trigger memories, but if you are forced to look at a different angle of your room, your mind might forget that an infestation even happened in the first place.
- Combat Your Stress and Anxiety
Your stress and anxiety after an infestation does not need to stay with you. In fact, there are ways to combat stress that include exercising, picking up hobbies and eating right. Having bed bugs can put you in a poor physical and mental state and can cause you to lower your quality of life, but you can pick it back up by doing what you did before the infestation or picking new routines. Exercise releases endorphins that help elevate your mood and the sheer work you put your body through can also lead to more restful nights. Eating good, wholesome foods can also help stabilize your brain activity and the chemical processes that are engaged in your body on a daily basis leading to equilibrium. Additionally, some people pick up dietary supplements to help regulate their body such as multivitamins, fish oil, and even stress and anxiety supplements like KalmPro that have helped elevate their moods and relieved their anxiety symptoms.
Bed bugs can definitely be more than a ‘nuisance’ especially to those directly affected. But it’s not an experience that should define your quality of life. Your mental and physical health can be very frail after an infestation but if you take the right steps you can be on the road to recovery and be bed bug free in body, mind and spirit.