What Causes The Feeling Of Bugs Crawling On Your Skin?

Have you ever gone to bed after a long day of hard work only to suddenly feel that there are bugs crawling all over you? When you check, though, nothing is on your skin. This isn’t uncommon, but there is a line where an occasional occurence of this starts to become more frequent and more worrisome…

Table Of Blog’s Contents:

What is Formication?

It is derived from Latin word “formica” meaning ‘ants’. Formication is the feeling of bugs crawling on or under your skin and is classified as a type of Paresthesia.

Paresthesia is when someone feels sensations on their skin that don’t have any physical cause. It can occur anywhere on the body and can range from tingling and numbness to itching and burning.

Formication is commonly referred to as ‘tactile hallucination’ because, again, it is when someone is feeling sensations that aren’t being caused by a physical factor.

Before you think that random scratch you have behind your ear or on your arm is formication, let me clarify, that formication is the repeated and sometimes frequent sensation usually described as bugs crawling or as pins and needles. Though sometimes a random scratch can be beginning signs, I wouldn’t worry about simple things like that unless it becomes worse (you can keep reading to see symptoms of when it does become worse). In that case, you should see a physician.

Causes and Symptoms of Formication

Common causes include:

  • Poor blood circulation
  • Health issues such as diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Anxiety
  • Shingles
  • Skin Cancer
  • Withdrawl from alcohol
  • Perimenopause
  • Drug use:
    • Adderall
    • Cocaine
    • Crystal Meth
    • Prescribed medications that treat insomnia and ADHD
    • etc
  • And more

Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of causes.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bug crawling feeling
  • Itching
  • Habitual picking and clawing at skin (especially if one has Parasitosis)
  • Severe skin damage from picking at skin
    • skin ulcers
    • open wounds
  • Moodiness, depression, anger


To diagnose whether or not someone has formication, a doctor will usually ask about:

  1. The time of day symtoms usually appear (usually formication occurs at night as you’re about to sleep)
  2. What drugs/medications the patient is taking and if the symptoms started after starting them
  3. Any other symptoms the patient noticed

In general, the doctor needs to make sure their patient doesn’t actually have bugs under his or her skin- aka scabies- so they can determine how to treat the symptoms.

If they’ve determined the patient has Formication, the treatment will depend on what the cause is.

The doctor can also prescribe some extra medications such as Benadryl or another kind of antihystamine, which blocks histamines -a chemical compound released by the immune system that causes itching. This way, the itchy feeling will be reduced.

In most cases, someone with formication will also be evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine if they also have Parasitosis- when someone has delusional thoughts that there are actual bugs that have infested them and/or their house. Usually, someone with Parasitosis, despsite being proven wrong, will adamantly argue that they have bugs under their skin. The worse their Parasitosis is, the more the symptoms listed above show.

This is an example where a patient has picked at their skin, thinking that there were bugs inside.
Jake Gyllenhaal is probably one of my favorite actors :)) Anyway, that’s it for this blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Sources: DermNet NZ, Psychology Today, Healthline, Medical News Today, Giphy

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Love, Moe ❤

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Blog about Skin and Self Care

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