Delusional parasitosis was described in medical literature as early as the 1800's. Up until the 1960's a variety of terms were used including: acarophobia, dermatophobia, parasitophobia and entomophobia. Confusion caused by the use of all of these very different terms led to the syndrome being very difficult to treat.
The exact prevalence of this syndrome is unknown, although it is apparently uncommon. It was renamed delusions of parasitosis, delusional infestation or delusions of infestation, following development of precise definitions of "phobia" = fear, and "delusion" = mistaken belief. It may occur in individuals of any age. However, there is a strong correlation with drug abuse. Unfortunately, the growing use of methamphetamine is dramatically increasing the number of sufferers. The syndrome associate with methamphetamine has been named meth mites. The typical patient is a middle-aged or elderly woman. The female to male ratio is at least 2:1. Whether this frequency of women reported is a real number or the consequence of women being more likely to seek professional help is unknown. Younger patients tend to be white males, whose symptoms are usually caused by drug abuse, particularly methamphetamine and cocaine.
In younger women there are correlations between delusional parasitosis and:
- Divorce with children
- Drug abuse
- Low or no income
- Low self-esteem and feelings of social rejection
- Alternate life styles
- Stress, loneliness
Individuals suffering from delusional parasitosis:
- Come from a variety of occupational and socioeconomic backgrounds
- Are generally of average or above average intelligence
- Hold reasonable views or reality
- Generally lack a fear of insects