Bed bug experts from across North America are meeting in Chicago this week for the annual Bed Bug University North American Summit. The summit’s keynote session will focus on Fear and Loathing: Social Issues and the Psychological Impact of Bed Bugs and will feature presentations by U.S. Congressman Robert Dold of Illinois who is also president of America’s oldest pest control firm, noted bed bug expert Dr. Michael Potter of the University of Kentucky and physician Dr. Caleb Adler, M.D. of the University of Cincinnati.

While bed bugs, which are not known to transmit disease, are considered a nuisance pest, their presence often provokes severe emotional and psychological distress and scratching their bites can lead to serious secondary infections. As bed bug infestations become increasingly common in New Jersey and across the country, NJ pest control firms, bed bug experts, the medical community and government agencies have seen a disturbing increase in the social and emotional toll bed bug infestations take on their victims.

Despite the fact that bed bugs are not caused by dirty or unsanitary conditions — they are carried into a home or office on the clothing or possessions of an infested individual — bed bugs carry a powerful negative stigma. Bed bug victims suffer acute embarrassment that often results in social isolation. Fear and lack of understanding about bed bug behavior can make bed bug victims pariahs in their communities.

Sharing a bed with blood-feeding bed bugs invokes its own emotional and psychological stress. Sleep deprivation is common which can affect family relationships, work performance and physical health. Psychological distress can also lead to hysteria and a condition in which bed bug victims feel like bugs are constantly crawling on their skin.