Mental HealthAnxietyHow to stop skin crawling feeling: causes, symptoms & effective tips

How to stop skin crawling feeling: causes, symptoms & effective tips

If you frequently experience the sensation of an insect crawling on your skin, even when no such creature is actually present, you may be suffering from tactile hallucinations, commonly referred to as formication. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including menopause, neurological disorders, mental illness, recreational drug use, or side effects of certain medications. This unsettling sensation is accompanied by tingling and an overwhelming urge to scratch the body.

Tactile hallucinations can be quite intense and difficult to suppress for some people. However, there are several remedies available to help alleviate this discomfort. Seeking help from reputable online therapy platforms has proven to be a helpful strategy for many. Additionally, those who are embarrassed in public due to these sensations may find it beneficial to consult with a dermatologist for a personalized prescription. The purpose of this article is to explore effective methods for stopping crawling sensations and to shed light on potential causes of formication.

For more in-depth insights into managing these distressing tactile hallucinations and identifying their underlying triggers, read on.

Here are some strategies to prevent formication:

  • Recognize potential triggers
  • Maintain good personal hygiene
  • Engage in relaxation practices
  • Care for your skin properly
  • Avoid using recreational drugs
  • Consider seeking psychological counseling

How to stop skin crawling feeling?

How to stop skin crawling feeling

Formication, the unpleasant sensation of insects crawling on or under the skin, can be an overwhelming experience. However, there are several effective ways to address and alleviate this discomfort.

Identifying triggers

The first step in managing formication is to identify potential triggers. Common factors that can trigger these sensations include anxiety, stress and medication use. Internal factors such as hormonal changes and dietary habits may also play a role, even if they are not immediately obvious.

Keeping a diary to record unusual sensations, noting the date, duration and intensity, can be helpful in identifying patterns or commonalities. By recognising and addressing the underlying conditions or triggers, individuals can effectively reduce the pain and discomfort associated with formication.

Practice relaxation techniques

Practising relaxation techniques can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing and help to alleviate formication. Activities such as meditation, deep breathing and muscle relaxation can calm the mind and reduce stress. It is also recommended to consider smart drugs and brain supplements to improve cognitive function.

By adopting these practices, individuals can shift their attention away from unpleasant sensations and increase their awareness of their surroundings. In addition, this increased mindfulness can help manage or avoid potential triggers that worsen the condition.

Maintain good hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene is an important aspect of managing formication, as it helps to remove potential irritants from the environment. Regularly cleaning the home, using gentle detergents for washing clothes, and keeping bed sheets and pillowcases clean can minimise body irritation. Adequate ventilation is also essential to reduce exposure to environmental triggers that can contribute to itchy skin.

Taking care of your skin

When it comes to your skin, paying attention to the products you use is crucial. Opting for a milder, fragrance-free cleanser is highly recommended, as harsh chemicals can strip your skin of its natural oils. Dermatologist-tested and trusted body oils are the way to go when it comes to moisturizing your skin. On the other hand, there’s a growing interest in using CBD oil for back pain relief, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and neurogenic properties, which reportedly come with no side effects.

Exfoliating your body regularly is a fundamental step in promoting healthy skin. Not only does it help remove dead cells and unclog pores, but it also helps prevent that uncomfortable crawling sensation. However, it’s important to use the right exfoliating products and avoid over-scrubbing, which can lead to complications.

Research[7] has shown that dry skin, also known as xeroderma, can exacerbate the crawling sensation. To combat this, it is important to apply a gentle moisturizer that hydrates the body and maintains its natural barrier function. Choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type is essential to prevent further irritation.

Breaking free from recreational drug use

In cases where individuals experience psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as crawling sensations on the skin, it is crucial to stop recreational drug use[8]. Stopping drug use allows the body to gradually adjust and reduce the occurrence of such symptoms. If the process of quitting becomes too challenging, it is highly recommended to seek professional support and assistance.

The Importance of Psychological Counseling

For those who are still struggling with skin-crawling sensations and are unable to pinpoint the exact cause, it is highly recommended that they seek the advice of a medical professional. Determining whether psychological issues are contributing to these sensations can be complex, and a qualified therapist can provide a safe environment for exploration and discussion.

During sessions with a therapist, various psychologically influenced factors, including past experiences, can be explored to gain deeper insight into the problem. In addition, a qualified therapist can offer valuable coping techniques and recommend appropriate treatment options to effectively manage this condition. Seeking psychological counseling can prove to be a crucial step in finding relief and improving overall well-being.

What triggers the skin crawling sensation?

What triggers the skin crawling sensation

The unsettling sensation of skin crawling, known as formication, can be triggered by various factors. Whether stemming from psychological, physical, or medical origins, this peculiar phenomenon warrants attention and understanding.

Psychological Disorders

Delusional parasitosis stands as a prominent culprit behind the skin-crawling feeling, as established by a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine[1]. This psychiatric condition instills the unwavering belief in individuals that they are infested with tiny mites, often accompanied by the perception of fiber excretion from the body. Addressing this disorder requires a collaborative effort between mental health professionals and dermatologists to provide comprehensive care and support.

Skin Conditions

Numerous skin conditions contribute to the distressing itch and crawling sensation[2]. A highly reactive immune system can trigger responses like hives, scabies, and eczema, leading to heightened discomfort. Allergic reactions, provoked by contact with certain allergens, release histamine, a chemical that induces itching. Prolonged exposure to such conditions may result in dehydration and skin inflammation, leaving the body vulnerable to additional health risks.

Medication Side Effects

Caution must be exercised when using medications, and adherence to expert advice is essential. Certain drugs, including antidepressants, antibiotics, and corticosteroids, have been associated with side effects like formication. For instance, Methylphenidate, a medication prescribed for ADHD, and amantadine, used to treat Parkinson’s disease, are known to induce skin-crawling sensations as unwanted effects.

Recreational Drug

Use Research[3] indicates that recreational drug use, particularly substances like methamphetamines and cocaine, can lead to severe formication. Overcoming addiction and achieving alcohol withdrawal may bring about body pain and pronounced formication. Seeking guidance from a therapist specialized in managing such symptoms can prove beneficial during the recovery process.


The transition into menopause and perimenopause can also trigger formication, according to findings from menopause advisors[4]. Hormonal fluctuations during this period can induce heightened stress and anxiety, alongside the unsettling skin sensations. Individuals experiencing prolonged discomfort are advised to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and suitable interventions.

How is skin crawling diagnosed?

Diagnosing the unsettling sensation of skin crawling, known as formication, can be challenging, especially when the underlying cause remains elusive. However, a skilled and experienced physician has the know-how to navigate this diagnostic journey.

An Integral Role of the History

A critical step in the diagnosis of formication is a thorough review of the patient’s medical history[5] and the performance of relevant tests. It is important to be open and honest during this process, as it will help the clinician confirm the presence of an underlying infection. Blood tests may also be performed to provide further insight.

During the physical examination, the physician carefully looks for telltale signs of hives, rashes, or other skin conditions. The absence of such signs may prompt the clinician to inquire about previous instances of hives, as retrospective assessments can provide valuable diagnostic clues.

Exploring underlying medical conditions

In the search for a definitive diagnosis, healthcare providers may carefully investigate possible underlying medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease[6]. This requires the patient’s full cooperation to facilitate the diagnostic process.

Seeking multiple consultations with specialists

In complex cases, patients may be referred to specialists such as neurologists or dermatologists for further consultation. In addition, if the physician suspects that the sensations are likely related to a psychological condition, a referral to a mental health specialist may be necessary. Thus, a successful diagnosis of skin crawling often relies on the collaborative efforts of multiple healthcare providers.

Frequently asked questions

What is the fear of things crawling on the skin?

Formication, a psychological phenomenon, involves the distressing fear of experiencing crawling sensations on the skin, even in the absence of an actual infection. Sufferers may also have vivid imaginings of parasites or insects crawling on their bodies.

Can formication cause mental illness?

Prolonged episodes of formication can indeed trigger mental disorders, significantly disrupting the sufferer’s social life and overall well-being.

What causes a crawling sensation on the skin?

The unsettling crawling sensation on the skin can arise from a variety of sources, including underlying mental health conditions, irritations, or specific environmental triggers. Formication is particularly common in individuals who are dealing with pre-existing mental health issues.

What is the best treatment for formication?

The most effective treatment for formication depends on identifying and addressing the underlying cause. For example, if the crawling sensations manifest after taking certain medications, the solution is to stop taking those prescriptions.

Can I stop using recreational drugs?

Stopping the use of recreational drugs is essential, especially in cases of overdose. However, it is advisable to seek the guidance and support of a qualified professional to help you through this process, as it may help to identify any underlying psychological issues.

Is crawling a symptom of anxiety?

In fact, anxiety can cause crawling sensations on the skin. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, may be beneficial in alleviating these symptoms.

Does formication go away?

Formication can be effectively treated with appropriate techniques. However, it is important to find customized methods that address individual needs for a successful solution.

What is the remedy for prolonged formication?

If formication persists for an extended period of time, it is imperative to seek the assistance of health care professionals. In some cases, it may be necessary to work with experts from multiple disciplines to address the problem comprehensively.


It is hoped that you have gained insights into effective measures for addressing formication. The aforementioned strategies present user-friendly approaches that can be gradually incorporated until your body acclimates to them. Of utmost importance is to refrain from utilizing non-recommended products, as they may exacerbate the sensations. Hence, it is strongly advised to consult with a dermatologist before applying any product to your skin.


  1. Bhargava P, et al. (2012). Scrotal pruritus: a clue to the diagnosis of testicular microlithiasis. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 78(6), 747. Link

  2. MedlinePlus. Itching. Link

  3. Kelly CM, et al. (2016). Perimenopausal itch: an under-recognized problem. Drugs & Aging, 33(3), 159-166. Link
  4. A. Vogel. Is Crawling Skin a Symptom of Perimenopause and Menopause? Link

  5. O’Connor A, et al. (2008). Itch in the elderly: characterization of a novel symptom of advancing age. The British Journal of General Practice, 58(550), 327-328. Link

  6. Yosipovitch G, et al. (2006). Chronic pruritus: a paraneoplastic sign. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 55(2), 296-298. Link

  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Bookshelf. Scabies. Link

  8. Queensland Health. Queensland Alcohol and Drug Withdrawal Clinical Practice Guidelines. Link

Ashley Bujalski is a second year clinical psychology doctoral student at William Paterson University. She holds a MA in Forensic Mental Health Counseling from John Jay College, and has worked as a mental health clinician at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility and Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center. At present, she is a graduate assistant at the William Paterson University Women’s Center, where she implements programs to raise awareness on campus and in the community about prevention of violence against women. Her research interests include trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder in forensic populations and among those who have been victimized by interpersonal violence.

Claire Galloway is a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University. She received her Bachelor of Science in psychology from Georgia State University in 2011, her Master of Arts in psychology from Emory University in 2013, and her Doctor of Philosophy in psychology (neuroscience and animal behavior program) from Emory University in 2017. Claire studies the nature of hippocampal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease and how brain regions important for memory, the amygdala and hippocampus, interact during memory tasks.


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