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CDC: Morgellons Disease May Be Psychiatric Disorder

Mysterious Morgellons Skin Fibers: Only Cotton From Clothing?

From the WebMD Archives


As in previous studies of Morgellons, the patients tended to be female (77%) and white (77%).

Three-fourths of the examined patients had sores on their skin. Half of the lesions were merely sun damage, but 40% showed signs of scratching or irritation, and 16% looked like bug bites or allergic reactions to drugs.

Sixteen of the lesions had materials stuck in them. Most turned out to be cotton fibers, probably from clothing; some were skin fragments likely caused by scratching.

Importantly, normal areas of the patients' skin had nothing wrong with them, suggesting that there was no systemic skin disease.

Psychiatric evaluations showed that the patients' average intelligence was somewhat higher than normal. But 60% of the patients showed signs of cognitive impairment, and 63% had "somatic complaints," often "incapacitating fatigue."

The patients' level of "functional impairment and disability" was "comparable to that detected among persons who have serious medical illnesses and concurrent psychiatric disorders," Pearson and colleagues note.

Morgellons, Somatoform Disorder, and Delusional Infestation

People with somatic disorders tend to by hyper-aware of normal body sensations -- and they tend to interpret these sensations as medical illness. This stress has real physical effects on the body and leads to a spiral of worsening physical symptoms and psychological health. Psychotherapy is far more likely to be successful than medication in breaking this cycle.

Pearson and colleagues suggest that since they cannot find a common cause of Morgellons disease, patients should get "standard therapies for co-existing medical conditions and/or those recommended for similar conditions such as delusional infestation."

Patients who are convinced they are infested with parasites often respond to treatment with antidepressant or antipsychotic medication.