Formication and Fibromyalgia: Bugs Under Your Skin

What’s the most annoying thing about fibromyalgia? Is it the constant pain? Or the fatigue that makes it impossible to do even the most basic tasks? Maybe it’s the fibro-fog that leaves you forgetting where you left your keys every morning. Fibromyalgia has a seemingly endless supply of those little knock-on symptoms that all compete for the title of “worst element of the disease.”  But regardless of which one you decide on, you have to admit that formication is a strong contender for that title.

But even if you’re familiar with the symptoms of formication, you might not have heard the technical name before. You likely know what it is though: bugs under the skin. It’s a feeling like there is something crawling under your skin that you can’t scratch away. So what exactly causes it, why is it so common in people with fibromyalgia, and what can you do to treat it?

What Causes Formication?

First, some good news: while you might feel like there are bugs crawling under your skin, you can rest a little easier knowing that they aren’t actually there. It just feels exactly like they are. Small miracles, right?

So if it’s not actual bugs, what’s going on? Well, formication is frequently reported in people with mental health or substance abuse problems (particularly methamphetamine users). So obviously, there’s something going on with the brain. But obviously, you don’t have to use drugs to experience it since formication is what’s called a tactile hallucination and can affect almost anyone.

What isn’t obvious is why exactly the brain produces this hallucination in the first place. Essentially, your brain is registering the sensation of something crawling on or under your skin when this isn’t actually happening. So your nervous system, which usually determines when something is crawling on you and sends that information back to the brain, is sending those signals without the external influence of something touching you. But again, at the moment we don’t know why that happens.

But what we do know is that formication can be a very serious problem. People who suffer from it frequently scratch or pick at their skin while trying to find some relief from the maddening sensation of having bugs crawling under their skin. This results in horrible scarring or infections from open wounds. And the sensation can make it difficult to sleep, which results in all the usual health problems caused by sleep deprivation from diabetes to high blood pressure.

And yet another thing we don’t understand is why it seems to be associated with fibromyalgia so often.

As stated earlier, formication is rooted in a communication problem with the nervous system. This might explain why it’s so common in people with fibromyalgia. You see, it’s not the only nervous system disorder that frequently affects people with fibromyalgia.

disability stickers
Invisible illness Disability Stickers for your car to spread awareness. Click on the photo or HERE to get this

Fibromyalgia sufferers often deal with other nervous system problems like irritable bowel syndrome or chronic itching. So with a clear link between all of these different nerve system disorders and fibromyalgia, it seems like the pain of fibromyalgia might actually be rooted in the nerves. Usually, your nervous system sends signals to the brain, which in turn interprets these signals. For instance, if you touch a hot stove your nerves send a signal that your finger tips are being burnt which your brain then interprets as pain and registers as occurring in your fingertips.

This is the way our body protects us from being injured, by making us want to pull our hands off of the hot stove. But in someone with fibromyalgia, those pain signals are sent to the brain without any obvious cause. Your brain simply registers pain that isn’t there. And in cases of formication with fibromyalgia, those same faulty neural pathways are registering a sensation of bugs under your skin that aren’t there.

So it seems likely that the fact that people with fibromyalgia deal with sympathetic nervous system disorders like formication so often is due to these malfunctions in the nervous system. We don’t yet know for certain that this is true, and won’t until we understand what causes fibromyalgia or even just what causes formication, but this seems like a fairly solid explanation at the moment based on what we do know.

But you tell us what you think? Do faulty nerves seem like the explanation do you? Do you suffer from formication? Does it seem to go together with your fibromyalgia or not? Let us know in the comments.

Click Here to Visit the Store and find Much More….

This is republished article. Originally this article was published by


Get our weekly Fibromyalgia email

To help you manage this Invisible Chronic Illness, we’ll send you articles on medications, treatments, and pain management.
Your privacy is important to us.

You may also like...

7 Responses

  1. Vickie says:

    Absolutely nerves are the cause. I suffer from formication as well as all the other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

  2. Kathryn says:

    I suffer from formication as well but have found that if I just leave it alone, don’t scratch, don’t even touch it, it does go away. I tell myself that it’s just my fibro acting up and to leave it alone.

  3. Cvijeta says:

    What type of doctor would I see for this chronic itching feeling? Dermatologist are out!

  4. Toni Power says:

    Yes it definitely does feel like bugs under the skin and you can end up making your skin bleed because you just can’t get rid of the feeling, one of my worst symptoms is overheating and constant sweating and having to turn on the air conditioning
    When everyone else w@nts the heater on. it’s such an overwhelming disease

  5. Hello Julia Nelson.
    It’s an excellent article.
    Your article Formication And Fibromyalgia, So useful for formication! I wanna share this post to my site, can I?

  6. Mel says:

    When I get it, I end up in special long sleeve shirts and pants so nothing else can touch me and I am less prone to scratch. It got bad for a few months and I didn’t think i would ever wear short sleeves again. If air touched my skin it made me itch so bad. I never found the cause but it went away. It comes back at times but not as bad

Leave a Reply