ac·a·ro·pho·bia is the fear or dread of your (or others') skin being infested with small crawling organisms such as mites or biting insects. Some sources cite this as the fear of itching caused by such creatures and one or two extend to including worms and other similar creatures in that definition. The Merriam-Webster medical dictionary also says that it is "a delusion that the skin is infested with small crawling organisms".
"The sensation feels like bugs, worms, or mites that are biting, crawling over or burrowing into, under, or out of your skin. They must be there, because you can feel them and you are even pretty sure that you can see them. You may also believe that your home or furniture is infested, but you may be the only one who knows they are there. No one seems to think they exist except you. Nothing seems to get rid of them. So what are they?"
"Delusory Parasitosis: What's Attacking Me?" Published 8/03, http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7443.html
The association with death and decay and the visual nature of this fear combine well with innate human feelings towards such things to make reliable fodder for the horror movie industry. So much so that it has become a b-move cliche. However this has not diminished its power to make us recoil in horror when executed well by a competent director.
This is no "joke phobia" but a very real and scary medical condition that is in some ways self perpetuating as itching causes sores which can be come infected and therefore sore... It is thought to be triggered by stress and fatigue. There is some possibility that this all has connections in its past to the origin of the phrase "to make your skin crawl" but this is by no means an established fact.
A popular urban legend has it that a woman purchased a bra and did not wash it before wearing it. The story goes that it was "infected" with eggs that hatched and ate into her breast. This is often circulated with a fake image of a breast with live creatures eating the flesh. Even though the image is easily provable as a fake it is nevertheless a disturbing sight.
Sufferers should probably avoid reading DC comics as Batman's enemy the scarecrow often causes such fear based hallucinations in his victims. Likewise many horror films use contaminated or rotting food for a cheap scare in the first half of the film.
Films to avoid:
see also: (sources etc)
- DELUSIONS OF PARASITOSIS AND OTHER FORMS OF MONOSYMPTOMATIC HYPOCHONDRIACAL PSYCHOSIS General Discussion and Case Illustrations; Dermatologic Clinics - Volume 14, Issue 3 (July 1996) - Copyright © 1996 W. B. Saunders Company