Morgellons is a controversial and poorly understood condition in which unusual thread-like fibers appear under the skin.

The patient may feel like something is crawling, biting, or stinging all over.

  • Is there a non-medical term for such a feeling of something crawling on the body/under the skin.
  • An adjective or a noun ?
  • 4
    Yes, you have the creepy-crawlies. – Dan Bron Mar 9 '15 at 12:28
  • 4
    @Dan: In my experience, when a person says he's got the creepy-crawlies he means he's nervous, scared (as an alternative to heebie-jeebies). And if he says something/someone makes my skin crawl that's also usually figurative (he means he's disgusted, revolted by the thing/person). – FumbleFingers Mar 9 '15 at 14:03
  • "The shiveries." – Darth Egregious Mar 9 '15 at 20:00
  • Read an article referring to Morgellons at bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-32142332. "In December she (Joni Mitchell) told Billboard magazine that she had a rare skin condition, Morgellons disease, which prevented her from performing.... Morgellons is a controversial condition and is not recognised by mainstream medical authorities. Sufferers say it is characterised by crawling and stinging sensations under the skin but many in the medical community believe it is a psychiatric disorder." – rajah9 Apr 1 '15 at 19:55

From Wikipedia...

Formication is the medical term for a sensation that exactly resembles that of small insects crawling on (or under) the skin.

Less "medically-minded" speakers are likely to say [it feels like] my skin is crawling [with ants], which is effectively the same thing (formic acid in ant stings derives from Latin formica "ant").

  • 2
    @Josh61: It's not exclusively "medical" - back when I was a student 40 years ago, a lot of us became familiar with the word because the condition itself was fairly common in the context of "recreational drugs". Particularly with LSD (acid). – FumbleFingers Mar 9 '15 at 12:52
  • 2
    Yep, "crawling sensation" would probably be the most common term. ("Creepy-crawlies" might also work, except it's often used figuratively, referring, eg, to someone who gives you the "creeps".) – Hot Licks Mar 9 '15 at 13:04
  • @Hot Licks: I hear "creepy-crawlies" all the time (I happen to live in Crawley! :), but never with this exact sense. It's nearly always the literal usage (actual, but unnamed, small crawling insects), or sometimes an alternative to heebie-jeebies ("the creeps"). – FumbleFingers Mar 9 '15 at 13:15
  • 9
    Careful with your pronunciation of that word......... – user3306356 Mar 9 '15 at 13:16
  • @Hot Licks, Thank you, I believe I will have to contend with "crawling sensation", – ATHENA Mar 9 '15 at 20:35
 crawling, biting, or stinging all over.

I would call it a (hallucinated) sensation or simply tactile sensitivity.


  • Peppercorns will give you the sensation of a million tiny pinpricks on your tongue.
  • I somewhat like the expression- tactile sensitivity...however, for an average audience they are too strong, thanks! – ATHENA Mar 9 '15 at 20:37

A related medical term is neuropathy, which refers to nerve damage or disease. Dealing with a subclass, mononeuropathy stemming from, say, carpel tunnel syndrome, the page observes:

The damage to the nerve can result in numbness, tingling, unusual sensations, and pain in the first three fingers on the thumb side of the hand.

Neuropathy could be other places besides the hands and feet. Other subclasses of neuropathy from Diabetic neuropathy symptoms are:

  • Peripheral neuropathy (most common, affecting feet, legs, hands, and arms)
  • Autonomic neuropathy (affecting the autonomic nervous system)
  • Radiculoplexus neuropathy (affecting thighs, hips, buttocks, or legs)
  • Mononeuropathy (affecting a specific nerve)

If you are referring more to the sensation (as opposed to a medical condition), a different medical word referring to the tingling is paresthesia, which are described as

a sensation of tingling, tickling, pricking, or burning of a person's skin with no apparent long-term physical effect

So a patient might walk in to his doctor's office, and describe that he has tingling in his right hand. The doctor would place in the EMR that the patient reports paresthesia, and then run some tests and find out that the cause of the paresthesia is mononeuropathy caused by too much typing and mousing in EL&U.

(Even though you're looking for a medical term, English speakers will colloquially say their leg has falling asleep when sensation has left the limb in question, usually because the circulation was cut off. There is no parallel leg is waking up, as circulation returns and one senses pins and needles or tingling.

The French would say Fourmillements dans les mains ou les pieds ("ants in my hands or my feet"). (Note the fourmis (ants) that @FumbleFingers referred to.) I think that fourmillements would be a considered a colloquial term, while paresthésies would be the medical term.)

  • Avec plasir. The French phrase is the first that came to mind, but this is an English forum. BTW, I am seeing fourmillements at medical websites like sante-medecine.commentcamarche.net/faq/… , so it may be accepted as a medical term. – rajah9 Mar 9 '15 at 20:50

Tingle:a slight prickling or stinging sensation.

slither: a movement of something crawling or twisting.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.