Blame Your Rage on Your Cat: You Could Have the Feline Poop Parasite Toxoplasma Gondii
There's a link between an explosive anger disorder and a certain pesky parasite, and that parasite might just come from your cat's butthole.
Are you prone to road rage? Have you ever unexpectedly become so overcome with anger, you've flipped a table at a fancy dinner party?
People with intermittent explosive disorder — a psychiatric condition characterized by repeated, sudden bouts of angry or violent behavior — are more than twice as likely to have been exposed to a certain common parasite, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has found.
The parasite is called Toxoplasma gondii, and it affects warm-blooded mammals — including a third of all humans. Unlike parasites that make us sick, Toxoplasma gondii makes cysts in the brain that can stay there for our whole lives, according to New Scientist. Past studies have linked the parasite to aggression, impulsivity and suicidal behavior.
Oh, about that cat poop.
Toxoplasma gondii can be spread through undercooked meat or contaminated water, but it's also spread through the feces of infected cats, according to the study.
To conduct their study, University of Chicago researchers analyzed data from 358 adults. The test subjects were divided into three groups, according to New Scientist: people with intermittent explosive disorder, people with other psychiatric disorders and people who hadn't been diagnosed with any psychiatric disorders.
Those with intermittent explosive disorder were more than two times more likely than the healthy control group to test positive for Toxoplasma gondii, the researchers found. Subjects with aggression and anger were also more likely to be harboring the parasite.
"Our work suggests that latent infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite may change brain chemistry in a fashion that increases the risk of aggressive behavior," said senior author Dr. Emil Coccaro, according to Science Daily.
But if you hang out around cat poop all day, don't worry: Having the parasite doesn't mean you'll suddenly pick up intermittent explosive disorder.
"We do not know if this relationship is causal, and not everyone that tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues," Coccaro said, according to Science Daily.