A Common Parasitic Infection May Affect A Person’s Mental Health

In yet another reminder that mental health issues can result from physical ailments, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that people with rage disorder are twice as likely to have a parasitic infection typically found in undercooked meat, contaminated water and cat feces.

Researchers from the University of Chicago found that the relatively harmless infection, called toxoplasmosis, may be associated with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, a mental health condition that triggers recurrent outbursts of aggression in situations that don’t necessarily call for it.

The study examined 358 adult subjects who were evaluated for IED, among other psychiatric disorders like depression. Volunteers were also scored for signs of impulsivity and aggression, two symptoms of IED, through a psychiatric test. The subjects were then sorted into three groups based on the results: One group had IED, another had other psychiatric conditions and the last group was a control group with no mental illness.

The authors found that the group with IED were twice as likely to test positive for toxoplasmosis than the control group. Nearly 22 percent of the IED group had the infection, compared to just 9 percent of the individuals without mental illness. Approximately 16 percent of those in the “other psychiatric conditions” group had the infection, but reported similar test scores in aggression to the healthy group. Toxoplasmosis-positive individuals scored higher in aggression across all groups.

It’s important to note there are also several caveats with this research. The study used a small sample, for starters. Toxoplasmosis is also relatively common — an estimated 30 percent of all humans have it — and most healthy people likely won’t show any symptoms, according to the authors.

Plus, the results found that there was a correlation between the mental health disorder and toxoplasmosis, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest that the —> Read More