It took a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis for me to fully understand that your physical state can affect your mental state. Struggling through the fatigue, mental fogginess, and physical pain of those early years gave me increased compassion for a friend’s mother who had passed away after a long battle with kidney failure during our high school years. Perhaps its not until your own health falters that you can truly understand how feeling crummy and in pain all the time can turn someone with a sunny disposition into an irrational shrew.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that depression goes hand-in-hand with multiple sclerosis. How you physically feel can affect your mood and drain your joy for life. When living hurts, it’s easy to snap at loved ones, assign blame, or lash out in other ways.
The Boston globe reported this week that infections can affect your personality, too. We are reminded of how syphilis causes dementia/madness and that Lyme disease has been linked to suicide.
The Washington Post also noted the importance of microbes in shaping our personalities. “The freakiest of the behavior-warping microbes,” reporter Ben Harper writes, “may be Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.”
Yes, that’s the one you can get from cleaning cat litter boxes.
Researchers have found that people infected with this parasite — but who have no symptoms of infection — tend to become more apprehensive and insecure. Infected men tend to become more stubborn and jealous, while women become more conscientious and concerned about others.
You can protect yourself from this parasite by wearing a dust filter mask from a hardware store when you are handling kitty litter. Pregnant women should never handle kitty litter, of course. If you believe you may be infected, a parasite cleanse is a gentle and painless way to eradicate the infection.
You’ll feel better once the parasite is gone, and your personality may just change, too.