Is Meat a Culprit for Explosive Rage Disorder?

road rage disorder

How do you like your meat cooked? If you are anything like me you like it well done – cremated my children call it – so there is not a trace of blood visible.

Others, and I seem to be in the minority, prefer it medium rare, or even ‘blue’, so raw in fact that good vet could get it back on its feet.

I have my mother to thank for my preference – she was always terrified that undercooked meat would cause some kind of illness, particularly pork. She used to go on about ‘maggots’ in the pork that had to be cooked properly or they’d still be alive. As a child, the thought of eating maggots, even dead ones, filled me with horror and to this day I rarely eat pork.

But recent findings suggest that actually, she may have been on to something.

Explosive Rage Disorder

Also known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder, ERD is a condition which causes a person to have uncontrolled outbursts of rage, usually with little provocation.

Their reactions are totally disproportionate to the given situation – a car overtaking them for instance, or a dropped plate. Inconsequential incidences that, to most of us, would hardly register on the anger scale. And yet to others, would give rise to absolute rage and fury.

These episodes of rage are not pre-meditated and can take the form of verbal aggression, physical aggression (against both objects and people), and verbal assault against another person.

According to the DSM-5, the criteria for ERD is as follows:

“Recurrent outbursts that demonstrate an inability to control impulses, including either of the following:

Verbal aggression (tantrums, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression that occurs twice in a week-long period for at least three months and does not lead to destruction of property or physical injury (Criterion A1)

Three outbursts that involve injury or destruction within a year-long period (Criterion A2)

Aggressive behaviour is grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the psychosocial stressors (Criterion B)

The outbursts are not premeditated and serve no premeditated purpose (Criterion C)

The outbursts cause distress or impairment of functioning, or lead to financial or legal consequences (Criterion D)

The individual must be at least six years old (Criterion E)

The recurrent outbursts cannot be explained by another mental disorder and are not the result of another medical disorder or substance use (Criterion F)

It is important to note that DSM-5 now includes two separate criteria for types of aggressive outbursts (A1 and A2) which have empirical support:[5]

Criterion A1: Episodes of verbal and/or non-damaging, non-destructive, or non-injurious physical assault that occur, on average, twice weekly for three months. These could include temper tantrums, tirades, verbal arguments/fights, or assault without damage. This criterion includes high frequency/low intensity outbursts.

Criterion A2: More severe destructive/assaultive episodes which are more infrequent and occur, on average, three times within a twelve-month period. These could be destroying an object without regard to value, assaulting an animal or individual. This criterion includes high-intensity/low-frequency outbursts.”

Women, in particular, are at severe risk if they carry the parasite. It has been found that they are more likely to self-harm or attempt/commit violent suicide than infected men.

So what does this have to do with meat?

meat and disorderUndercooked meat, in particular pork, lamb and venison, can carry a parasite, known as Toxoplasma Gondii. This parasitic bug, once ingested, causes toxoplasmosis and it has been suggested that at least 50% of people will eventually be infected with it.

Most people will never know they have it, because it very often doesn’t cause any symptoms, and in people who do become symptomatic (around 10-20%), the effects are similar to that of the ‘flu (high temperature, swollen glands, aching limbs and sore throat for instance) although are usually much milder.

For those who are diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, no treatment is usually given unless they have an underlying condition, such as a weakened immune system, or pregnant women.

Once the illness has run its course, the parasite then goes into a latent, or long-term dormant stage, which up until recently has been considered harmless.

However, scientists have discovered that people with Explosive Rage Disorder are twice as likely to be carrying the Toxoplasma Gondii parasite as their mild-mannered counterparts.

The parasite lives in the brain, and it is believed that it may cause the brain chemistry to change, thus altering the carrier’s behaviour.

By ingesting contaminated meat, either by direct consumption or by using a knife, cutting board, or other foods which have been in contact with the contaminated meat, we can introduce the parasite into our system.

We can greatly reduce our risk of contracting toxoplasmosis through meat by taking precautions:

  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure meat is cooked to a high enough temperature (145 degrees F for whole cuts, 160 degrees F for ground meat, and 165 degrees F for all poultry).
  • Freeze meat for several days to reduce chances of infection.
  • Wash or peel fruit and vegetables before eating (reduces cross-contamination)
  • Wash all utensils, cutting boards, plates and work tops when using raw meat.
  • Wash hands thoroughly using hot water and soap.

What can be done?

Once a person carries the parasite in their brain, there is little that can be done to change that. Once inside the central nervous system, any attempts to remove it is likely to kill the host.

Counselling and therapy can be utilised to deal with the rage issues, but until a cure is found the only way to be safe from the parasite is to take every precaution when preparing and eating meat.

Back to Top