Susannah Cahalan had a good life going before her descent into a madness that included paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings and violent lashing out toward others. At 24 years old she had a great job as a reporter with the Washington Post. Then she became too insane to go to work.
2. Her Psychosis Started WIth A Fear Of Bugs That Weren't There
After noticing a few tiny red spots on one of her arms, Susannah became convinced her studio apartment was contaminated with bed bugs. Even after a complete check by the exterminators showed nary a bug, she didn't believe it and became even more worried about the bugs.
Soon, Susannah noticed an overreaction to things that hadn't bothered her before like hallways feeling like tunnels. She was unable to complete and publish an interview with John Walsh of America's Most Wanted because of the new sensations she was feeling.
3. Hospitalized After A Seizure, Cahalan Punched And Kicked Nurses
The paranoia became worse and Susannah Cahalan also noticed she was experiencing extreme mood swings as well as tingling in her hands. After suffering a seizure, she was hospitalized. Convinced everyone was out to get her, Susannah began punching and kicking at the nurses. She was also "seeing things that weren't there."
4. Doctors Give Her One More Test Before Committing Her
In hospital, Susannah Cahalan's violent behavior and hallucinations didn't subside. Her doctors started preparations to commit her to a mental health facility. Not wanting to do that before exhausting all other possibilities, Dr. Souhel Najjar gave Cahalan one more test.
He asked her to draw a clock.
5. Here Is The Drawing She Made That Stunned Doctors And Solved Her Case!
When Susannah Cahalan drew this after Dr. Najjar asked her to draw a clock, the good doctor (literally!) had his suspicions confirmed in a very shocking way! Susannah had put all of the clock numbers on the right side due to a physical condition, not a mental one!
Dr. Najjar realized that the cause of Susannah's behavior and symptoms was a rare auto-immune brain disease! He was then able to administer the appropriate medication to completely treat her disease. Dr. Najjar has also founded a clinic focused on the treatment of these kinds of brain diseases.
Dr. Najjar's diagnosis for Susannah Cahalan was Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis. This disorder causes immune system antibodies to destroy the brain. If left untreated, the condition can cause coma and death. Dr. Najjar was able to completely treat Susannah without any lasting side effects!
Susannah Cahalan wrote a book about her monthlong experiences of insane behavior, hospitalization and finally being cured of her discovered auto-immune brain disorder. Her book, titled Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness, sold well and helped her document what had happened during that crazy time in her life.
After her ordeal and book, Susannah took to the podium to share her experiences in the hopes of creating a better understanding of auto-immune brain diseases like hers for both the medical community and patient community. Good for her!