Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan Review | Summary and Q&A

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September 28, 2016
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ThePoptimist
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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan Review

TL;DR

A young reporter's life takes a terrifying turn as she experiences hallucinations, seizures, and paranoia, leading to a rare autoimmune encephalitis diagnosis.

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Key Insights

  • πŸ§‘β€βš•οΈ Susannah Cahalen's experience highlights the challenges of diagnosing rare diseases that mimic mental health issues.
  • 😷 The timely diagnosis and proper treatment saved Susannah's life, emphasizing the importance of medical research and advancements.
  • πŸ™‚ The book sheds light on the often misdiagnosed condition of autoimmune encephalitis, raising awareness and potentially saving lives.
  • πŸ§‘β€βš•οΈ Susannah's story serves as a reminder that mental health should not be dismissed or stigmatized, as there may be underlying physical causes.
  • 😷 The medical thriller aspect of the book, reminiscent of the TV show "House," adds to its compelling nature.
  • πŸͺœ Susannah's ability to recount her experience with unflinching reportage adds authenticity and intensity to the narrative.
  • ❓ The financial burden of the treatment highlights the privilege that some individuals have in affording proper healthcare.

Transcript

So this is a true to life, Dr. House MD medical thriller. When we’re first introduced to Susannah Cahalen she’s a 20-something reporter for the New York Post when one week she notices two tiny red dots on her arm. Absolutely certain it’s bed bugs she hires an exterminator to examine her apartment and when he comes up empty she still insists he fumi... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What initially prompted Susannah to seek medical help?

Susannah initially noticed two red dots on her arm and believed it was a bed bug infestation.

Q: Why did doctors dismiss Susannah's symptoms as stress and anxiety?

Susannah's symptoms were atypical, and her medical tests, including MRIs and blood tests, came back normal.

Q: What role did Dr. Souhel Najjar play in Susannah's diagnosis?

Dr. Souhel Najjar administered a pencil and paper test called the "Panzarino-Frommer Test," which revealed abnormalities and led to the autoimmune encephalitis diagnosis.

Q: How did Susannah's experience affect her relationship with her boyfriend?

Susannah's boyfriend witnessed her intense episodes and struggled to cope with the ordeal, causing strain in their relationship.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Susannah Cahalen, a reporter, starts experiencing physical and mental symptoms, including hallucinations, numbness, and delusions.

  • Doctors initially dismiss her symptoms as stress and anxiety, but they worsen over time.

  • Finally, a pencil and paper test administered by Dr. Souhel Najjar leads to the diagnosis of NDMA autoimmune encephalitis.

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