Auto-Immune Disease Becomes Mistaken For Psychotic Symptoms For One Journalist

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“One moment I would be you know, kind of hysterically happy, and then the next moment I would be despondent. I couldn’t control my emotions.”

Susannah Cahalan seemed like a healthy young journalist, that is until she began experiencing changes in her behavior and emotions before having her first seizure. When she was hospitalized, she started attacking nurses, tried to escape, and began seeing things that weren’t really there. Doctors were led to think that she was slowly losing her sanity.

Dr. Souhel Najjar, the director of neuroscience at Staten Island University Hospital, says Cahalan might have ended up institutionalized in a mental institution had it not been for one finding.

Cahalan’s symptoms included:

Numbness on the left side of her body
Random mood swings at work
Seizures and hallucinations of her father beating her stepmother, Civil War paintings coming to life, and a statue of Buddha smiling at her when she locked herself in the bathroom.

It was the numbness on the left side of her body that really caught Najjar’s attention.

“It was difficult for me to accept the fact, as much as she was psychotic, that it was a pure mental disorder. I realized that’s when her disease started before she became psychotic.

I needed to prove to many doctors involved in her care before me that this was actually a neurological disease. I had to find a test in my mind that proved it.” 

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Cahalan's clock

Image: Screenshot/CBS New York

Dr. Najjar had her draw a clock, just to see what he could obtain from it. After seeing how she drew it, it all seemed clear to him. He explains that because she only drew the right side of the clock, it was a function of the right side of the brain.

“Disruption of the blood-brain barrier, which is essentially the wall between the periphery and the brain. It prevents harmful substances in the blood to enter into the brain.”

Article/Video: CBS