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Health and Wellness: when the brain is under attack



Well-known member
Oct 21, 2014
When the brain is under attack

When the brain attacks: a newly discovered disease can mimic psychosis - Health & wellness - The Boston Globe

A new disease at the crossroads of psychiatry and neurology could help in the understanding of psychosis

Annalisa Meier dreamed about moving to Manhattan for college and voting in her first presidential election in 2008. But with freshman year about to begin, the assertive and lively 18-year-old’s behavior changed. She grew indecisive, withdrawn, and quick to anger.

Then, Meier had a seizure.

Susannah Cahalan was a young New York Post reporter when she started to forget assignments. She became fixated on the idea that her home was infested with bedbugs. Paranoid and irrational, she laughed and cried inappropriately, moods rocketing from euphoria to intense sadness.

She thought it must be stress, or the flu. One doctor told her she had mono. Her parents suspected she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Then she, too, had a seizure.

The women’s slow unraveling could have been the beginning of a psychotic break, followed by a lifetime of hospitalization and medication.

Instead, they were found to have a newly described disease called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, caused when the body’s immune system goes haywire and attacks a protein in the brain. The protein, the NMDA receptor, helps neurons communicate; it is the same receptor that’s blocked by PCP or ketamine — both drugs that can make a normal person act like someone with schizophrenia.

The disease typically strikes young women, but also can affect men and children. It can begin subtly, with a change in behavior, often after a headache or flu-like illness. Symptoms worsen to include agitation, paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations. Then seizures begin. Psychosis worsens. Blood pressure might plummet. Patients could ultimately grow sick enough to require a breathing tube. Some slip into a state of complete unresponsiveness. But with aggressive therapies to suppress the immune system, most awaken to return to normal lives.

Experts suggest that the disease and others like it — at the intersection of psychiatry and neurology — can broaden our understanding of the basis of psychosis and, perhaps, in some cases, its treatment.

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Well-known member
Aug 17, 2012
The West Country
How awful for the girl.. but i'm glad that this got recognised and she wasn't instead sectioned!
It really makes you wonder how many undiscovered illnesses like this people may have that cause symptoms of mental health issues. :unsure:
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