Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire

My Month of Madness

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The author relates what she underwent during a month-long hospital stay during which she was diagnosed with encephalitis and discusses how the autoimmune disease affected her mental stability and her hospitalization influenced her life and family.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2012
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781451621372
Branch Call Number: 616.83 CAH 2012
616.83 CAH 2012
Characteristics: xii, 264 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

CRRL_MegRaymond Feb 21, 2018

The author woke up after a month in the hospital unable to move or speak. She was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that mimics schizophrenia and autism, and could be the root of “demonic possessions” in history.

AL_HOLLYR Sep 19, 2017

A gripping, frightening medical mystery. Fast-paced and well-written memoir.

samcmar May 25, 2017

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this is such an intense look at someone with a rare illness and how they essentially lost a month of their life with no recollection of what happened. I found myself completely glued to this book, and even when the author got very technical about her disease, it never felt overwhelming , and I found I understood what was going on. A great read!

Apr 30, 2017

The author describes her months long experience with an undiagnosed brain disease. It appeared first as inexplicable quirks, then proceeded rapidly to psychosis. Doctors thought she partied too hard, was under too much stress from her job at the NY Post, had epilepsy, was psychotic, etc., etc. In short, they just didn't know. Her live-in boyfriend was steadfast. Her mother and father, estranged from each other, were too. All of her doctors were mystified. Finally, a new doctor asked her to draw a picture of a clock. She drew all the numbers on the right hand side of the circle, giving him a clue about the disease in her brain. Her recovery was as traumatic, though not as dramatic, as her disease. The book was interesting because her experience was so weird, and her recounting of it was competent. It was not, however, uplifting, insightful, or poetic.

Dec 10, 2016

This book was such a page turner. All of a sudden, writer Cahalan starts to go crazy. She seems paranoid, wild and unpredictable and ends up in the hospital. Although it seems apparent that she should go to a psychiatric ward, she and her family are insistent that she stays in medical. What happens is fascinating and the implications so interesting for neuroscience and others who have been condemned to mental institutions.

Chapel_Hill_KatieJ Nov 13, 2016

New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan suddenly starts experiencing an array of frightening symptoms that confounds doctors. She has seizures, extreme light sensitivity, anger, a total change in personality, hallucinations, and memory loss. Eventually she pieces together her lost month of hospitalization where she remembers nothing. The book is fascinating as readers, like her original doctors, have no idea what is going on. Her parents and boyfriend are baffled and devastated by her sudden turn for the worst, but always believe that the real Susannah is still in there somewhere.

Jul 27, 2016

A tight line between frightening and fascinating, Cahalan's story provides a intricately detailed account of a mind going, going gone into insanity and emerging back out. It's terrifying to travel this journey with her. Lot's of pause for thought: What triggers brain dysfunction? How much can we count on the medical profession to accurately diagnose? Anyone interested in neuroscience should read this book.

Jul 07, 2016

Very interesting.
The author seemed to have difficulty with ending the book. The last couple of chapters seemed drawn out. But otherwise, a good read.

Feb 06, 2016

A startling account of someone's experience with the truly unknown; a perplexing and inexplicable illness that takes away your sanity. It makes me wonder how many people are walking around with some form of this disease! Educational and eye-opening, I realized that the positive outcome of Ms. Cahalan's story was based entirely on her fortunate status as the daughter of wealthy, loving parents, a committed and caring boyfriend, access to top-notch healthcare and all-round good friends and extended family (as Ms. Cahalan points out in the book). What happens to the rest who aren't as lucky? Thankfully, with the publication of this book, recognition of the symptoms of the disease and correctly diagnosing it will save someone else's life, regardless of social status.

Uyc Feb 04, 2016

Brilliant story that really illustrates how disjointed a mind can become and the effects on one's personality. The fact that she was able to pull out so many lost memories from family and close friends, as well as her time in the hospital made for an interesting read. It was not able to continuously hold me rapt though and it feels like it drags a bit near the end.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

May 12, 2015

shaylynnhunt thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

GSPLNadia Mar 13, 2015

GSPLNadia thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


Add a Summary

Aug 11, 2016

A young reporter named Susannah Cahalan begins to have strange medical issues like seizures, mood swings and suicide attempts. The doctors think she has no hope. If it wasn't for her family and her boyfriend, she would have been put in a mental asylum.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at ELPL

To Top