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Malaria Caused Me Anxiety, Depression & OCD

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jun 16, 2019

Question

As-Salamu Alykum. I am 23 years old unmarried girl living with my parents alone. I got sick in August. I experienced conditions near death. When my parents took me to the hospital, I saw a man in a white dress with a beard sitting on a bench of the hospital and calling me towards him. I told my parents about him. I thought he was a guard, but they couldn't see him. When we reached the door of the hospital, he disappeared.

My body couldn't move; my head was bombing. I suffered severe anxiety. Then I was alone at home. I used to cry all the time and felt needles in my body. My hands and feet were sweating. I have no friends, no company, no siblings or cousins besides me – just my mom and dad. I used to study in a different city. I only talk to my friends on social media. They look so happy while I feel so alone at home.

Next month, I got sick again. The doctor said it is malaria again. I got treatment from a different doctor, but it made me sicker. I felt I would die; I had severe pain in my stomach, and I couldn’t move my legs. My teeth were vibrating, I could not open my mouth, and my vision was dull. I screamed a lot and asked Allah to help me. He put mercy on me and gave me a new life, but I am getting sick mentally day by day. I can't eat, or sleep, or do anything. I cry all the time. I wait for death at every moment. I see everything as I came from another planet.

Please make du’aa’ for me. Satan is attacking me; he whispers bad thoughts to me about Islam. I want to believe in one Allah. I want to worship one Allah. Please, I do not want to die in this horrible condition of faith. Please guide me. May Allah bless you.

Counselor

Answer


Malaria Caused Me Anxiety, Depression & OCD

In this counseling answer:

I highly recommend that you seek out counseling as only a therapist can diagnose you with Depression, Anxiety Disorder and OCD.

In regards to OCD and intrusive thoughts, it is more helpful to address the mechanisms that maintain it because this is the key to overcoming the problem. OCD is kept going by a vicious circle of obsession, anxiety, and response to anxiety.

Find out what kind of malaria you had. Some types may cause impaired memory loss, personality change, depression, and other neuropsychiatric symptoms well after the malaria was treated.

Learn relaxation techniques and remember Allah often.


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us. As I understand it, you became very sick with malaria and had a high fever. While you were sick, you had a vision or possible delusion which may or may not be linked to the illness. It seems that after your first illness, you developed anxiety. Then after your second bout of malaria, you became even worse concerning the anxiety, which may or may not be related to the strong medications they gave you as well as your pre-existing anxiety disorder.

When one suffers from anxiety, it is not unusual to have constant thoughts of death and feelings that things are not real. Anxietycoach states that “people with chronic anxiety disorders may find themselves having lots of thoughts about death, and people with Panic Disorder often have lots of worrisome thoughts about dying.” While I am not sure if you have panic disorder (which does sound like you may have), you do suffer from both depression and anxiety which must be addressed in sha’ Allah.

Malaria Caused Me Anxiety, Depression & OCD - About Islam

While you may have needed to stay at home as you were recuperating from malaria, I understand this was a very lonely time for you, sister. However, it was needed in order for you to fully heal. Sadly, you did have a relapse. While I understand how much you missed your friends as well as having a social life, in sha’ Allah one day you will look back at this and be thankful you were home at this time under the loving care of your parents.

Overcome OCD

Sister, I do see you are struggling with a lot of issues and questions which are impairing your ability to think straight as well as bordering on intrusive thoughts such as in OCD – which is classified with anxiety disorders. Overcoming states in regards to OCD and intrusive thoughts that “it is more helpful to address the mechanisms that maintain it because this is the key to overcoming the problem. OCD is kept going by a vicious circle of obsession, anxiety, and response to anxiety”.

Furthermore, in relation to your inability to pray at times, or read Qur’an, or worrying about Muslims on TV who appear to not fear death, overcoming website points out that it is “the degree of importance that you attach to intrusive thoughts or images. It’s crucial to understand here that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts and doubts that are usually absurd and are the opposite of what they want to do or think. The difference is that people with OCD have more frequent and distressing thoughts than others because of the meaning they attach to the thoughts and the way they respond to them.


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OCD is maintained when you interpret intrusive thoughts as a sign that is there a serious risk of harm to yourself or others (over-importance of thoughts) and also believe that you can prevent the harm by what you do or don’t do (overinflated responsibility)”.

Thus, dear sister, it appears you may be caught in a vicious cycle of feeding into these thoughts by attaching high importance to them rather than letting them pass and eventually diminish. Anxiety in part is responsible for maintaining these thoughts. While our relationship with Allah is the most important aspect of our lives, it should not become a mental illness in which we battle with on a day to day basis.

Again, going back to the progression of your depression, anxiety and possible panic disorder, it is feasible to conclude that it has developed into OCD (intrusive thoughts). However, I cannot diagnose you as I have limited information. Only a therapist in your area can assess and correctly diagnose you, sister, and I highly recommend that you seek out counseling.

With this recommendation, I want you to keep in mind that anxiety, depression and OCD (if, in fact, this is what you are suffering from) is very common. In fact, it is one of the most common mental health disorders worldwide. So you are not alone. Secondly, it is treatable. These two points are good news.

Malaria

The other factor which I would kindly suggest is that you find out what kind of malaria you had. There is a type of malaria called cerebral malaria. It can cause impaired memory loss, personality change, depression, and other neuropsychiatric symptoms well after the malaria was treated. While it may be unlikely that this is the case, I did feel it was necessary to mention it so that your doctor could be asked which type of malaria you had in order to rule out cerebral malaria. This would be very important for your therapist to know as well.

I urge you sister to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and find out if you had cerebral malaria. I also kindly urge you to contact a therapist in your area as soon as possible to get counseling. The sooner you do, the sooner you will begin to find relief and feel better in sha’ Allah. In the meantime, please do practice relaxation techniques to help you through difficult feelings and emotions while you are waiting for your appointments.

Inform Your Parents

Lastly dear sister, please let your parents know how you have been feeling if you haven’t already. In addition, even if you feel conflicted, fearful or otherwise anxious, draw close to Allah through prayer, du’aa’ and reading Qur’an.

While you may feel anxious, try to push past it, for Allah loves you and is most merciful and forgiving. He knows what you are going through, and He is there for you.

If you find you just cannot do it at the moment, let it go, do not dwell on it, and try at a later time. Don’t think about or “feed into” these thoughts, just let them pass. As stated, “the degree of importance that you attach to intrusive thoughts or images” is what maintains it.

Try the relaxation techniques and utilize dzkir to keep your mind focused and to give praises to Allah as there are rewards in dzkir. Make an appointment with your doctor as well as a therapist as soon as possible. Also, please let us know how you are doing.

You are in our prayers.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

What Causes Sadness and Depression?

Why Are Muslims More Likely to Suffer From OCD?

6 Ways to Reduce Anxiety & Stress Right Now




About Aisha Mohammad

Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word poetry projects.

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