Podcast Blog: The Diagnosis Trap in Brain On Fire (Netflix Original)

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

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Episode 36: The Diagnosis Trap

After missing last week's episode due to some struggle with depression and a day in the ER after experiencing Olfactory Hallucination, or, phantom smells, Mike is back. Wanting to specifically talk about how mental illness is treated in hospitals and Doctors' offices, Mike and Ryan take a look at the Netflix Original, Brain On Fire.

The coin is in the air about how to treat patients who present symptoms that could be construed as physical health or mental health. We have to remember how much red tape are in the hospital's way due to insurance; Doctors don't want to give us unnecessary hospital bills if they can't prove a reason for overnight stays or certain procedures. We also have to understand that those diagnosed with mental illness feel neglected when a possible health problem is written of as a psychiatric issue, and some mental health patients just want there to be a physical reason for their illness and are hoping that, just maybe, they can be cured if only they were taken seriously and given more tests. It's a tough one.

Movie Synopsis

Susanna Cahalan is a 21 year old woman quickly excelling in her career at The New York Post. She’s happy. She’s falling in love, and for all she knows, she’s healthy. That is until Susanna suddenly begins to experience an array of health problems that are progressing at a breakneck speed, and, they’re unpredictable. She shows signs of visual hallucinations, audio hallucinations, manic episodes, depressive episodes, paranoia, personality change, confusion, poor memory, and more.

If it weren’t for another symptom, the Doctors and hospitals might have written her off as Bipolar, or Schizophrenic, and located her to a more equipped facility. She was lucky though, she also had the seizures. Due to the incredible hearts and knowledge of just a couple Doctors, they were able to look past signs of mental illness, run more diagnostic testing, and figure out the neurological dysfunction that was torturing her and her family.

Episode Diagnosis


4 of 5 "New York Posts" for the portrayal of the difficulty of diagnosis


3.5 of 5 "Take Your Pills" - He likes it. Wouldn't watch again.

Pop Psych 101 is a weekly mental health podcast hosted by Therapist, Ryan Engelstad, and advocate, Mike Graham. They analyze the portrayal of mental health in pop culture and discuss the accuracy, for better or worse. 



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