10 Brain on Fire Discussion Questions

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Brain On Fire" by Susannah Cahalan. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What are some Brain on Fire discussion questions? How can Brain on Fire book club questions help provoke discussion?

Brain on Fire is about one woman’s struggle to get a diagnosis for a rare condition. These Brain on Fire book club questions explore the key points of the book.

Read on for a list of 10 Brain on Fire discussion questions.

Brain on Fire Discussion Questions

People in medical distress are often happier to get a dire diagnosis than to not get one at all. For instance, Susannah is thrilled to hear that her problems stem from a bipolar disorder, a very serious psychiatric condition. She even rationalizes her relief by telling herself that many famous people have also suffered from this disorder. Now reflect on your own experiences waiting for answers in difficult situations with these Brain on Fire discussion questions. 

3 Questions on Assessing Motivations

  • Have you ever had to wait for difficult news? How did the waiting make you feel?
  • If you got bad news, did you embrace it, even though it was bad? 
  • Looking back on your reaction, do you feel you responded appropriately?

4 Questions on Rejecting Authority

Dr. Bailey believes that Susannah is in bad health because she drinks too much. In spite of Dr. Bailey’s reputation as a top neurologist, Susannah’s mom refuses to accept his diagnosis.

  • What made Susannah’s mother so sure of herself that she was able to reject the opinion of a respected authority?
  • Have you ever rejected the opinion of an expert or someone you trust, like a family member? What was the situation?
  • What gave you the confidence to reject their opinion?
  • What did you learn from this experience that you can apply in the future? Under what conditions would you do the same in the future? 

3 Brain on Fire Book Club Questions on Reframing the Negative

Even though Susannah has gone through a terrible experience, she wouldn’t undo the past. Think about what she’s gained from her ordeal and how she changed a negative experience into a positive one.

  • How did Susannah reframe her own story to make it positive?
  • Do you think that Susannah’s work on behalf of patients with her disease helps her deal with her past? 
  • Looking back on your own life, have you had a difficult experience that you wouldn’t give up? How has it changed your behavior?
10 Brain on Fire Discussion Questions

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Susannah Cahalan's "Brain On Fire" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Brain On Fire summary:

  • How a high-functioning reporter became virtually disabled within a matter of weeks
  • How the author Cahalan recovered through a lengthy process and pieced together what happened to her
  • How Cahalan's sickness reveals the many failures of the US healthcare system

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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