If you experience anxiety, panic attacks, depression, memory or cognitive issues, ADHD or poor focus and someone suggests you may be suffering from a broken brain are you intrigued and hopeful that something that is broken can now be fixed OR do you consider the term broken brain too negative and scary?
I received this feedback from someone in my community when I shared my recent Broken Brain interview with Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m looking forward to seeing the [Broken Brain] documentaries however I dislike the title. Everything that you say and think is affecting your brain. For me Broken is not a word with healing potencies but suggests that is something very bad happening in the brain. And maybe that is the case, but how we interpret our symptoms is very crucial for healing. In my opinion it could be Healing the Brain or something like that. I think is very important that the title implies positivity not fear!
I shared this feedback with her: “Thanks for sharing – you’re the 4th person in a day to say this. Prior to your feedback and hearing from 3 mental health colleagues earlier today I had not considered the name would invoke negativity and fear. One of my mental health colleagues shared with me that “referring to people as ‘broken’ is really stigmatizing and inappropriate.”
My thinking is that just like a leg is broken, the brain can be broken and can just as easily be fixed when we address the root causes. I’ve also watched the series (during the test run late last year) and have seen the wisdom, caring and compassion of the experts and Dr. Hyman, as well as the solutions and message of hope. I suspect that has swayed my opinion too. But I do see your point on being positive and solution-oriented without the fear aspect.”
What do you think?
It’s important that I serve my community well – and that’s you! If something concerns you I want to know so I can address it. I also want you to know that I’m offering solutions hope and not wanting to create fear and negativity, so I posed this question on Facebook (together with the above feedback from the blog):
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the title of Dr. Hyman’s new Broken Brain docu-series?
What do you think? Good title? Bad title? And why?
The positive feedback: enlightening, fixable, hopeful
The majority of responses were positive feedback. Here are many of them:
- Mary Anne McEvoy: I rather like the title. When I read the word “Broken” it brought my awareness to: “WOW – the brain can actually get ‘broken’!” I want to see the docu-series because of the word broken.
- Cathcart Louque: I don’t mind the title at all. I work in mental health (as a Care Manger for a non-profit mental health organization helping low income people) and see “broken brains” everyday which could be so much better by diet, exercise, meditation etc. I wish something would shake people up into wanting to have better brain health. Dementia and Alzheimer’s can be at work ten, twenty, thirty years before it manifests but people continue to make bad choices. I hope his videos will bring enlightenment to many and more will be proactive! Me included 😀! Daily healthy choices are not always the easiest but boy it’s so worth it.
- Susan McDuffie: This title may really speak to those who feel in dire straits. ‘Have tried everything, read everything, and still struggle.’ Sometimes it’s the darker words that actually resonate with people.
- Wyndie: I’m not afraid of the word broken – it’s true. Some things break. But broken things can be fixed. When I hear that title, I don’t hear negative, I hear reality.
- Holly Higgins, NTP: I love the title. It’s catchy, alliterative, and it’s the exact words that so many of my clients use to describe how they feel. I’ve heard this phrase over and over by people who feel like they’ve been harmed by psychiatry or have never felt like their brain was working right. We are all going to have different reactions. It’s clear from the content of the series and the character of the people involved that this was not meant to be offensive.
- Marthe: I actually liked the title. I thought it was powerful and, to me, it inferred that brain issues are becoming common occurrences and that there are ways to heal.
- Leslie Montano: It’s just a title. I like the alliteration. It’s catchy, easy to remember, and certainly effective in that way for marketing. It not stigmatizing, it is not directly calling any person broken, it is speaking about a part of the body generally. Things that are broken can be repaired. There is hope. And personally, 2 years ago before I fixed my diet and lifestyle, I felt broken. Broken brain explains EXACTLY what was going on and how I was feeling.
- Sharleen McDowall: As a psychologist, I like the title. I see the title the same way you do – just like a broken leg. I think the title conveys a strong message and it is needed to spark the conversation about how we are treating our brains. Also, Dr. Hyman’s message focuses on how the broken brain can be healed which is very positive.
- Lee Ann Foster: First of all, it’s a good, empowering series giving people a lot of useful and hope-inspiring information to care for their brain related issues. Secondly, as a 30-year old functional neuropsychology practice, Neurosource, in which we get to root issues and help re-regulate brain function through evidence based technologies and lifestyle interventions, we find that many people are relieved when we show them through 3-D neuroimaging how their brain is dysregulated – or one could say broken. We find people feel hopeful when they see their issues are physiological in nature (and can be helped), versus giving them stigmatized and often inaccurate or unhelpful mental health diagnostic labels that mean very little aside from labeling for insurance and pharmaceutical purposes. Just my two cents.
- Pierce: For me the first step in healing is acknowledging that I’m broken at the moment. Then I focus on moving forward and healing for the long term.
- Deena Louise: My son has tuberous sclerosis that has left him severely disabled with autism, MR and uncontrolled epilepsy….when my daughter, who is younger than him by 6 years, was able to understand that he was “different” than neurotypical people, she asked what was wrong with him….why didn’t he talk. She didn’t understand autism, so we just told her he had a broken brain. Some things can be fixed and some things can’t. She understood it when we said it that way. I think the title is fine…broken is just a word used to describe something that isn’t working right at the moment. Dealing with anxiety, menopause, insomnia and panic…my brain definitely feels broken! I can’t wait to watch the series, I don’t care what he calls it. I am grateful for all of these lovely functional medicine docs and scientists giving of their time and expertise to help so many.
The less than positive feedback: worthless, negative, insensitive
Three mental health professionals felt the term broken brain was stigmatizing but other than this, surprisingly few people had negative feedback. A few people resonated with words like repair or mend instead of broken, saying most people think of broken as worthless and negative, and can’t be fixed. One mom felt it was insensitive to the real struggles of depression and anxiety. Here are a few specific comments:
- Donna: Broken brains aren’t as easily fixable as broken legs. Broken brain means Alzheimer’s or stroke or something equally scary to me. I think another word could have been used to get the point across…. whatever a broken but fixable brain is…
- Missy Ruth: Our brains are not broken. They regenerate and grow and change and are incredible. However, they certainly can feel like they are not operating like we wish they would. Labeling the brain as “broken” is an example of inflammatory linguistics, and as human beings we create fear by using terms that exaggerate. We scare ourselves. Nobody’s brain is broken.
If you don’t like the term broken brain, I’m hoping you will get some inspiration and feel some level of comfort from the positive comments above and watch it anyway. You will see there are solutions, compassion and hope!
Also, many of my clients who use words like “negative, worthless, scary and fear”, do feel better when we look into low serotonin and address low levels with tryptophan or 5-HTP. Also, addressing gluten issues, poor gut health, low GABA, low zinc and so on – everything body-related that can affect the mind and brain. All of this is covered in the docuseries, other then the use of targeted amino acids, which I cover extensively in my book The Antianxiety Food Solution, in my newsletters and elsewhere on this blog.
An apology: integrity, compassion and hope
I really want to hear your thoughts but also want to offer Dr. Hyman’s apology if you are offended by the term broken brain. As soon as his team started getting feedback they issued this statement on his behalf:
Thank you for your comment. We completely understand what you are saying and we agree. So much of this docuseries is about Dr. Hyman’s personal health crisis and how he treated his own brain disorder. During this time Dr. Hyman felt like he had a broken brain. This is why we decided to call the title Broken Brain because the foundation of the series is about his personal journey. However, we do not think that everyone who is dealing with a brain disorder or a developmental disorder has a broken brain. We know that all individuals, including those with brain conditions, are fully complete people, each with their unique spirit. We hope that you’ll watch the series and understand that more than anything it’s about hope and about moving toward our best health!
I find this very thoughtful and it clearly reflects the level of his integrity and compassion.
In case you’re just hearing about the Broken Brain for the first time, here is the link to register for this 8-part docuseries and my highlights video interview with Dr. Hyman (together with the transcript)
So, what do YOU think? Is broken brain a good title or term? Or a bad title or term? And why?
(With appreciation if you already provided feedback and for giving me permission to share it here. This is a good discussion to have!)