In Session with “The Flight Attendant”

Please fasten your seatbelts and return your tray table to its full upright and locked position. Join Dr. Sam & Dr. Fran as they put season one of HBO’s The Flight Attendant on their couch! 
In this session, the doctors evaluate Cassie. As you may imagine, there is plenty to assess and talk about after she wakes up next to a dead man. They introduce a new stressor-related disorder and play Diagnosis Bingo in order to best understand what Cassie may be experiencing. 
We also review Cassie’s coping skills, including avoidance and substance use. In addition to Cassie’s relationship with alcohol, we explore her relationships with her friends and family. What do they have to say about her alcohol use? Unfortunately for Cassie, no treatment options or therapy are shown in this first season.
Join this week’s session for the portrayal of mental health and stay for the crime-solving drama.

Glossary of Terms

Dissociation – lack of connection between thoughts, memory, and sense of identity

Depersonalization experiences of feeling detached from, and as if one were an outside observer of, one’s mental processes or body (e.g., feeling as though one were in a dream; feeling a sense of unreality of self or body or of time moving slowly)

Derealization experiences of unreality of surroundings (e.g., the world is experienced as unreal, dreamlike, distant, or distorted).

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) a mental health diagnosis that can occur 1 month or more after a traumatic event that involves nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, and heightened reactions.

Acute stress disorder a mental health diagnosis that involves similar symptoms to PTSD, but occurs for several days or weeks after a traumatic event

Intrusive memories flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive images of a traumatic event  

Hypervigilance – state of increased alertness and awareness of one’s surroundings, ofter characterized by being on high alert or on edge

Startle responseunconscious response to sudden or threatening stimuli (e.g., a sudden noise or sharp movement) 


Within the context of Cassie’s experience, we discuss symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, including dissociation. We also discuss the difference between dissociation and hallucinations and how both can occur after trauma.

We also discuss Acute Stress Disorder for the first time on the podcast and describe the differences between this and PTSD.

A major theme of The Flight Attendant is Cassie’s experience of Alcohol Use Disorder. Learn more about this diagnosis with these resources.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a substance use disorder, you can call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
  • Find additional resources on their website