ADD & Negative Thoughts – The Toxic Cocktail – Why They Shouldn’t Go Together

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Today’s episode is part of an ADD coaching call that was recorded. My experience with ADD over decades now is many people with ADD use negative thinking, use fear as a way to stimulate their brains. So today, we’re going to discuss this issue and answer a couple other questions about ADD. Watch out for part two of this coaching call.

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Donny Osmond: Hi, I'm Donny Osmond and welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way hosted by my friends, Daniel and Tana Amen. Now, in this podcast, you're going to learn that the war for your health is one between your ears. That's right. If you're ready to be sharper and have better memory, mood, energy, and focus, well, then stay with us. Here are Daniel and Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: Hi everybody, welcome to the healing ADD coaching call. I am so grateful that you are on this call and that you're on this journey to be the best you can be. We have a special guest that's going to join us in about 10 or 15 minutes, but for now, I want to tell you what I've been thinking about, then I'll get to your questions. There was a new study this week that said for people who had social anxiety, which is often very common, especially for Type 7: Anxious ADD, that when they did an online program like Brain Fit Life... It wasn't Brain Fit Life, but when they did an online, it's called a CBT program, cognitive behavior, therapy, which I think of as killing the ANTs. Learning how to not believe every stupid thought you have that compared to people who don't have social anxiety, who are not nervous in social situations, who can get up in front of people and talk, no problem.
Dr Daniel Amen: People who are anxious, they had more activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala. And the amygdala, I think it's Greek for almond. There are these little almond shaped structures in your temporal lobe, underneath your temples, behind your eyes, that the amygdala, which is an area of the brain that's responsive to fear, people who are feeling afraid, so it makes sense that social anxiety people actually had larger, more active amygdala. And when they gave in to the negative thoughts, the fearful thoughts, the horrible thoughts, the fortune-telling thoughts of things that are going to turn out badly, that the amygdala became more active. And when they learned to kill the ANTs, to decrease the automatic negative thoughts, that's ANTs, that the amygdala became less active and actually over time became smaller. If you give in to the negative thoughts, you're actually making the fearful part of your brain stronger and more powerful.
Dr Daniel Amen: It is critical to not believe every stupid thing you think. As we talk about it in the videos and I write about in the workbook to, whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, out of control, you start writing your thoughts down and you question them. You ask yourself if they're true. Can you absolutely know that it's true? And by learning to have accurate thoughts, you actually have a healthier brain. Now, why is that important on an ADD coaching call? My experience with ADD over decades now is many people with ADD use negative thinking, use fear as a way to stimulate their brains. Now, if you have ADD, our experience from looking at thousands, about 20,000 people who have ADD, looking at their brains, it's often associated with lower activity in the front part of the brain. And how do we treat it from a medicine standpoint? We use stimulants. Why? Because it's stimulates the front part of the brain.
Dr Daniel Amen: And when I was in training, we used to call it a paradoxical effect. Why would you ever give a hyperactive child a stimulant? It's a paradox because the stimulants would calm them down. Well, it's really not a paradox. What you're doing is you use the stimulant to increase low activity and then their brain settles them down. Now, if you learn through healing ADD, ADD's not one thing, it's at least seven different things. We talk about natural ways to help your brain, and one of the natural ways is to get your thoughts right. I don't want you just positive pie-on-the-sky happy thoughts. I'm not a fan because what that means, it could be snowing out and you'd drive 125 miles an hour down the freeway and you just, "I'll be fine." That's an example of a positive thought that... Or, "Hey, there's the eighth slice of pizza I'm going to have," and then, "Oh, it won't really affect my health, it won't really affect my weight." It's like, No. That's the kind of positive thinking that kills people. I want you to be an accurate thinker. Just something that was on my mind.
Dr Daniel Amen: Let me get to the questions. From Linda. I'm wondering if there is any possible role for chiropractic adjustments in improving my memory. Now, let me just start with I'm a huge fan of my chiropractor. Actually, I have two and I love them both. And I actually did a study with cranial sacral therapy. If you actually feel your skull in a quiet moment, you will actually feel the bones in your skull pulse. You have to get really quiet to feel it and it's a little weird, but there's something called cranial sacral therapy that has been shown in some cases to be helpful for ADD, so I'm a fan. Other adjustments, adjusting your neck, adjusting your back, I don't think that would have any effect on your memory. Unless you're out of adjustment and you're in pain, and obviously pain can negatively impact your ability to think and your adjustment. And our special guest has come to join us.
Tana Amen: Hello. Sorry, I'm coming in a little late. [crosstalk 00:06:51].
Dr Daniel Amen: You're not late.
Tana Amen: Oh, good.
Dr Daniel Amen: I told them that a special guest would come to join me.
Tana Amen: Very fun.
Dr Daniel Amen: And here you are.
Tana Amen: I'm so excited to be with you guys tonight.
Dr Daniel Amen: I never said ADD people are late.
Tana Amen: I have a child to take care of. Those of you moms know what I'm talking about.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, it's just interesting, and I'm not talking about this time because sometimes our calls are at 5:15 and sometimes they're at five and there was just some confusion. And this is actually not true of you.
Tana Amen: No, it's not actually.
Dr Daniel Amen: But, many people who have ADD have trouble being on time.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And they do because they actually don't start getting ready to go until they're late.
Tana Amen: I'm the opposite.
Dr Daniel Amen: You are the opposite.
Tana Amen: Tell them the truth, I drive you crazy. When we travel together, which we do a lot, I'm obsessed with-
Dr Daniel Amen: And one of the questions we're going to get to later is somebody has four types of ADD and they're like, "Oh my goodness, what do I do?" And that's actually really common. And we talk about the one you have. It's over-focused and anxious ADD.
Tana Amen: Right, which keeps me very on-time, but makes everyone else a little psychotic around me. I have a ritual. I want to be at the airport in X amount of time before my flight leaves, and I'm freaked out that there might be traffic. In my head, I've got a list of things that could go wrong that might make us late. We need to leave like-
Dr Daniel Amen: Did I tell you... I was just telling them about this new study I read where they took people with social anxiety disorders and when they gave in to the negative thoughts, it actually activated their amygdala.
Tana Amen: Yeah, but I don't see that as a social-
Dr Daniel Amen: And it made it bigger. And after they did the ANT therapy, it calmed down their amygdala and it made it smaller.
Tana Amen: But I like being early, so I don't see that as a social problem. I like it. You have to see it as a problem.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you like your anxiety, keep it. Personally, I never liked mine.
Tana Amen: It's only a problem for him.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right, we're on question number two.
Tana Amen: Okay.
Dr Daniel Amen: How would you help someone heal from OCD? OCD is obsessive compulsive disorder, and like ADD it's not one thing.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now, typically what the imaging findings for OCD is there's too much activity in the front part of the brain, so you have trouble letting go. It's like the brain's gear shifter gets stuck and you can't shift. Some of my OCD patients, they would get stuck on washing their hands, or they'd get stuck on checking locks.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or, they were very ritualistic in their behavior. And sometimes, I think it was my first OCD patient we'd get, she was an 83-year-old, very proper Christian woman, who would just get these really dark, sexual thoughts, and they would go over, over again. Sometimes the brain works too hard and we use interventions that raise serotonin. SSRI medication, 5-HTP, St John's-wort, saffron, things like that to calm it down.
Tana Amen: Can I ask a question? Because I actually find this very interesting. I think people use this word OCD sometimes when they're not always referring to it, and I want to make sure we're talking about... Like really clarifying this. I hear it so many people use the word OCD when they're very uptight and rigid about doing things a certain way, but they're not necessarily checking locks, the ritualistic type of OCT.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. There's obsessive compulsive personality disorder. This is the person where things have to be a certain way or they get upset. They have 14 blue suits, but they're highly functional and it doesn't impact them in a negative way.
Tana Amen: Right, or things have to be cleaned a certain way or they'll focus on the one thing out of place, as opposed to someone who has those rituals. The reason I want to clarify that is because I know a lot of women who are... More women than men that I know, who have that hot brain where it's like they... cleaning is an outlet. God bless them. Cleaning is an outlet for them, but it's got to be done a certain way so they can't hire someone. They're just very intense. And I have a really cute, quick story because I know we have to move on. But this is so fascinating, happened today. Someone we know that actually works for us. When she started working for us, she came to work for us because she loves our work and because it's helped her and her family so much, but her original scan was just hot as could be, on fire. On fire, crazy rigid, it was like, things don't go her way, she just obsesses about it. She was one of those OCD personalities.
Tana Amen: I'm not saying you should get divorced, that is not what the show is about. But she was in a very stressful and abusive marriage at the time and she kept telling everybody, "I think that's what it is." And of course, most people were like, "Yeah, no." But anyway, she got divorced and now it's five years later and she's in a job she loves and her life has settled down. And her scan today was totally settled. There's no singular, it's not on fire at all. It's calm, it's normal. And it's just very interesting how... But she does everything else right too. She eats right and she's sleeping. She's doing everything.
Dr Daniel Amen: Takes her supplements.
Tana Amen: She exercises, she does everything. But the point being that over those five years, when she got rid of the stress in her life, it really settled everything down. I just thought it was interesting.
Dr Daniel Amen: You can change your brain and when you do you change your life. The treatment protocols for OCD, I had a little boy who had it and it turned out he had something called a PANDAS syndrome. It stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with strep infections. You know if you get strep throat, as a nurse, you've got to treat that-
Tana Amen: Yep.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... because it could cause rheumatic heart disease.
Tana Amen: Yep.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, we now know that antibodies to disrupt bacteria, for some people causes them to go and attack their brain and they-
Tana Amen: Kind of like wine.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... have new onset OCD Lyme. Whenever I hear OCD, for me, I want to scan the person to go, am I working with a brain that works too hard or one that's not hard enough? I've certainly seen that with people who have OCD. Checkers, people are constantly checking, tend to have brains that work too hard. Hoarders, they can never let anything go, tend to have brains that are really low in activity. And I actually think they have a form of ADD and they just can't organize themselves so they repeatedly hold onto things.
Dr Daniel Amen: Think of natural ways to boost serotonin. That could be one thing as a treatment. There's also treatment called TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Once we scan someone here at Amen Clinics, we can actually deliver magnetic pulses to certain areas of the brain to either increase it or decrease it. There are certain kinds of behavior therapy for obsessive compulsive disorder. Like you know you have to check locks, I have to check locks, I have to check locks. Well, actually preventing yourself from checking them, you get anxious, anxious, anxious, and then it begins to settle down. Not giving in to the behavior-
Tana Amen: I'm assuming meditation would be-
Dr Daniel Amen: Helpful.
Tana Amen: Really helpful.
Dr Daniel Amen: The meditation can be helpful as well.
Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, The Brain Warrior's Way. Why don't you head over to That's, where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the show. And when you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen Clinics. I'm Donny Osmond, and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.