Beyond the Fame: Celebrities and Mental Illness

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

Achieving fame and fortune and the lifestyle that comes with it doesn’t necessarily make one immune to problems with mental health. In fact, many of the world’s most high-profile role models, from Katy Perry to Selena Gomez, have made their personal struggles public. It is this vulnerability that demonstrates just how alike we all are, and reminds us just how important it is to have empathy for those that are in need.


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Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.

Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we transform lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit

Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Today, we're going to talk about anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses and how they affect all of us, whether you are a housewife or you're a celebrity. A lot of people think that the more successful you are, the less problems you will have, when in fact quite often the more successful you are, the bigger your problems and sometimes the harder they are to deal with because you don't want people to know. You think it's going to affect your career, like Katy Perry, for example, who-

Daniel Amen: Right, who just came out and said she's in therapy for five years, and in my mind, good for her.

Tana Amen: Good for her.

Daniel Amen: That's she's had suicidal thoughts in the past, but you've also heard that from many other-

Tana Amen: Selena just came out of a treatment program. She was in a treatment program, she finally came out and said she needed help and she went into this treatment program. My daughter follows her ... She loves Selena, and the reason she loves Selena, and it's the reason so many young girls love Selena, Selena Gomez, is because she came out and talked about her issues openly, not only does she have Lupus but she was suffering with depression and anxiety apparently, and she was talking about it openly on her Instagram and to her fans. She was on stage and she talked about it openly, and rather than having her fans turn against her, they wept with her, they cheered for her. That's when we noticed is that when these celebrities are willing to be vulnerable ... The same thing happened with half-time-

Daniel Amen: Do you know who else that happened to?

Tana Amen: Who?

Daniel Amen: You.

Tana Amen: Be quiet.

Daniel Amen: That you were like-

Tana Amen: I'm not a celebrity, okay? Let's focus on celebrities today. I did say I would never tell my story.

Daniel Amen: You would never tell your story.

Tana Amen: Never because I had-

Daniel Amen: We were at an event, a Byron Kadi event, and all of a sudden, a woman came up to ... and you told her your story, and you looked and you said, "Did I do that?"

Tana Amen: Right, it was crazy.

Daniel Amen: Because when you're real-

Tana Amen: But you had me tell it on stage, and I thought I would never do that, and what I noticed is that it was the first time people actually started relating to me and talking to me and being wiling to ... Before that, they would say, "Well, how would you know what I'm going through?" That's what we noticed with people like Selena and Lady Gaga and all these people, your fans, the people that you talk to that you're reaching out, your fan base, they weep with you, your family weeps with you, they cheer for you, they relate to you. No one can relate to somebody who's perfect because none of us are perfect!

This vulnerability ... One of my favorite books is Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, and then she has The Power of Vulnerability, such good books but taught me so much about, "Oh, it's not a bad thing to be vulnerable, to show your underbelly."

Daniel Amen: Let's start with this idea of normal. A long time ago I realized normal is a myth.

Tana Amen: It's also overrated.

Daniel Amen: I tell people it's a setting on a dryer or a city in Illinois ... and I actually got invited to speak to Normal, Illinois, to a teachers' college there, and it was really fun. I got to go to the Normal grocery store, I was interviewed on the Normal radio station, I went to the Normal post office and ... Then, this was a big deal for me because I grew up in California, is I finally was able to meet Normal women, and I found the people in Normal had the same problems we had in California or that we have anywhere else in the world is that there is a high incidence of anxiety disorders, depression, ADD, addictions, memory problems, and that being famous or being rich does not inoculate you from having those problems. I mean, awe just saw the arrest of Tiger Woods because of a combination of opiate and Xanax prescriptions, reportedly, in the moves. So just because you have a measure of success doesn't mean you're not vulnerable.

The beautiful thing about Katy Perry's story is she's like, "Well, I got help." I see a fair number of business people, and I'm like, "If your business is having trouble, do you hide from it? Because then you'll go bankrupt." Most of the really smart business people go, "No, I find the smartest consultants I can and I don't try to save money because that's generally a bad idea." They find smartest ones they can, not one that's on their insurance panel, and they get the help that they need.

We've been blessed over the years to see many really fascinating, interesting people, and it goes back to if you want to heal anxiety, depression, ADD, that looking at their brain is just so helpful.

Tana Amen: Absolutely. One of things I love too about some of these stories is the giving back. When you're not afraid to talk about it, it opens the door for other people to think, "Oh, so I'm not weird. It's okay for me to get help." Talking about it openly, when they have as big of a fan base as they do, means ... It gives their young followers that green light. "Oh, it's okay to talk about it."

One of the big things I actually watched with my daughter, 13 Reasons Why, so Selena Gomez created 13 Reasons Why. Selena Gomez makes no secret of the fact that she's struggled with certain things, now, not that, but she created that show, she was one of the backers of that show because she thought that was important for young people to really understand, to look for the signs when someone's struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. I don't think everything in the show was necessarily realistic or right on target, but it was enough that it was a conversation starter.

Daniel Amen: Well, and they should have the 14th sign, which was what was going on in her brain.

Tana Amen: Right, but it was a conversation starter. It was really important. When you are willing to do that and talk about it and be open and realize, would you hide it and be ashamed of it if it were cancer or if it were heart disease or if it were something else? Of course not, so why are we so afraid to talk about when we're struggling with depression or anxiety? It doesn't really make sense.

Daniel Amen: Right, I'd have to say, welcome to normal. If you understand the statistics, 51% of the US population at some point in their life, so more than half, will have a mental illness at some point in there life.

Tana Amen: But we're terrified of the label of crazy. I was terrified of it.

Daniel Amen: Well, in part it's the psychiatrist's fault because it's mental illness, and what we've seen with our imaging-

Tana Amen: That separation of mind, body-

Daniel Amen: That it's really brain illness, like your liver can have problems, your brain can have problems-

Tana Amen: By the way, if your thyroids are having problems, you're going to suffer with mental illness. That's what so silly, but not knowing that in my early 20s, I thought I was going crazy like there was something wrong with me, I was defective. It's really not a fair label. I wasn't willing to live with it any longer and-

Daniel Amen: So the take-home message is if you're struggling with focus, with anxiety, with depression, with your memory, it's so important not to be in denial. I always tell my patients, "If you don't admit you have a problem, you can't solve the problem." If a business doesn't admit they have a problem, they could go bankrupt. If you're in a marriage and you don't admit you have a problem, even though your spouse has told you, you have a problem, that could lead to divorce. Personally, it actually can lead to a lot of disability and death.

If you know you're struggling ... A long time ago, I realized nobody wants to see a psychiatrist, so ... I fell in love with it when I was a second-year medical student, but there was dismissal among my colleagues in being a psychiatrist, you were belittled or second class doctor-

Tana Amen: I saw it in the hospital all the time.

Daniel Amen: I always tell people, "The letters after my name are M.D., medical doctor. I went to medical school and all that." But you could just see how-

Tana Amen: No, we saw it in the hospital.

Daniel Amen: It was like second class. That's shameful because we're dealing with, sometimes, the most complicated-

Tana Amen: But don't you think psychiatry did that to themselves, in a way?

Daniel Amen: I did because they got divorced from neurology.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: That's why nobody wants to see a psychiatrist, no one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal but everybody wants a better brain. If we used or if we changed the paradigm, which is what we're trying to do here at Amen Clinics, and we looked at the brain in the context of mental health issues, we'd completely decrease stigma, completely improve compliance and improve our outcomes. That's what we see with our own ... because we do an outcome study on every patient we see here at Amen Clinics, and we have the best published outcomes of anybody who does that. The reason is, well, we look and then we take a whole person approach.

It doesn't matter if you're wealthy or you're poor, you're famous or you're an introvert that your brain can have trouble. We would just encourage you to get the help you need. A good place to start is our free brain health assessment online and know what brain type you might have, also you can get our new book, The Brain Warrior's Way, or my book that's just going to go over a million copies, I think, this month or next, Change Your Brain Change Your Life.

Tana Amen: It's a great book. It's the first one of yours I read. I want to end with something ... This is actually from the health care professional, and this is ... I love this testimonial because it is from someone who's worked in the field for so long.

Sapphire says, "I've been telling everyone about you and Dr. Raymond's work because it makes more sense than anything I've ever seen. After a career as a mental health counselor and social worker in prisons, jails and treatment centers, I saw very high recidivism rates, and if only we could have scanned the brains of the inmates," what a concept, right? "And put them on a real program to heal and if only my poor mom had been able to see you before she died, she had been in eight car accidents in her life and was a terrible alcoholic and had been abused physically in three relationships."

Daniel Amen: Heartbreaking.

Tana Amen: "I no longer am angry at her for her bad behavior." See, that's what we see.

Daniel Amen: All the time, forgiveness.

Tana Amen: Yeah. "I'm no longer angry at her for her bad behavior as now I know she very likely had brain damage and never knew it or what to do to heal. Your work is life-saving. If there's ever anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask. You will see my comments in many of your YouTube videos."

That is important-

Daniel Amen: Thank you, Sapphire, so much.

Tana Amen: Yeah, thanks, Sapphire.

Daniel Amen: That means the world to us.

Tana Amen: But I've seen this in my own family, so where I had judgment and ... It's your fault, actually. It's his fault. It's his fault that I now am connected to my family again in a way because it was painful. There was pain growing up, there was pain with all of the drama and trauma and the nonstop just mental illness issues, the things that were connected to it, and so I disconnected. Built walls.

Daniel Amen: That's easier, right?

Tana Amen: Here's some advice, if you don't want to have those connections again in your life, don't marry a psychiatrist who wants to save the world. That is my two cents on that. Now, I'm reconnected to all of them, but it's so interesting how-

Daniel Amen: So, easier to be disconnected?

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Daniel Amen: What is more satisfying?

Tana Amen: Yeah, no question. It was a lot of work, but it is definitely more satisfying.

This morning I got a text from my sister, I have to read it, I'm now allowed to talk about it because I couldn't talk about it before. My sister had lost her children last September, she lost her children to child protective services. It was just heart-wrenching, and I'd been disconnected from her for years because it was too hard for me to deal with her and so, of course, Daniel was like, "No, that's not what we're doing. We're going to bring her down here, we're going to get her treatment," which we had tried one other time before she rejected it, so this time it stuck because the pain was high enough.

Daniel Amen: Yeah, she did it for a while and then she-

Tana Amen: Right, this time there was leverage because her children were leverage. Anyways, it was a roller coaster, but we got her on track. She got her kids back on Mother's Day. I was amazing. I mean, it was just huge but that was every single day, hours every day working with her so she didn't kill herself, quite frankly.

I get this text, it's hilarious, so she says to me this morning, "I want you to know how happy I woke up today. I know that the weather is part of it. I did not mention to you yesterday, but I am most excited that my support system understands the value of my treatment and therapy. I'm grateful to see that it's not a reward. I see it as a reward now and not as a punishment. Last November, I would've seen it as a punishment that you were all basically imposing on me." She said, "I also want to tell you that I woke up with the thought of that eternal value thing staring me in the face," because we've been working with her on this idea, she gets stuck on little things, she was upset about something ... the carpet in her apartment, and she's finally understanding, does it have eternal value? Every morning she wakes up now, she's seeing gratitude, she's thinking about things and asking herself, does this have eternal value? I literally texted her back and I said, "Wow. Who is this?"

This has the ability to change ... Then, she texted me back and she said, "You're making generational changes in all of our lives."

Daniel Amen: Absolutely true. The youngsters are going to be better moms and they're going to make better choices in their lives. That's why became a psychiatrist because I saw it had generational value.

One more testimonial, this is from Joyce, "Thought I would give you an update. It's been about six weeks since I became a Brain Warrior, something is so different in me. I've truly changed as a daughter, wife, mother and grandmother. I've just come through one of the toughest two weeks of stress and grief, I did not turn to food for the first time in my 56 years, I allowed the pain and eventually I came through with healing, clarity and insight. I am almost pain free for the first time in years. I've lost 22 pounds, have more energy and I've been exercising for 45 minutes three times a week, slowly increasing to five days a week. Thank you once again for yours and Daniel's dedication to bring such a powerful message of healing. I feel for the first time in my bones this for life."

Tana Amen: That's awesome.

Daniel Amen: Stay with us.

Tana Amen: Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. We have a special gift for you, it's an opportunity to win an evaluation at the Amen Clinics, all you do is subscribe to this podcast, leave a review and rate us on iTunes.

Daniel Amen: To learn more about Amen Clinics and the work we do, go to You can also learn about our nutraceutical products Thanks for listening.