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Brain In The News: The Neuroscience of Depression

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

Dr Daniel and Tana Amen share experiences with depression and give tips on what you can do to combat it.


Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.

Daniel Amen, MD:

The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome back. We are here in the middle of our happiness challenge, and talking a lot about question six: am I noticing what I like about my relationships more than what I don’t? Am I reinforcing what I like or dislike? And does it have eternal value based on clearly defined values, purpose, and goals?

As we try to do as often as we can is this thing called Brain in the News, where we look at the news and we go, “Well, what relates to the brain?” And more and more we’re going to go, “What relates to happiness and the brain?” Just this month a brand new book came out called The Neuroscience of Depression, and it’s written by scientists all over the world including me. How brain SPECT imaging informs the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders with a number of my colleagues at Amen Clinics. So I’m very happy about that. One of the things I write about is depression is like chest pain that has many different causes. And too often…and you know during the pandemic depression tripled: from February was 8.5%, August it was at 28%. I mean, truly horrifying. And the pharmaceutical industry was really the big winner of the pandemic in so many ways. But depression can be biological, it can be psychological, can be social-with the isolation, the loneliness, the fear-and can be spiritual, where you feel disconnected.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s a good point because as we’re talking about happiness and relationships, it’s pretty hard to focus on making sacrifices of yourself and focusing on a relationship and being happy when you’re depressed. I mean, you talk to anybody who’s depressed or been depressed, and they’ll tell you it is a pain like no other pain. It’s an emotional pain that you can’t get away from. So it’s really hard to focus on other things when you’re going through that. So that makes it pretty tough to focus on someone else or something else. And so many things can cause it. So what if you’ve had a head injury or you’ve had something or you’re emotionally depressed because of something going on in your life that’s emotional and now that’s the reason you can’t be happy.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And when you can’t explain the depression…

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yes.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Then it could be your thyroid. It could be mold exposure. It could be, you have Lyme disease. And that’s why the imaging work we do at Amen Clinics is just so critical and so important that if you don’t look, you don’t know that we really have to stop this. And part of why we call the podcast the Brain Warrior’s Way is we’re in a war for the health of our brains, and we really want to change the paradigm from making diagnoses based on symptom clusters. So when you were diagnosed with depression, how did the doctor diagnose you?

Speaker 3:

He just talked to me for a little, and then he prescribed Prozac. That’s all I remember. I don’t really rememb…

Daniel Amen, MD:

And you, if I remember right, actually went in…

Speaker 3:

I went in telling him I wanted Prozac. I didn’t really…

Daniel Amen, MD:

Because you read a book.

Speaker 3:

I read a book. I wanted Prozac. I was in so much pain.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Was it “Listening to Prozac”?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think so. And I was in so much emotional pain that I just couldn’t wait long enough. I just, I couldn’t wait anymore. And so I went in there and he was like Doogie Howser this kid was so young. He was a resident. And I’m like “I know what I need. Like I have a Prozac deficiency or something. I just, I need this.” And so I was not really going to take no for an answer to be honest with you. So, but he just asked me a few questions and wrote me a prescription. There was no “Well, let’s talk about this. Let’s figure out what’s going on.” Like nothing.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Even though you just had your thyroid…

Speaker 3:

And was going through radiation treatments and yeah. And then lost my job and lost a…you know, I had filed for bankruptcy, had dropped out of school, my mother was going through brain surgery, like all of that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

From our four circles.

Speaker 3:

Bio, psycho, social, spiritual.

Daniel Amen, MD:

All of them…

Speaker 3:

Were bankrupt.

Daniel Amen, MD:

All of them?

Speaker 3:

All of them.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And so Prozac maybe can take the edge off.

Speaker 3:

No, it made me numb.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It can take the edge off and actually disinhibit you which you…

Speaker 3:

A little too much.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Talk about in “The Relentless Curse of a Scared Child.” It’s a great story.

Speaker 3:

It could have ruined my life.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It could have ruined your life and people just aren’t taking this four-circle approach. So if you think of anybody that has cancer, there’s a biological effect of that chemotherapy on your brain and the chronic stress hormones of just facing your own death. There are clearly psychological issues. You began to wrestle with the death dragon and the grief and loss dragon because at that time you lost a lot. The hopeless and helpless dragon. So those are the dragons that drive depression and then socially from losing a job, having to file for bankruptcy and spiritually, which is “Why is this happening to me?” And “what does my…

Speaker 3:

Well, and I thought “If there is a God, He doesn’t love me, because why would this happen to me?” Like this makes no sense. I’ve lived my life being a good person, and this makes no sense. And you know, I mean, now I have a very different view. I’m much more mature. But at that time, at that age, that’s how it felt.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And in “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl would ask you, “What’s the blessing about…

Speaker 3:

Oh, now I always look for opportunity. Now it’s like, “Okay, this terrible thing, what is the opportunity here?” And you’re right. What, what can I be grateful for? What can I learn? I always, automatically now “What’s the opportunity?” I automatically do that now in a crisis. And that really does help me be more happy.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So getting well from depression is there’s physical causes that we can see on scans, often. There’s psychological causes. And another physical cause for you that most people just aren’t even aware of, is your microbiome got damaged when you were a child because of the chronic stress.

Speaker 3:

And the chronic antibiotics.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And the chronic antibiotics led to changing the bug population in your gut. I know it sounds weird. When that happens chronic antibiotics in children lead to a heightened risk of anxiety and depression. And nobody’s talking about that. I mean, it’s all over the scientific literature, but most doctors aren’t thinking “Oh, I have to get your gut right.” And I’m sure the resident didn’t talk to you about that at all.

Speaker 3:

Literally asked me what was happening, how I felt, and then wrote me a prescription.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And then went “Next.”

Speaker 3:

And then doubled my dose.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Because that’s how psychiatrists make money.

Speaker 3:

When I told him it wasn’t working, he doubled my dose.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And that’s…happiness occurs in those four circles. So in our challenge, we talk about what’s the biology of happiness, and it’s good activity in your frontal lobes. What’s the psychology of happiness? It’s positivity bias trainings, notice what you like more than what you don’t like. It’s social, which is why our relationship is so important in the relationships I have with my team and with my extended family. And spiritual is believing my life as value, meaning, and I live my purpose with God, with planet, with past-which is my dad and my grandfather-and with the future, which is why I love spending time with my grandchildren. So how about for you? What is it that you can do biologically? Just do one thing. I may do a shake this morning. And I went to physical therapy working out my shoulder and my neck was so helpful. Psychologically, socially, spiritually, just one simple thing. Every day will increase your level of happiness. The new book “The Neuroscience of Depression” makes me happy. So many ways.

Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast. If you’re interested in coming to Amen Clinics, use the code PODCAST10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com. For more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.