Can You Heal Mental Illnesses With Medication Alone?

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

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen answer more of your listener questions. This episode tackles such diverse topics as treating mental illness with medication, the role of routines in treating illnesses, exercise and bipolar disorder, acquired borderline personality disorder, and chronic mental illnesses.

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Tana Amen: Welcome to the brain Warrior's way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen 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.
Dr Daniel Amen: 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, the brain Warrior's way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain ad body, to learn more go to
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back, we are so grateful that you are listening. This podcast is now been downloaded just about 7 million times.
Tana Amen: I know its so cool.
Dr Daniel Amen: And we are grateful, pay attention and try to learn one new thing.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then post it on any of your social media sites.
Tana Amen: And let us know.
Dr Daniel Amen: We'll be so grateful and then leave us a question, a comment or review, and we'll enter you into a raffle to win either one of our books, the brain Warrior's way cookbook or the end of mental illness-
Tana Amen: But go to the and let us know your question and comments.
Dr Daniel Amen: And do you have some reviews to read?
Tana Amen: Yes, I do from Amanda, I was absolutely shocked at the percentage rates, especially with suicide. That's amazing how food can affect suicide and reduce it by eating the right types of food. By the way, I'm loving how Dr. Amen is changing the stigma by rewording mental illness into brain health.
Dr Daniel Amen: I Love that.
Tana Amen: And then another one from regguy44 I'm learning how to use my frontal cortex. These videos really help our family is fixing our thinking and not letting emotions control our decisions and actions only when appropriate, accountability.
Dr Daniel Amen: I love both of those.
Tana Amen: I love accountability. Yes, that's great.
Dr Daniel Amen: Send them a book.
Tana Amen: Fun.
Dr Daniel Amen: I am grateful. Okay, so in this podcast we are going to answer your questions and I want you to help me with this. The first one is can I stabilize my mental illness simply with medication alone? Well, one, you know, I hate the term mental illness because it's stigmatizing, it's inaccurate and these are brain health issues that steal your mind and I'm just not a fan of medication is the first and only thing you do because it's giving control to a substance without you having to do anything and sometimes medication saves people's lives.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right? I mean you take thyroid and that's really critical to-
Tana Amen: I'm not getting out of it.
Dr Daniel Amen: But you also do the other things to keep your thyroid gland healthy.
Tana Amen: Well and I do the other things to prevent cancer from coming back and I do the other things to prevent depression from coming back and I know what it's like to go through that scary dark thing, I know you know the things that go bump in the night. So why would I want to go back to that? So I do what I can on my side to prevent it and that's why-
Dr Daniel Amen: Well and there's another question here does exercise help control bipolar disorder? So many people who really have bipolar disorder, we actually did a blog on how I think bipolar is the fad diagnosis of 2020, A.D.D in adults was the fad diagnosis of 2000, I mean there's always a fad diagnosis. I think a lot of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder really have the chronic effects of traumatic brain injury and that mood instability, irritability, temper problems, not bipolar, it's they damaged their temporal lobes but exercise virtually helps everything. Exercise helps A.D.D it helps depression, it helps anxiety. Is there one thing it really doesn't help?
Tana Amen: No, for me, I mean it helps mood for me and I mean how I get, if I'm not exercising I could just get a little agitated but part of that is that fear for me because I know what it's like to be depressed and it's like I'm so anxious about going backwards and it's been 25, 27 years now but I just, there's always in the back of my mind, like if I, if I don't do this, I'm going to go backwards and so I'm just always like on top of it. So-
Dr Daniel Amen: So you do it because you love yourself.
Tana Amen: And it feels good when I do it.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you love your husband, and you love your family.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you... Yeah.
Tana Amen: And I feel good when I do it.
Dr Daniel Amen: The next question, I have a really hard time making a routine for myself. How does someone with a mental illness make a routine for themselves?
Tana Amen: So I'm going to push, I mean you are going to, you're going to have the medical term for that, but from a coaching perspective I'm going to, I'm going to push on that a little bit because I would say just like when people say they don't have, they're not motivated, I would say you are motivated, you're motivated to do something. Even if it's sit on the couch and eat hot Cheetos, you're motivated to do something. So my question is you have a routine. The question is what is your routine? Is your routine sporadic? Is it chaotic? Is it that you, is it your, is it that you do have a routine but your routine isn't what you want cause you do have a routine. So once you identify what your routine is, now we can begin to like alter it, right? You do have a routine?
Dr Daniel Amen: Well it starts, I really like that because you know people are eating crappy food or they're not exercising, that's their routine.
Tana Amen: That is their routine.
Dr Daniel Amen: And often it just starts with changing one thing like walking like your light.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or starting the day-
Tana Amen: Small, something small.
Dr Daniel Amen: With today is going to be a great day or ending the day with what went well today or just getting your shoes and putting them out your walking shoes, knowing that you're more likely to go walking if you take your shoes out.
Tana Amen: So for, so for some people, some people like me are more like I need to jump the Canyon. I need, I need to like, I need massive change all at once like they're like me and they want to do it all at once and if they don't do it all at once they feel like it wasn't a big enough shift, okay. But there are that's like a small percentage I think of people who are making changes. I think most people are probably, that was a hard for me thing for me to learn when I was coaching. I'm like, just do it! Just do it all! Like it was hard for me to sort of get why people weren't doing it all but I started to learn.
Dr Daniel Amen: Has anybody ever call you and intense?
Tana Amen: Intense, yeah. So I started to learn that most people learn differently and if you're going to help people change, you have to, you have to learn how they learn and begin to understand that people aren't.
Tana Amen: And most people learn in small steps, not tiny habits. That really struck me when we worked with people from Stanford on the tiny habits project so sometimes you got to chunk it down so small, and that is what works. So it really doesn't matter if you cross the Canyon in one leap or if you cross the Canyon by walking down one side and up the other side, it really doesn't matter as long as you get to the other side, right? So if you are a person who does it in tiny, tiny steps, that's okay. Just take that first tiny step and I would suggest mastering that one tiny thing for a week before you pick the next thing.
Tana Amen: Pick something that you know you will do even if it is, get your tennis shoes out and set them by the front door, even if it's that small and you have to look at them every single day. Put your tennis shoes by the front door and put a, put a little sticky note on your front door "I will walk." Like do that every week, every day for a week, and then the next day, you know the next week-
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, cause if people start to do one thing.
Tana Amen: They will start to do another thing,
Dr Daniel Amen: All familiar to do two things and if you do two, you're probably going to do four and it starts with, is this good for my brain or bad for it?
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: It just starts with that simple question-
Tana Amen: Or maybe you just drink one glass of water, extra.
Dr Daniel Amen: That we talk about all the time because once you start, you begin to feel better when used to say, give me two weeks.
Tana Amen: Just give me two weeks, just give me two weeks. It's not because you're only going to do it for two weeks is because in two weeks people begin to feel so much better. Their pain goes down, they sleep better, everything begins to shift and then they get it and then they start to, they want to do it.
Dr Daniel Amen: How does someone acquire borderline personality disorder?
Tana Amen: I would love to know that actually.
Dr Daniel Amen: So borderline personality disorder. People who have pretty severe mood instability, irritability, they tend to overvalue people.
Dr Daniel Amen: "Oh, Dr.Amen, you're the best doctor that ever lived." And then whenever someone says that, I'm like, uh-oh.
Tana Amen: What's coming next?
Dr Daniel Amen: Because three weeks later it's like you are the worst doctor.
Tana Amen: But don't they also lie a lot?
Dr Daniel Amen: They can.
Tana Amen: Traditionally.
Dr Daniel Amen: And they can be involved in...
Tana Amen: Pretty extreme behavior.
Dr Daniel Amen: Extreme behavior, extreme sexual behavior-
Tana Amen: Sexual behavior, yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: Temper problems and-
Tana Amen: Got someone in my life that they can be tough to deal with.
Dr Daniel Amen: And the causes, sometimes it's early abandonment causes sometimes it's not sometimes it's a head injury, sometimes it's because they had toxic exposure. Sometimes they had a brain infection and clearly something is the matter with their brains.
Tana Amen: So it's not always like a bonding-
Dr Daniel Amen: We have treated hundreds of people with borderline personality disorder here. And they don't all have the same brain but typically they have low frontal lobe activity, cm impulsivity, low activity, often in their left temporal lobe, dark evil, awful thoughts, mood instability, irritability, temporal problems and their Cingulate Gyrus works too hard so they're rigid and flexible and if things don't go their way they get upset. So you have that impulse, compulsive mood instability and often I have found mood stabilizers to stabilize their temporal lobes can be really helpful and then either medicine or supplements to increase both serotonin and dopamine. I've been-
Tana Amen: because these are people that can be really frustrating. So if you're trying to be in a relationship or it's someone in your family, it's, it can be pretty frustrating.
Dr Daniel Amen: It can be really painful for people. Is mental illness a chronic disorder and can it be cured?
Tana Amen: The end of mental illness,
Dr Daniel Amen: The end of mental illness begins with a revolution in brain health. So let's talk about your grandmother for a minute because people would say she had a mental illness
Tana Amen: And I never, I never agreed.
Dr Daniel Amen: She was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Tana Amen: No, I wasn't in the-
Tana Amen: She was hospitalized.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, she was hospitalized given electric shock therapy and it's funny because I grew up with her 20 something years of my life, she lived in our house and I wasn't in the medical industry at the time but then eventually I became a nurse and It never resonated with me. People, people called her schizophrenic and I'm like, I don't see it she never heard voices she never acted weird but she did act, I mean she never acted like, like, like she was schizophrenic like she would like walk around like to her. So she never did that so I'm like, I don't understand why they're calling her schizophrenic even when I was young I didn't understand why they said that. She did have issues like she, she had when her blood sugar went low, cause I had to give her insulin shots.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh for blood sugar went low, she would act crazy but guess what? That's a sign of-
Tana Amen: Like what?
Tana Amen: Oh, she'd start screaming and like, but that is a sign of low blood sugar. So she would go a little crazy if she'll, if her blood sugar wasn't stabilized.
Dr Daniel Amen: So is that a mental illness or is that a brand?
Tana Amen: That's a medical issue.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's a medical issue, And-
Tana Amen: So, then the other, the other thing that happened though is she would hibernate in her room and she became a hoarder and now you saw this, you might call it a mental illness but if you knew the back story you would not. So she became a hoarder and she would watch TV and cry all day and so people started to think she was crazy but if you understood the backstory, you would understand why she did those two things.
Dr Daniel Amen: So share a little bit of it.
Tana Amen: So she was, she was from, she was Lebanese but at the time, greater Syria and she was born in 1910 so in 1915 she went through the great famine.
Tana Amen: So I guess it was 1915 1918 something like that but she went trough the Great Famine and when she was a child, and so she would watch the Turks come through with their weapons and it was, it was a terrible time in that country. So it was war torn country and she was traumatized. Her dad, no food, it was the great famine and she, they were starving and so her only, her only punishment at one point was to kneel on a marble floor all day because she ate a Loquat, that was her sisters and they had no food and that was the only food they had but because it was so serious that for eating something, when she was hungry, she got punished and so at one point they had to run, the Turks were coming through town, everybody's scattered, everybody ran. She ran up into the mountains.
Tana Amen: She was five years old and she got lost in the mountains for three days by herself and so it was freezing cold. The, the, the, you know, with this is when the, like the moisture would turn to frost and so the small amounts, like the little puddles on the ground would freeze and things like that, it was freezing cold and so she was lost for three days by herself and she bent down to drink out of a pond and her hair got in the water and it froze.
Tana Amen: And so she was terrified the of the animals of everything, she's by herself. She finally, someone finds her, takes her back into town and then they had to like shave her head close to her, her hair close to her head and to get it was all matted and you know, tangled and whatever and so she was completely traumatized, she never got over that. And then my uncle was murdered in a drug deal when I was four and she never got over that and when, in America she never learned to speak the language.
Dr Daniel Amen: So is that a mental illness?
Tana Amen: Right? She also has a language barrier.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or did... Were there cultural issues? Clearly. There's trauma issues, clearly.
Tana Amen: And the, and the hoarding was, she used to tell me, save the old tin foil, save it. Save, save, you know, save the butter dishes because you don't know something's going to happen, something's going to happen, something is going to happen sometime.
Dr Daniel Amen: Which is trauma.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And trauma is just so common in our society. So is it chronic? Can it be cured? You have to know the cause.
Tana Amen: But I didn't think of her as crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's why I wrote the end of mental illness, we need to see these as brain health issues and your brain is an organ just like your heart is an organ and your brain often can heal if you put it in a healing environment. We are so grateful for you. If you learned one thing, please post it on any of your social media channels like the end of mental illness begins with the revolution and brain health also leave us a comment, a question or review if you've got a copy of the end of mental illness.
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