Dopamine Drip: What Happens When the Brain Releases Too Much?

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 Amen and Tana Amen dive into the mailbag to answer reader questions. The discussion ranges from the differences between hypnosis and meditation to the effects of too much dopamine in the brain.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And 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.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed 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 to you by BrainMD, 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.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. I'm so happy you're with us. We're doing Brain XL and we're coming to the end of L. We're gonna do love, we're gonna love you back by answering some of your questions, but before we get to that, Ellen McCarthy said, "This is such an informative and helpful podcast that you, Tana, and Dr. Amen are doing. I'm a child of an alcoholic and this is encouraging me to considering getting treatment at your clinics."
Tana Amen: Awesome.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, thank you so much, Ellen, and we wish you the best. Children of alcoholics have ... there's genetic vulnerabilities because that stuff tends to run in families, it tends to go with depression and ADD, and there's emotion issues that go along with that. Getting your brain right is the first step to getting your life back. Okay. Quickly, can you do a podcast about PTSD, childhood sexual trauma and how it's treated? Would that be helped with hypnosis and/or EMDR? I'm curious because of past personal experience from trauma.
Tana Amen: I know we've done ... we have done several podcasts on PTSD. We should do probably an updated one, a new one, and specifically relate it to sexual childhood trauma, childhood sexual trauma.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when you're traumatized early, it resets your brain to a higher level.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes. Then people do all sorts of things to try and calm it down. It can be weed, it can be alcohol.
Tana Amen: It could be karate.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It can be things that are really good for you or things that are not good for you. EMDR is really helpful.
Tana Amen: So helpful. I mean, I did it for two years. It was amazing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There's actually a brand new study out on eye movements, getting your eyes to move left, right, left, right, so bring up the trauma, think about it, and then do the eye movement for about a minute and a new study showed it actually helped calm down the amygdala, which is the area of your brain that actually feels anxiety and fear.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I did it for two years and I found it incredibly helpful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is there a wrong or right way to do hypnosis? Can you also call it meditation?
Tana Amen: For me, they're sort of connected and I know they're slightly different, but I've sort of ... the way that I do it, I connect them a little bit, so you're probably better at answering whether they're different or not, I just find that it's helpful. I do sort of a self-hypnosis and I connect it to my meditation.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They're actually very similar and it's similar to guided imagery. One is sort of directed ... well, no, they both can be directed by other people.
Tana Amen: But it can also be directed by yourself.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It can also be directed by yourself. One, it puts you in a trance-like state, but meditation states are very much trance-like states.
Tana Amen: I have a bunch of them on-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I would say they're very similar, having done a lot of them for a long time.
Tana Amen: I have a bunch of them on my site, you have a bunch. We have a bunch on Brain Fit Life to help you get started.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Another one, "I wonder if there's anyone you can recommend for hope and help with mental issues if we are in Wales, the United Kingdom, and cannot bring a client to the USA? We need to go beyond what the National Health Service has offered after 14 months in mental health for true recovery. Please help."
Tana Amen: Ouch.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We actually have a number of brain health coaches around the world where we teach-
Tana Amen: It's on our website.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Our method to other people, and if you're a professional, if you go to, you can learn about it. You can get 50 units of continuing medical education, which is monstrous. More importantly, you can learn the method we use here at Amen Clinics to help people.
Tana Amen: So if you go to our website, you'll see where our professionals are at around the world.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Another question, "I notice that when I take Concerta," which is a stimulant that people often prescribe for ADD, "I become depressed after a couple of weeks."
Tana Amen: Interesting.
Dr. Daniel Amen: "What do you think would be a good supplement to counteract that? I need some ideas to take to my doctor." So, one, take it to your doctor. Whenever I hear that, I wonder if there's not an underlying mood disorder that Concerta is triggering off and so go to our brain health assessment, it's free. Go to, see what your type is, and you may either be four, which is sensitive, or two, which is spontaneous, or maybe a combination of those two, and sometimes SAMe can be really helpful to actually help your mood and help concentration. I'm a huge fan of SAMe. If you take SAMe, also take it with Betaine, trimethyl glycine, they've found that they work synergistically.
Can undiagnosed diabetes contribute to symptoms similar to borderline personality disorder?
Tana Amen: Well, if your blood sugar's not being balanced, for sure it can be problematic. Can certainly increase things like depression.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But usually with diabetes, it's high blood sugar, not low blood sugar.
Tana Amen: So it depends on what's going on.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But if you have low blood sugar, you can have episodes that you're emotionally-
Tana Amen: By the way they're asking that ... oh, it's undiagnosed. Nevermind. I was thinking if they were taking diabetic medication.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, and I would say that's not a combination I see together.
Tana Amen: Probably not.
Dr. Daniel Amen: High blood sugar is clearly bad for you.
Tana Amen: One thing that is often misdiagnosed as bipolar, it's a little different, a little bit different, PCOS is often. Those two.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So explain that.
Tana Amen: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, because of the hormonal imbalance that happens with polycystic ovarian syndrome. You're kicking me. Do you have to say something?
Dr. Daniel Amen: No, I just want you to know how it feels to be kicked.
Tana Amen: Because of the hormonal imbalance that happens with polycystic-
Dr. Daniel Amen: She kicks me all the time.
Tana Amen: No, he's like ... he's like this ... Anyway, because of the hormonal imbalance that happens with polycystic ovarian syndrome with your female hormones being out of balance as well as testosterone, now you become testosterone dominant, and it causes this problem. You're also insulin resistant. So lots of issues going on with your hormones and all the sudden a lot of times it's not diagnosed properly. You're not diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, but because of the radical mood swings and the testosterone dominance, sometimes people are misdiagnosed as bipolar. There are several studies on that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes. When you and I were first together, you had PCOS.
Tana Amen: I did. I'd never been diagnosed.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Uncontrolled.
Tana Amen: What you used to make fun of me and say is the only time I scared you is when I acted like a girl, so I didn't have the bipolar part, I was just very driven and intense. You're like, "The only time you scare me is when you act like a girl."
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when we-
Tana Amen: I'm still driven and intense.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when you got it balanced, you went from wanting a big killer dog to Tinker Bell.
Tana Amen: I'm still ... I'm back to wanting my German Shepherds, although the Shepherd I got is completely worthless, but anyway.
Dr. Daniel Amen: He's not worthless. Why would you say that? He's gorgeous.
Tana Amen: He's worthless for anything except love. Totally worthless.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, I'm all for that.
Tana Amen: He's not a protection dog.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I have enough killers in my life.
Tana Amen: He's not a protection dog at all.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. According to conventional medicine psychiatry, too much dopamine gives you psychosis. What do you think of that?
Tana Amen: It kind of needs to be balanced, doesn't it?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, what are conditions that give you too much dopamine?
Tana Amen: Cocaine.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you start taking too much cocaine. Can you get psychotic if you take too much cocaine?
Tana Amen: You won't sleep.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You certainly can get psychotic.
Tana Amen: Meth.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When we give dopamine blockers, like Risperdal or Zyprexa or Thorazine, it helps to treat it.
Tana Amen: Because you don't have enough dopamine.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But it's way more complicated than that.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You want to keep dopamine balanced so that you feel happy, driven, motivated.
Tana Amen: Because without it, you're super unmotivated and depressed.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And the real serious low dopamine state, is you have Parkinson's disease. When we block dopamine too much, you get a Parkinsonian syndrome, where you actually develop tremors.
Tana Amen: Don't you remember when I was going through treatments for my thyroid thing that the wired, tired thing I had? And then all the sudden I would just feel like someone pulled the plug and we sort of figured out it was dopamine. I would just be like, "Whoa," just ... because I think it was that I was so revved all the time and then I just crashed. But dopamine can make you really not feel good if it's low or if it's too high.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Two more questions. "What are the acceptable safety healthy games for a 10-year-old boy who is anxious? This is a grandmother who is watching, learning, and grateful to you and Tana for the last 12 years."
Tana Amen: I would say anything that you do with, like board games are great, anything you do with them. We play family games together, board games. We're still one of those weird families, even though my daughter is 15, we're still one of those families that plays board games. My daughter loves that we play board games together. They hate ... well, you like playing Scrabble with me. But, we like playing card games, we like playing board games. I don't know if she's talking about video games or not.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, so we wouldn't be a fan of video games because they're fairly addictive, but when you think of sports, so we should talk a little bit about sports, we're huge fans of track.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But not pole vaulting.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Not things that put them at risk.
Tana Amen: Water polo.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No, water polo has a lot of head trauma.
Tana Amen: Does it really?
Dr. Daniel Amen: A lot.
Tana Amen: Swimming.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Swimming can be good, but not diving. Lots of head trauma with diving.
Tana Amen: Okay, so swimming. Basketball.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Golf is good. Basketball.
Tana Amen: Tennis.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Tennis. Table tennis obviously is my favorite. Dance is really great.
Tana Amen: I love saying karate, except now the culture in many studios is more aggressive. Where I train, it's not so much but ... it actually is in a lot of places so you have to be very careful if you're gonna train in martial arts where you train and how you train, because it's really good for the brain, the complex moves, both sides of the body, the more traditional types of martial arts, but the new more MMA is not so good.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The last question, "Can you tell us more about your trip to Greece?"
Tana Amen: Oh you, I've not stopped hearing about the food, still.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It was amazing. It was incredible. We went to Corinth.
Tana Amen: Corinth was interesting, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It was really interesting.
Tana Amen: That's where my favorite meal was.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Acropolis at Corinth is larger than the Acropolis in Athens.
Tana Amen: It's like a city on top of a mountain. It's crazy how big it is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Grateful we didn't have to hike it, we could drive up to the top.
Tana Amen: That was crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But then you still had to hike another mile up in the air. It was beautiful.
Tana Amen: They're struggling still, so it's really ... it's a place steeped with history and I love history, and it's sad to see them still struggling so much.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The old city is beautiful, the Plaka.
Tana Amen: Plaka is great, it's great. I love the sights.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The food is awesome, and the history is wonderful and the coastline is beautiful, but there's a lot of poverty.
Tana Amen: And they're struggling with a lot of issues that they've had economically and the government. You'll see that if you go there, but if you love history-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Write more. Write your questions. We're happy to answer them. We hope you really love this series on feel better fast and we'd dearly love for you to buy the book and when you do, if you go to, you can download the introduction and chapter one immediately. You can also download some free audios we do for you along with Tana's brand new cookbook, "The Ten Day Brain Boost." Stay with us.
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