How Can You Tell If You’re A Victim of Abuse? – Pt. 1

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

With an ever-increasing exposure on harassment issues in society, it’s important to get an understanding of what abuse actually is. In the first episode of a series centered on abuse, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen describe the different types of abuse, and how to recognize when it’s happening to you. Tana also shares her surprising take on the #metoo movement.


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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. This week, we're going to talk about abuse in many different forms. As a psychiatrist, I have dealt with that over and over for decades. When I was at Fort Irwin, I was the chief psychiatrist at Fort Irwin, which is a military base, an army base in the Mojave Desert. I was the chief of Domestic Violence, and it was heart-wrenching.

This week, we're going to talk about abuse, but we want to get to some of the podcast reviews, one of the first ones we just got in. "Dr. Amen and Tana are so incredibly intelligent." I love that one. "They bring in highly-qualified and decorated scientists and researchers and base everything they talk about off experiments and clinical trials." That's true. Science matters. "I appreciate their honesty, humor, and the simple way they explain some complicated concepts. After experiencing my grandmother going through Alzheimer's," heart-breaking, "I've become very interested in my health and brain function." That's the sign of intelligent life. "I'm 23."

Tana Amen: Wow. That's impressive.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's even more the sign of intelligent life.

Tana Amen: Yeah, impressive.

Dr. Daniel Amen: "And now realize that my brain health is dependent on what I provide my body with every day as of right now. Dr. Amen has helped me change my life, and I'm so thankful to have found this podcast. Thank you for putting this information out to the world." [crosstalk 00:02:28]

Tana Amen: Before we get started on Abuse Week, we were supposed to do audio only. You guys convinced me, so I came in from karate. You can't see this, but I'm dripping wet. My tee-shirt is soaked. My hair is in a ponytail. I look terrible, totally sweaty, and I wasn't going to record, and then you guys convinced me to record, and I said, "No." The only reason I'm allowing you to record me looking like I do, like I've been beat up or just beat up somebody, is because it's Abuse Week, and I have a story. I have a story. I practice karate.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You at your worst is still incredibly beautiful.

Tana Amen: Thank you. You're sweet, but I practice karate for a reason. I love it. I find it to be an incredibly empowering sport for women, and I have a story about this. Everyone knows I'm a huge advocate for women's self-defense. I mean everyone knows, that listens to us, that I was attacked when I was 15 walking down the street by just a stranger who tried to drag me down an alley and almost raped me, and I got away, and then there's been other things. I was molested by my stepfather when I was 12, and just some things, so I'm a huge advocate for women's empowerment and self-defense, but what I really love is that, through our podcasts, and Facebook, and some of the coaching that we do, there's one woman that I was coaching who knows about my karate, and I posted my black belt test and stuff like that, which was brutal. She was inspired to leave an abusive relationship and start taking martial arts in her 40s, and she just got her black belt. I love that.

Then, today, I went to my lesson, and there's a woman who just recently started taking lessons. I don't know how old she is, but I know she's a little bit older than I am, and she listens to us all the time, so it was really fun for me that she started taking lessons where I take lessons. It's really cute, and so I love that, and I-

Dr. Daniel Amen: You sound like you're a walking billboard for Bob White's Karate Studio.

Tana Amen: Well, I think they're amazing people, and I love it, so I'm wearing my karate tee-shirt and but I do find it ... that's my hope is to ... anyone who has felt disempowered to be empowered, so here I am looking like a mess.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, actually, in thinking about abuse week, the title of our podcast is The Brain Warrior's Way. Why? Because we believe you're in a war for the health of your brain, that our society is abusing us, from the food they serve that is just flat-out toxic to your body to the nonstop negative news cycle that's just bombarding-

Tana Amen: But it also goes-

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... our brain with negativity, with the gadgets that are stealing your attention, that often people don't know when they are being abused, and we want to tackle that, so not just in your relationships, although we'll talk about that, but also what's happening in our society. We desperately want you to be armed, prepared, and aware so that you win, which is basically the fight of your life for the health of your brain and body.

Tana Amen: Yes. My thesis for my black belt thesis was The Brain Warrior's Way. Before we wrote the books The Brain Warrior's Way, that's what I titled my black belt thesis because I think that it goes so deep. You're in a war for your brain, your body, your mind, and empowerment is just such an important thing in all of those things. You need to-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Abuse can happen in relationships. It can happen in society.

Tana Amen: With chemicals.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It can happen with chemicals, for sure.

Tana Amen: We're going to talk about all of that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It can happen at work. It can happen at the country club. I mean literally can happen anywhere where another person or organizations try to have power over you.

Tana Amen: I want to take one moment to do the flip side of that. We've got all these Me Too movements, and I'm going to be really unpopular when I say this.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Uh-oh. Really?

Tana Amen: I'm going to be really unpopular when I say this.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh, no.

Tana Amen: Yep, because since I'm a huge advocate for-

Dr. Daniel Amen: You remember, Tony Robbins, he got in hot water.

Tana Amen: I don't care. I'm not worried about being popular. Okay? But I'm going to be unpopular when I say this, and I know it. I'm not a big fan of the movement, and I will tell you why. I'm a very big fan of women coming forward. I'm a very big fan of women being empowered. I'm a very big fan. I'm a little worried when we have movements like that that become so big, and they don't encourage women to take a stand on their own, that encourage women to come up two years, three years later. Now, I think women should, and they should feel safe to do that whenever they have been abused, but I know so many women who join movements like that for things that ... How do I say this? It starts to grow, and it takes on a mind of its own, and it's got a group-think component, and I think it can be dangerous for men who aren't necessarily ... who become victims, if you will, and I-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Sheryl Sandberg, who's the CEO of Facebook, came out and said it was worrying her as well because women will not meet alone with men at work and, therefore, decrease the trajectory of their career.

Tana Amen: Yes. Okay, so women want to be treated as equals, but I'm worried that it's going to have the opposite effect, so-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Whenever you've been abused, it's important to talk about it, right? One of the strategies of abusers is, "You can't talk about it. If you talk about it, I will kill your family." Those are some of the things I've seen as a psychiatrist. An abuser will figure out ways to shut people up so that their behavior will not become public, and so it's critical to be able to talk about it, but ... and this goes back to the first thing I learned as a psychotherapist.

I remember it was 1986, and I wrote my second book. It was actually a program I wrote called The Sabotage Factor: All the Ways People Mess Themselves Up From Getting What They Want in Life. The number-one hallmark of self-defeating behavior is you blame other people for how your life is turning out, because I realized early on, if you're a victim, you are powerless, and you can't change anything and, therefore, the success of your life is not yours. The failure is because of somebody else.

Tana Amen: I have a perfect example of what I mean by this. I would love to see women feel empowered enough to take care of it at the time in a proper way. Does that make sense? Feel empowered to handle something as opposed to disempowering themselves long-term, especially in the workplace.

My daughter, Chloe, she's doing acting right now, and so this big Me Too movement comes out. She comes up to me one day, and I was so shocked by the way she presented this. I couldn't get her to do martial arts for the longest time. I forced her when she was little, and then she hated it and wouldn't do it forever. She comes up, she's like, "Yeah, I want to start taking martial arts with you again." I was so happy, and I'm like, "Why? Why all of a sudden do you now want to do it after all these years of fighting me tooth and nail?" She said, "You know, this Me Too movement worries me." I was so surprised. I'm like, "Really?" I said, "Tell me about it." She goes, "Well, because I'm going into this field, and I know that it's trouble."

I said, "Okay, so why? It still doesn't make ... I'm not making the connection." She said, "I don't want to become part of a movement like that where I lose my own voice," and I was like, "Oh, my gosh." She actually said what I was thinking but in such a simple way. She said, "I don't want to lose my own voice. I want to be able to handle it in the moment," and she goes, "and what's even more, I want to carry myself in a way that people just know not to mess with me." I was like, "Interesting."

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and she's actually at a very interesting age, so 14 almost 15. There's actually a new study out that you are never more mean than when you're 14. Isn't that interesting? They actually found out younger gang members actually were more violent than older gang members.

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Younger snakes, baby snakes, are more poisonous. Why? Because they can't control-

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting, the hormones.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... the venom that they release. Young teenagers, their brain is in this chemical soup of development, so they might have these rageful or mean urges that they can't fully control because they don't see the empathy of what their behavior does to other people.

Let's do this for abuse week. Let's talk about the different kinds of abuse in the rest of this podcast. Then, in the next one, we're going to talk about the symptoms, so how do you know if you're in an abusive relationship? When we think of Hollywood, for example, that sexual abuse in the workplace is actually very common.

Tana Amen: Harassment.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's where someone uses their power to manipulate you to do something-

Tana Amen: They threaten you. They threaten your career.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... that you don't want to do.

Tana Amen: Right. They either threaten you physically, or they threaten your career, or they threaten your well-being or your future in any way.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It doesn't just happen from males to females.

Tana Amen: No.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It certainly can go the other way around as well.

Tana Amen: That's the thing I want to point out because, sadly, I've actually known some women like this, and it's very sad, but men have to be very careful. Men don't often think about this in advance, and men need to be very careful, so I really want to point this out. I've actually known women who make advances on men and get them to sleep with them, and then they claim rape or they claim sexual harassment because women don't have the power-over factor, they don't have that ability to do the power-over thing, so they're much more devious. They're just like snakes that way. There are some women who are just not healthy, and so please, if you're a man who's a nice guy, don't ... you got to really be careful. There are some devious women out there.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Okay, so there's workplace sexual abuse, but there's also workplace emotional abuse where you put people down in front of others, you use your power to make people anxious, to bend them to your will, and so there's sexual abuse, there's emotional abuse, there's also physical abuse. Physical abuse can actually be making someone work longer than is healthy for them.

Tana Amen: Or lifting things you know they can't lift.

Dr. Daniel Amen: There's some, especially some Silicon Valley startups, that people are working 20 hours a day and-

Tana Amen: Or if they're unsafe environments or where they know that you can't do something physically, and they're not creating a way for you to do your job safely.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, or if they know there's mold on the premises and they're not taking care of that-

Tana Amen: Providing masks and-

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... or if there is toxins. I saw a firefighter's brain yesterday. It was so toxic. When the NFL was in denial that it had a problem with traumatic brain injury, which they were for decades, it's really abusive to be in denial that you have a problem that you're not addressing. I always say if you don't admit you have a problem, you can't do anything to solve the problem.

Tana Amen: I have a question, though, because it's really easy for so many of us to sit back and go, "Why is she so stupid?" or, "Why is he so stupid? Why are they staying in that abusive relationship?" Right? Let's talk about this cycle of abuse for a second, how it starts. Sometimes they start when someone's really young, right? Someone gets involved with someone when they're really young or when they're very desperate and broken. How does that cycle start, right? The ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, let's finish talking about types of abuse.

Tana Amen: Okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Then I think that's a great concept. In fact, we were talking about a little girl who we're just absolutely certain, if the family dynamics don't change, she's going to grow up and be abused, so let's talk about that. We've talked about work. There's also, in intimate relationships, power-over. There's parent-child abuse, which I've seen so much over the years as a child psychiatrist.

Tana Amen: That's more emotional or physical.

Dr. Daniel Amen: There's also societal abuse.

Tana Amen: Wait. Back up for a second. When you talk about the power-over, there's several kinds of ways that can happen. The power-over can be emotional abuse or it can be physical abuse. A stepfather molesting someone is both, right? Being attacked on the street is physical power-over, right? Those are examples of power-over.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Then emotional abuse might be how a mother tries to control her children.

Tana Amen: Or forces them to lie.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Even decades later.

Tana Amen: Or forces them to lie for her coverup.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Or forces them ... which is abusive.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us. When we come back, we're going to talk about the signs of emotional abuse in relationships, but you can also apply this to work, and we'll also work on applying it to our society. Stay with us.

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