How Mental Illness Treatment Has Changed Throughout History

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

This episode of the podcast continues our special edition series from the Brain Health Revolution Challenge. Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen discuss the hidden “evil ruler” in our society that pushes unhealthy habits on us, the historical evolution of psychiatric treatment, where it’s going in the future, and why eliminating the stigma of mental illness is so vital to our society right now.

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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. 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
Tana Amen: 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
Dr Daniel Amen: Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: We're so excited you're with us. For this week series what we're doing is we're playing the live class from The End of Mental Illness.
Tana Amen: We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class, and the people who joined us had just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So we wanted to share this with you, and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.
Dr Daniel Amen: So this book, The End of Mental Illness, please preorder it. It's available March 3rd. But the more you preorder it, the more excitement it'll get on it. And we have all sorts of gifts for you if you do. But I dedicated this book, and you actually dedicated your new book that you're are working on.
Tana Amen: I just to finish the rough draft today.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah. To these kids, Amelie who's 10 and Alisay who's 15. Why?
Dr Daniel Amen: They have a family history that's horrific for mental health issues, multiple suicides, schizophrenia, drug abuse, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, criminal behavior. But as we often talk about, genes only load the gun. It's what happens to you that pulls the trigger. And unfortunately for them, they were raised in chaos with parents who struggled with addiction, domestic violence, and depression. In addition, they had multiple moves, multiple schools. Life was unpredictable to say the least. And then about four years ago, they were taken from their mother by child protective services and placed into foster care where yet more traumas occurred. And so knowing this, it's very clear that these kids are at extremely high risk for mental health issues.
Tana Amen: It's amazing how good these kids are.
Dr Daniel Amen: The End of Mental Illness is our blueprint to end mental illness in Alisay and Amelie and in their children and grandchildren. And with the program, we're pretty excited. The girls are happy. We spent the weekend with them. They're A students.
Tana Amen: They're honor students.
Dr Daniel Amen: They're social. They're no longer addicted to Hot Cheetos. That was an issue. Do you remember Alisay would like-
Tana Amen: Oh no, she used to go... She's a little hustler, that one. She used to go to the school and she'd buy as many bags as she could with her allowance out of the vending machine and then she'd sell them for double. She's a drug dealer.
Dr Daniel Amen: We love her.
Tana Amen: No, she's amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: We hope she stopped that.
Tana Amen: She's amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: I mean, she's an honors student. It's like crazy. What we're doing with this program is putting their bodies in a healing environment because when little girls are born, they're actually born with all of the eggs they will ever have, which start to develop inside a growing fetus at about five months old. So about five months old is the eggs, the genetic material for the grand-babies. If you just think about this, and so our goal is to end the cycle of mental health challenges and that's what this course, that's what this book, The End of Mental Illness is all about.
Dr Daniel Amen: And this week we're going to talk about a bit about assessing your brain, but I want to give you some context for it. And in The End of Mental Illness, I have this great writing device that I liked called if I was an evil ruler, how would I increase the incidence of mental illness? And there's the angel of death. If I was an evil ruler, how would I increase the incidents of mental illness? And after this course, you're going to see it happen all around you. And then I thought, well, if I was a good ruler, how would I decrease the incidents of mental illness? And here our symbol is Tana because mothers are the health leaders in the family. And even though people come to Amen Clinics, 60% of them are male, but 70% of the people who call are mothers. They're people concerned themselves, their children.
Tana Amen: We worry.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes. I know. I've seen your brain.
Tana Amen: A lot.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so we're going to talk about strategies. So for example, if I was an evil ruler, I'd create addictive social media apps that make everyone else's life look amazing. And by contrast, yours sucks. And you actually on the podcast, you gave a great example.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I mean I know this information and I think I'm pretty immune to it just because I know it. And I rarely scroll through social media because I think it's ridiculous and it's a waste of my time. But because I was Christmas shopping, I hate the mall more than life itself. Like I hate going to malls.
Dr Daniel Amen: I know we have like the opposite thing going on. I like going shopping and I like browsing. I like walking in the mall.
Tana Amen: No, online shopping was the best thing that ever came along, so I can avoid them all completely during the holidays. And so I was online shopping and all of a sudden I clicked on something on Instagram, and I found myself going down this rabbit hole and being drawn to... Scrolling, doing the thing I never do. And I came across someone who I know, she's my age, she's another health leader. And I'm like, within five minutes, I felt terrible about myself. I'm like, why does she look so good? Why does she look like that? She's my age outcome. How come she looks like that, and I looked like that? And then I started spinning and I caught myself. Thank God I caught myself. And I'm like, imagine, I mean, I'm my age and I have the skill and we do this for a living. So kids who don't have that opportunity, these teenagers don't have a shot. They're just struggling so much with this information. I mean, this ability to be able to control their emotions and how they feel about themselves and their self esteem when they're on social media all day.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, I'm actually working on a new project called Your Brain Is Always Listening about the dragons from the past that breathe fire on your emotional centers and the inferior or flawed dragon.
Tana Amen: And women see flaws. You look in the mirror and you see how cute you are. I look in the mirror, you're like, "How do you keep your hands off of me?" I look in the mirror and I'm like, "Oh, I have a new wrinkle today." You know what I mean?
Dr Daniel Amen: How do you keep your hands off of me?
Tana Amen: It's really challenging actually. Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: If I was a good ruler, moving on, I'd create a nationwide brand health campaign. And I would have it in schools, in churches, in businesses, everywhere people gather. We're actually doing a new program with the Newport Beach Police Department over six months. We're planting brain health among our police officers. Why? Because they're basically our heroes. I mean-
Tana Amen: There is so much trauma.
Dr Daniel Amen: The big NFL study, we've scanned and treated 300 NFL players, high levels of damage. 80% of them get better when they follow what we ask you to do. If you follow when I ask you to do, you're going to feel better. But I realized football players or entertainer where firefighters and first responders and police officers, they're heroes. And you need them to work and they have doubled the risk of suicide than the general population. So create a nationwide brain health campaign. You're part of that. That's why we're doing this six week challenge and giving away all these prizes because we want you to stay with us.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right. Step number one in The End of Mental Illness. We need to get rid of the term mental illness and call these things what they really are, which is brain health issues that steal your mind. The term mental illness insidiously stains everyone diagnosed, making them less likely to seek help. And you know this is true. No one is shamed for cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Likewise, no one should be shamed for bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorders, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Yet if we do not lower stigma for these brain health issues, many more people will suffer and die.
Tana Amen: One of the things that frustrates me is because this is absolutely true, but what's worse than that? The one thing that's worse than the stigma around it is when people do go get help and the treatment fails. And they get blamed for it not working. So when-
Dr Daniel Amen: Do you have an example?
Tana Amen: Yeah, me. So my grandmother. Like every person watching-
Dr Daniel Amen: Let's be clear, Tana was not one of my patients I guarantee you she knows someone who was not one of my patients.
Tana Amen: Oh no, this isn't my twenties. But so many people I know have experienced this where they go to the doctor because something's not right. They get treatment and when it doesn't work, there's something wrong with them. It's not because the treatment failed and that makes people even less likely to seek help and more angry at the psychiatric and just the industry in general.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's demoralizing. You go and you trust someone and they basically make diagnoses without any biological data. Every 14 minutes in this country someone commits suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among young people. And it's getting worse.
Tana Amen: There was a nine year old a few miles from us that committed suicide a few weeks ago. It was just terrible. A nine year old.
Dr Daniel Amen: Suicide has increased 33% since 1999. This is a Center for Disease Control statistic, but cancers declined 27%. why? We're working on the wrong paradigm. Mental illness places emphasis on your psyche or your mind, which is vague and hard to define when our brain imaging work has clearly shown these are brain health issues that steal your mind.
Dr Daniel Amen: Meet Jarrett. And some of you came on earlier. We actually rolled Jarrett's a story and his mom Christine talked about it. He was diagnosed with ADHD in preschool. He was hyperactive, restless, impulsive. He had no friends. He had learning problems. He had a terrible temper. Five doctors, five stimulant medications. They all made them worse. So I'm thinking to myself, who has the learning problem? Is Jarrett or is it the doctors? The medications triggered rages and terrible mood swings.
Tana Amen: He punched holes in walls.
Dr Daniel Amen: And they wanted to put them on anti-psychotic medications. Now you actually knew Jared when he was little.
Tana Amen: I did because his mother was a good friend of mine and he was such a cute kid, but I was a little nervous to have my baby around him because he was just a little unpredictable. And it was really sad. It's horrible as a mother to say something like that. And the sad thing is that's what ended up happening to him in school. A lot of parents didn't want to have kids around him. Jarrett didn't get invited to birthday parties. He became more socially isolated because he was tagged as that kid who people didn't want their kids around him. So in spite of being this really good looking kid who could be really sweet, he just, these mood swings were out of control.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah. And so because you were friends and she ended up bringing him to the clinic to get scanned. So here at Amen Clinics, we do a study called SPECT. SPECT looks at blood flow and activity. It looks at how your brain works. And the imaging study basically shows us three things: good activity, too little or too much. And then our job is to balance it. If your brain is sleepy, we're going to find a way to stimulate it. If your brain is too busy, we're going to find a way to calm it down. And so these are healthy scans, full even symmetrical activity on the left. The active scan, red equals the area that's the most active, which in a healthy brain is in the cerebellum in the back bottom part of the brain.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, here's Jarrett's scam, so healthy on the left. He's got a pattern I described about 25 years ago now called the ring of fire. His brain works way too hard. Please don't stimulate this brain. Giving him a stimulant is like pouring gasoline on a fire. And what did we do? Natural supplements to calm his brain down. I use something called Neurolink that has Gaba 5-HTP Torin to calm things down and L-tyrosene to help balance his brain. And we also did parent training and did brain healthy habits. You can't do psychiatry if you're not also talking about brain health, right? That doesn't have a Prozac deficiency or Ritalin deficiency. His brain is an organ needs to be healthy, just like your heart needs to be healthy.
Dr Daniel Amen: And within a couple of months his behavior is better. The rages stopped. He was able to make friends. He's been on the honor roll or dean's list for eight years. I just saw a letter he got from his college. He's on the president's list. He wants to be a firefighter. And this is Jarrett and I recently, and I asked him why he wanted to be a firefighter and this is what he told me: "On someone's worst day I want to make it better." And Jarrett's story is actually the B, the beginning of chapter one. So there's a really cool introduction to the book, but chapter one is where I get into the meat of it.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then I wondered in chapter one, how would Jarrett have been treated throughout the ages? And so for example, an ancient civilization, they may have drilled a hole in his skull to let out the evil spirits. Ouch. In the times of Hippocrates 400 BC, they would've changed his diet. Hippocrates would've changed his diet, had him exercise, put him in a job that fit his restless nature. So all of those things I like, and then he would have bled him to release the excessive fluids that he had.
Tana Amen: So it was all good except for that.
Dr Daniel Amen: All good except for that. Middle ages, he may have been put in an asylum and chained and beaten trying to modify his behavior. The 18th and 19th centuries, they may have sterilized him, and his family be placed under suspicion in the eugenics program that was first actually pioneered here in America. It's the precursor to Nazi atrocities in the 20th century, Freud may have had Jarrett on his couch to talk about his internal conflicts, especially his relationship with his mother. Why are mothers-
Tana Amen: Why are we always blamed.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... blamed for everything.
Tana Amen: It's always us.
Dr Daniel Amen: But it wouldn't have worked. And then he would have said to well, he has a personality disorder. In the 1950s, he may have been given a prefrontal lobe anatomy. I mean he was like the candidate for it with his aggressive, impulsive, restless nature. And it may have calmed down his aggression but also ruined his personality. In the 1960s, he may have been given electroshock therapy. Your grandmother had that. Sort of not the kind of buzz he would like. And currently he was seeing many doctors with multiple different medications without anyone ever looking at his brain.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I'm feeling like it's a good thing they didn't put a hole in his brain in current times, but it's not like they did a really great job treating him.
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