Irlen Syndrome: What Is It? – Pt. 3

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

In the third episode of a series on brain injuries, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss Irlen Syndrome, a condition often caused by brain trauma. Daniel and Tana describe the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome, as well as discuss how treatment options can help you get your life back.


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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 brainspect 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. We are having fun. I guess we shouldn't say that with-
Tana Amen: We always have fun. Why should we say that?
Dr Daniel Amen: Brain Trauma Awareness Week.
Tana Amen: Well, yeah. We're having fun giving you awareness. We're not having fun with brain trauma. We don't want people to think-
Dr Daniel Amen: And, we are not banging each other's heads, right? I mean, you see that in the movies all the time. You see it with the W ... World Wide Wrestling.
Tana Amen: There's only one thing that would cause me to bang somebody's head, and that's if you hurt my child.
Dr Daniel Amen: Mixed martial artists and traumatic brain injuries from football, from soccer, from riding a horse, and you know what I know, and then you drive on the freeway, it's a wonder really that anybody gets home.
Tana Amen: Oh. Don't get me started. Oh my gosh. It is the most frustrating ... Now that I have to drive to Los Angeles so much. We have our [inaudible 00:01:38] Clinic, and I'm up there all the time with Chloe. Oh my gosh. What is the matter with people? There must be so many bad brains on the freeway. It's crazy. It is just crazy. It's craziness. I need to carry cards and just fling them out the window. It's so frustrating. Suppose it's better than the other hand gestures you could give.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and you know, if your sister fell asleep at the wheel and rolled the car at 70 miles an hour or 75 miles an hour, you're more likely to react when people do stupid things than-
Tana Amen: So you're blaming it now on my cards. Oh I see. Okay.
Dr Daniel Amen: And not to react because you know ... I mean all of us, when we get cut off on the highway, we should do a whole lesson on road rage. I've seen so many people who've had road rage, and in my mind, I got the thought in my head, "You bastard." Sorry for swearing, but I get that thought, "You bastard," and then I'll leave it alone. 'Cause they're seriously crazy people.
Tana Amen: No. I had someone actually get out of his car and pound on my window, and I didn't actually do anything that time. There are plenty of times I have. That time I didn't. That guy was actually just crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: So just to my point-
Tana Amen: That scared me so bad.
Dr Daniel Amen: There are ... So if you're just looking at the brain injury statistics, it's estimated from the CDC 2,000,000,000 people every year in the United States have a brand new brain injury, traumatic brain injury. That means over the last 40 years, there's 80 million people around. Now, yes, concentrated more in LA. There's 80 million people who have traumatic brain injury. And what do you think the prison population, the incidence of traumatic brain injury, it's very high according to a number of studies. So from prison to homelessness to bankruptcy, to people who struggle with add anxiety, depression, suicide, it is rampant in our society because psychiatrists never look at the brain, and they really don't appreciate it is.
But in this podcast, I want to talk about the Irlen Syndrome. And when I first learned about it in 1994 at an international adult ADD conference, I thought it was nonsense, right?
Tana Amen: And so do a lot of people still.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, they're misinformed.
Tana Amen: They're uneducated.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, let's inform them. This was developed by a school psychologist, Helen Irlen, who is from Long Beach. And she found that many kids who were struggling with reading, with focus, with anxiety and depression, actually had a visual processing problem.
Tana Amen: See, I don't see why that is so hard to understand. Visual processing problems lead to issues, right?
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and if 30 percent of your brain is dedicated to vision, and you're not processing things properly, you are not going to feel right.
And let me just tell you a story. There is a woman who had the holy trinity of Amen Clinics. She came to us with ADD, anxiety and depression, and she saw one of the doctors here who diagnosed her with Irlen Syndrome, that when she read the letters would move on the page. That's one of the symptoms, or what she'd read if she ever read on white glossy paper, she'd get headaches. She had blurred vision. She had depth perception issues. She was not good at sports, and she hated sports. But when she was young, she was good at music.
Well, when the doctor diagnosed her, we actually sent her over to Long Beach and got screened and my sister was there at the time because my nephew also has the Irlen Syndrome, and she called me up, and I was with a patient, so I didn't answer. And then like a minute later she calls me again. She's sort of like you. You do that to me, and I know if you've called me three times in a row, somebody dead. It's like, doesn't matter what you're doing, answer the phone.
So, when the third time she called, I thought, "Oh my God, my mom's dead."
Tana Amen: [inaudible 00:06:00] Don't even say that out loud.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's what I thought.
Tana Amen: [inaudible 00:06:04]
Dr Daniel Amen: And so I answered the phone and I'm like, "What?" And she said, "You can't believe this woman you guys sent over here who has the Irlen Syndrome? When she put on the glasses, because that's the treatment for it, it's colored filtered lenses ... When she put on the glasses, she saw the bookcase come out from the wall. She saw the door knob come out from the door. She saw a guy who was overweight, walked by, and she blurts out pot belly because she had depth perception problems, and every guy was sort of 2D, and now this guy is 3D, and that's very rude to blurt out pot belly, but it's the first time she had seen it.
And so my sister was like all excited. And so we scanned her the next day, the woman, on the glasses that really helped her get better depth perception and treat the Irlen Syndrome. And we're like so excited because she had a very busy brain, and her whole brain calmed down just wearing the glasses. It was really cool.
Tana Amen: So I have one story about this.
Dr Daniel Amen: Can I finish this one.
Tana Amen: Oh, I thought you were done. I'm sorry.
Dr Daniel Amen: I am not even close.
Tana Amen: I am so sorry.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you for apologizing. That actually warms my heart. So ... No, you got to know, so like Paul Harvey used to say, "The rest of the story." You remember that?
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, here's the rest of the story. She's better. A week later, she's worse. She's depressed. The doctor like goes, I have to tell you the rest of the story. When she was 12, she was actually a prodigy guitar player. She was amazing and was doing concerts and really saw herself going as a professional musician, but she could never learn to read music because whenever she tried to read music, the notes would dance on the page.
Tana Amen: Right. This is almost like dyslexia.
Dr Daniel Amen: And well, very common with people who have dyslexia.
Tana Amen: Right. Okay.
Dr Daniel Amen: They really have this thing we call scotopic sensitivity syndrome, light sensitivity syndrome, or the Irlen Syndrome, and when she was 12, because she couldn't learn to read music, she took the guitar by its throat and broke it and never played again.
So now, she's 42, it's 30 years later, she's diagnosed with Irlen, why does she get depressed?
Tana Amen: Because she is thinking about what could have happened.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's mourning the loss of what could have been in her life-
Tana Amen: If someone had realized.
Dr Daniel Amen: And that is not a Prozac moment.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr Daniel Amen: That is not.
Tana Amen: It's not a happy Hallmark card.
Dr Daniel Amen: You have to ... It's a psychotherapy moment to work through the loss and then get to the place of gratitude that I don't have to have this anymore.
Tana Amen: So, I just want to-
Dr Daniel Amen: But think of how-
Tana Amen: I know it's terrible.
Dr Daniel Amen: Important this is, and for her, we didn't come up with a brain injury, but the Irlen Syndrome is very common after a brain injury.
Tana Amen: One of my questions was, can you obtain it post brain injury? It's not like you're always born with it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Very common.
Tana Amen: Okay. So, that's one of the things.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, I have NFL players, NHL players, soldiers, and some of my NHL players actually we tint their masks so-
Tana Amen: So they can see better when [crosstalk 00:09:43]
Dr Daniel Amen: They can deal with the visual processing issues.
Tana Amen: That makes sense. Especially because the lights.
So, I was going to quickly mention a story about someone very close to me who I don't want to talk about names, but this is really kind of a sad, kind of creepy story.
She turned out to have almost like the far end of the spectrum of Irlens, like almost-
Dr Daniel Amen: The worst.
Tana Amen: Like one of the worst cases of Irlens. But the really sad part of this is that she actually ended up, because it was so bad, I don't want to go into details on it 'cause it'll take too long. She ended up believing that people were after her, like almost like a conspiracy theory type thing because lights ... She would see lights coming at her, and to this day, if she takes the glasses off for very long, she sees lights like, especially under fluorescent lights, she sees beams of lights. And so she-
Dr Daniel Amen: Its almost like a psychotic process.
Tana Amen: Yes. They diagnosed her as being like psychotic. So, when she looks at a phone or anything like that, it's like ... So, she thought people were doing this to her.
When she got the glasses, she almost had a breakdown because of realizing, "Oh my God, all of this has happened to me. A big part of it is because of this visual processing."
Dr Daniel Amen: And that's why she had multiple accidents.
Tana Amen: Right? And you just gave it away. What is the matter with you?
Dr Daniel Amen: So to learn more about the Irlen Syndrome, it is so common, go to Irlen, and you can learn about the work of Helen Irlen. Of you can relate, if you have headaches and you don't know why ... In fact, that's why I began to believe in it. One of my friends who suffered from severe migraine headaches, when she put on the glasses, her headaches went away, and-
Tana Amen: And it makes sense.
Dr Daniel Amen: She was not somebody I would have thought of-
Tana Amen: But if you're having trouble with lights, that makes sense, especially fluorescent light.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, one of the more common causes of migraine headaches. Stay with us.
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