Losing someone is hard, emotionally, but does it have any impact on your brain? That’s what we’re going to find out in today’s episode.
Speaker 6: Recently my dog died, and I've been really heartbroken. Or maybe I should say brain-broken. I'm wondering what happens to your brain when you lose someone you love? Whether it's a spouse, a friend, or a pet.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh, it's so sad. I actually just talked to a patient last week who had to put her dog to sleep, and she was so sad. A lot of people don't get how important their animals are to them. I mean, we've been playing with Tinkerbell tonight. Your animals come to live in the nerve cell networks in your brain. They actually become part of who we are. When they go away, they don't die in our brain. They still live. I remember when Paulie Anna died. Paulie Anna was our Maltese. We had her for 11 years. So cute. My daughter, Brianne, got depressed when Paulie Anna died. She had nightmares about Paulie Anna. Every time she'd look where the dog's dish was supposed to be, she'd just start to cry. It was as if she lost one of the most important people in her life, but it was one of the most important lives in her life, because Paulie Anna was still in her head.
It really wasn't until she got Madison, who turned out to be Paulie Anna's grand niece, that Brianne started to sort of get to be more normal. Grief is such an important issue for us to deal with. Often when people go through a grieving process, they do terrible things for their brain. They start to drink too much because they can't sleep, they overeat; they do a lot of things that are not good for them. When really one of the best ways to deal with grief is to face it. There's often all the 'ands' that go along with it. You know, if I did this, if I did that, then this wouldn't have happened, and, you know, they end up torturing themselves, and that totally just perpetuates it. I often just say welcome the feelings. Sit with the feelings. Cry, because crying, in many ways, is like a little seizure in the brain.
When you cry, it really fires up your emotional brain, but then it can settle down and you can be okay. Also, make sure you engage in all those brain-healthy things, and then you will open your heart to bring other animals or people to occupy those nerve cell networks in your brain.
Speaker 6: Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you.
Speaker 7: You mentioned several factors that may influence the quality of how a relationship is, such as consumption of alcohol or drugs. You also mentioned factors such as how the parents of somebody may have behaved. Just a question that I had was: do genetics play a role in this as well?
Dr Daniel Amen: Genetics play a huge role, and we think maybe about 20%. A lot of people think genes are everything, and genes are not everything, but they're important. If you have a family history of ADD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, you are at higher risks to have problems. Fascinating study with bipolar disorder. Those people who had the genes for bipolar disorder, they had it in their family, who grew up in fairly healthy homes. Had their first manic episode ten years later than someone with that same genetic vulnerability who grew up, like Will's family, in a chaotic home. Your environment really matters. How you protect yourself is you get on a brain-healthy program. With that, even if you're vulnerable to these issues, it can just make such a huge difference.
Speaker 8: Casual marijuana use is so commonly accepted within the younger generation now, and it's becoming even more accepted now. I wanted to know how that affects your ability to even feel love, and how it affects you in the long run?
Dr Daniel Amen: What I've seen on scans is many people smoke pot as a way to settle down their brains. In the show I talked about a woman who had obsessive-compulsive disorder and way too much activity in her brain. People with that often will use marijuana or alcohol or pain killers, things that settle down brain activity, in order to just feel more normal. The problem is they get stupid over time. I mean, we see it decreases function in their frontal lobe, so they're, over time, less thoughtful. It decreases their reaction time, so they get more head injuries from being in car accidents when they're high. It's not good for your brain. Marijuana is not good medicine.