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What Long-Term Stress Does To Your Brain

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

Depression in the United States has now tripled due to the impact of the coronavirus. The social isolation, chronic negative news, and worries over job losses and finances have brought long-term stress to millions of people. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss how long-term stress affects both the brain and the body, highlighting the importance of focusing on your health.

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Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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 amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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 brainmd.com.

Welcome everyone. Today we’re going to talk about strategies to deal with the long-term stress. And boy, have we had long-term stress this year. I’ve heard so many people saying, you know, “2020, let’s just cancel it.” This year is has just been-

Dr. Daniel Amen:

I got one this morning, “#2020, I’m over it.”

Tana Amen:

I’m over it, exactly. So many people feel that way. And even people who have generally pretty … Don’t have reason to have as much stress as some people we know, they’re just getting really, really down. They’re feeling very cornered. They’re feeling very hopeless. And so didn’t you say you read that depression … Last time we talked about this, and it doubled.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And now it has tripled.

Tana Amen:

That fast, it’s gone up.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Before we get to the content, hopefully you’ll learn something amazing this week. And we want you to write it down, take a picture of it, post about it in any of your social media sites and then go to Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. Leave us a comment, question or review. And if we read it, which we’re going to do this week, four winners … You know, when we have guests, we often don’t announce winners. We have four winners this week. We’ll send you a copy of the cookbook or my new book, the end of mental illness.

And I have our first winner, which is Carrie, 0178 from the United States titled, Love Your Work. Thank you. “I love your podcast and all the information you and the guest speakers bring to us. I am learning so much. I am 60 and have been feeling brain fog for a few years. So I am changing up my diet, and supplement to continue to be the healthiest I can be for the rest of my life.”

Tana Amen:

I love that.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

“I can’t thank you enough.” So Carrie, you are one of our winners. Thank you so much. So, the incidents of depression in the general population … And it’s actually remained fairly constant since 1980, when I decided to be a psychiatrist, it was about 6%. So about 6% or 20 million Americans at any point in time will experience significant depressive episodes. But it started to creep up, and before the pandemic, it was actually at 8%.

Tana Amen:

Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Well now in a brand new study, just out this week, it’s at 25.7.

Tana Amen:

That’s insane. It’s gone up that fast from 8% to 25.7%.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

It has tripled in six months.

Tana Amen:

Wow.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And I’m not okay with it. And if you think of social isolation, chronic negative news, the worry about getting sick, loved ones, getting sick, losing your business, losing your job, being at home. Thankfully I’m at home with somebody I like a whole bunch. And so I sort of like being at home. But if you’re at home … In fact, I was having a conversation yesterday where this person had grown up in an alcoholic home, and had been abused. The incidents of child abuse reported is dramatically less. But the reason it’s dramatically less is children aren’t around mandated reporters.

Tana Amen:

Oh, that’s not good.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

So teachers are not seeing the bruises-

Tana Amen:

Yeah,, they’re at home.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

… on your back of your legs.

Tana Amen:

They’re stuck at home.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Or, janitors coaches, nurses … Because, I mean, be honest. Who really wants to go to the emergency room now? Because you’re worried about COVID-19. And so people are not getting the help they need.

Tana Amen:

You know, I feel like we throw the word depression and even anxiety around so much that we start to desensitize to what it really means. And so I think it’s really important that we tap into what people are really feeling. I know when I actually had depression to a point I wanted to die. Depression can go anywhere from like, “I just feel black.” Like, “I don’t want to go out and do anything.” Like, “I just don’t want to get out of bed.” Or, “I just have no energy,” all the way to you want to rip your freaking skin off. And that’s how I was.

Like, you just can’t get away from the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and sadness. And to the point that you can’t really see a reason to live. In my case, thank God, I wouldn’t consider doing that. But I did use to hope that something would happen. So I think it’s really important to really not just mention depression because we keep saying it.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Well, it’s sort of like, “Well, how do you know if you’re depressed?” I mean, everybody during this pandemic has had-

Tana Amen:

Has had moments.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

… down days. But it’s when the down days stay. When it’s gone on for two weeks or more-

Tana Amen:

And you start to feel hopeless.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

… where you feel sad, blue, hopeless, helpless, worthless. Where you’re not sleeping well, where your appetite either goes away and you lose weight, or you become ravenous and you gain a bunch of weight. So sleep, appetite, concentration often goes down and people go, “Oh my goodness, I have ADD.” Now ADD is something you have over a long period of time. But when you’re exposed to chronic stress … So, even if you’re in a business that’s doing well, given the isolation, the masks, the working from home, the inability to like go to a movie, the chronic stress really begins to wear out your immune system.

Tana Amen:

And we’ve got teenagers at home. And I think that population is really struggling.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Very vulnerable.

Tana Amen:

So we had two of them get really depressed. The teenagers got depressed. The youngest one actually likes being home. So that was weird. We didn’t expect that. She doesn’t want to go back to school. But, even there there’s a problem. Because now a lot of kids are really anxious and winding themselves up about having to go back out into society. So either way you look at it, it’s a problem. And so-

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And also the incidents of social anxiety has gone way up. The incidents of agoraphobia, where you’re not leaving your house, is gone way up. The incidents of OCD … I saw someone at the clinic, and she’s like, “I’ve been vindicated.”

Tana Amen:

Yeah. Yeah. And even I’ve had those moment … And that’s not like us. We’re usually so busy. I’ve had those moments of like, “I don’t really want to go out.” Like you start to … But I catch myself. And I’m like, “Okay, I want to be careful, but I don’t want to get into this mindset of, ‘I can’t do something.'”

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Well, we have a new clinic in Texas that is coming in Dallas. You know, probably in January. And so we went to Texas for a week.

Tana Amen:

It felt so … I have to tell you, after six months of being in the house and feeling like life is never going to be normal again, because we just have a new normal, I … That was … Just going to Texas and driving. Like, we didn’t go to The Bahamas or … We just were working mostly, but it was … I felt so refreshed. And we were super careful. But so refreshed. So … Just like there was hope again that things were going to sort of like be normal again some day.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Yeah, but there were stressful times. Like just getting on a plane with COVID-19.

Tana Amen:

Yeah. I mean, we wiped everything down. We wore masks. We like … We’re super careful.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

But it was weird. And then, you know, I’m Googling … I like pretty places. It’s like, “What’s the prettiest city in Texas?” And you know, Fredericksburg just came up over and over again.

Tana Amen:

Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And it was a Sunday. No, it was a Saturday. And when we got out and started walking around Fredericksburg-

Tana Amen:

Oh, you freaked out.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Well apparently, thousands of other people had that same-

Tana Amen:

It looked like going to Disneyland.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

They Googled the same thing. And I felt like I was at the Staples Center with 18,000 people.

Tana Amen:

Yeah, it was crazy.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And after about five minutes, I’m like, “No, we’re leaving.”

Tana Amen:

The second we got over to where there were-

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Because I’m like, “No.” We’re like-

Tana Amen:

People were shoulder to shoulder, and the minute we got over there, you were like, “I’m done, I’m leaving.” I’m like-

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And she was hungry.

Tana Amen:

Yeah, I’m not nice when I’m hungry.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

And we couldn’t find anything for two hours. So I got punished for two hours, which is not good. All right. So, in this podcast, we talked about the facts of chronic stress. In the next podcast coming up, we’re going to give you some strategies on how do you manage this? How do brain warriors manage chronic stress? And so just know everybody’s been exposed to it, whether your life is going great or terrible. This has been a very stressful year which can affect your mood, your level of anxiety, your focus, your immune system. And we’re going to talk about how to manage long-term stress.

Leave us a comment, question or review at brainwarriorswaypodcast.com. We’ll be grateful and enter you into a raffle to win one of our books. Carrie 0178 is our winner of this podcast.

Tana Amen:

And if you … If we got your review on iTunes, then please go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, and go to the comment section and we need to have a way to reach you. So, we pick those up. We will get back to you. But we don’t have a way to reach you if you left it on iTunes.

Dr. Daniel Amen:

Yeah. And we are nearing 10 million downloads for the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. So we want to thank you for that. Stay with us.

Tana Amen:

If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:       If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.