What To Do When A Loved One Is In Denial About Their Health

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

It can be hard enough just to focus on maintaining our own health day to day, so having a partner who is on board with your plight can make a huge positive difference. However, when loved ones are in denial about their own health, it can make your efforts much more difficult. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen teach how you can reframe the discussion of mental/brain health in order to help the ones your love get their brains right.

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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 amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Today we're going to talk about what you should do when a loved one is in denial about needing help. This is something we have dealt with a lot over time. But before we get into this, you have a review and you have a smile on your face.
Tana Amen: Well, and it's very apropos. Well, because it's very apropos to what you just said. So this is from Lloyd of Rochester, Lloyd's of Rochester. Okay. Thank you for your podcast. This one may get through to certain unhappy people in my life much better than anything I could say to them. Yeah, it's human nature. I think I'm getting out of this that he recommends it to people when he wants to say something and can't say it, so when people are in denial, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, it's so common. I think I mentioned I'm beginning to work on a new book called The End of Mental Illness. Nobody wants to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal, but everybody wants a better brain. I remember when I told my dad in 1980 I wanted to be a psychiatrist, he asked me why I didn't want to be a real doctor, why I wanted to be a nut doctor and hang out with nuts all day long, and it hurt my feelings. 40 years later, I completely get why he said that.
Tana Amen: And when you say, I want to just elaborate for one second, 'cause you sometimes I think we say that so often, we sort of gloss over everybody wants a better brain. When you say everybody wants a better brain, everybody wants to be, 'cause what that really means is you want to be happier. You want to be more successful. You want to be more connected. You want to be more purposeful, more giving.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Smarter.
Tana Amen: That's what it means to have a better brain.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You want to be smarter.
Tana Amen: Right? It's not just about, oh, this organ that I have. It's about when you have a better brain, all of those things happen.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So reframing the discussion to brain health, it gets people excited about getting help, rather than feeling ashamed to get help. So I did my child psychiatry fellowship in Hawaii, and Hawaii is a nation of culture. 40% of the culture is either Chinese or Japanese, and they're a shame based culture.
Tana Amen: Oh, yeah, for sure.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And they don't seek help for mental illnesses, and do you remember when we were in England and we were hanging out for Winfred, and he said, "If you go see a therapist or a psychiatrist, they really look down on you. That you're daft."
Tana Amen: Yeah, weak.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is what he said.
Tana Amen: And my friend from China, I just had lunch with a friend from China, and she was struggling with some things with her kids, and she said to me something very interesting. I was saying, "Have you tried this or this?" She said, "Oh no. We don't talk about that in our culture." And she's from China so she's not American-Chinese.
I said, "What do you mean you don't talk about it?" She said, "No, we are all about success and power, success and power. You don't talk about anything that has anything to do with weakness."
Dr. Daniel Amen: This is why there's a high suicide rate.
Tana Amen: Right. And why they're struggling. She's very evolved. She's very self evolved but she's having a hard time verbalizing this with the rest of her family.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And like many Asian people, they'll do anything for success and power for their children. If we just reframe the discussion from mental health to brain health, well they'll do anything to give their child an advantage and that's really what we talk about here on the Brain Warrior's Way. How can we give you a competitive advantage because your competitive advantage is what's going on in the moment by moment function between your ears.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What should you do if a loved one is in denial? We have tips. Try the straightforward approach first but with a brain twist. Clearly tell the person what behaviors you're concerned about. You're good at that. Tell him or her what the problems may be that the problems may actually be due to a brain that may not be firing right. So many people they lead people to my TED Talk, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. I think it's got two million views and really reframes the discussion. Give the loved one information so books, videos, articles. If you bring it up and they just deny it, plant seeds.
Tana Amen: I love what you call it, doing a drive by.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Doing a drive by. Right, a little hit and run. Say something and then don't say it again because don't ruin the relationship over it because if you ruin the relationship over it, you have no influence and I am about manipulation and influence. Little Machiavellian in me. Protect the relationship. Give them new hope and there comes a time when you have to say, "Enough is enough." That if somebody's not going to get help, you don't have to stay with them.
Tana Amen: I don't have a problem with that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: For long enough because we cannot force people.
Tana Amen: I have no problem with that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Into treatment. But it's giving them that different spin on mental health issues.
Tana Amen: I think if I could add something to that 'cause I sadly have been through this a lot with several people in my family. One thing if there's anything, I have no problem with the drawing boundaries part. Zero. Zip. Because I've had to. Sadly I've had to just for my own sanity I've had to growing up. But, there are some relationships like you said, you're just not willing to blow up. You're not willing to let go of. Whether it's a parent or a child or whatever. And so the thing that I've sort of learned is meeting people where they're at.
Like I come home, like you said, like you're my person. I come home and I'm like, agh, ugh. And so we talk about it and you help me sort of like deal with it personally but not so much blow up that relationship and then what I try to do is meet them where they're at and find a way to gain rapport with them and then find the right time to say it in a way that they can hear it. 'Cause if you try to say it a time they can't hear it, it's just not ever going to get through.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And there are ways to say things and there are ways to say things.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right? Is is done with empathy and love and thoughtfulness? Or, are you just dumping on them?
Tana Amen: Right. And there are times like literally, your thing you told me, you're like, you know, I think you need to go to karate and just go beat something up. And it's just true. You have to have a way that you don't take it out on the person. A healthy way, a healthy outlet for yourself 'cause it's frustrating. Have a healthy outlet. Talking to you, going to karate, having my little nest that is safe, those are things that I do that keep me from just like going crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and I remember for so many years, my dad wouldn't get healthy and that made me sad 'cause I love him. Called me a nut doctor and then when I got healthy he called me a health nut. He said, "What's with you and the nuts?"
Tana Amen: Nuts are good for you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But because I consistently live the message of my life, when he got sick, he said, "I'm tired of being sick. What do you want me to do?" I didn't blow up the relationship when he didn't do what I wanted him to do when I wanted him to do it. Literally it's 20 years later. But because I'm consistent, I'm loving, I've lived the message of my life, that when he needed me, he trusted me.
Tana Amen: Yeah, no, I've been through that with family members too even just recently.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I think the thing you're really good at is being assertive and persistent in a loving way. If you just think about when we talked about relating from Feel Better Fast, it's I'm responsible. What's my part in the relationship but you have empathy for the other person. You listen. You're assertive.
Tana Amen: And drawing boundaries is healthy. I'm very clear now at this stage in my life about what I can control and what I am willing to do. Not what I can make someone else do. This is what I'm willing to do 'cause this is what's healthy for me and my family and I can't make you do anything that you don't want to do but I'm not willing to do these things and I am willing to do these things. You will either be a part of our family or not with the choices you make. We want you to be a part of our family. I will be sad if you choose not to be.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you have someone in your life that is struggling, get them a copy of Feel Better Fast and Make It Last or Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. Or if you think they have ADD, Healing ADD. All of these resources we create for you. Stay with us.
Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of the Brain Warrior's Way and the Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.