Why A ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach To Mental Health Doesn’t Work

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

When Dr. Daniel Amen first began to use SPECT imaging to look at people’s brains to help diagnoses, he had no idea how radical a change it would be for his psychiatric evaluations. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Amen and his wife Tana discuss some of the most important lessons learned from over 150,000 scans.


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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 it 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 brainMD, 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. Thanks for staying with us and Feel Better Fast and How to Make it Last. This week we're going to talk about the x-factor. What are the big lessons that I've learned from the brain imaging work that we've done and that Tana's learned because she's been involved in this for, goodness 13 years. I love this one testimonial: Great practical wisdom from Challenged and Inspired.
Tana Amen: Okay, just visualize you being like a little wizard.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's not hard is it? I've been called an elf before. An elf-wizard.
Tana Amen: Who would call you an elf?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Have listened to Daniel for 10 year or more and his insights are spot on. So, that's something my wife would say.
Tana Amen: It is true. It's true.
Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. This week we're going to talk about the x-factor. So what is that? It's the practical lessons from 150 thousand scans. And it's just consumed me for decades. So really there's two things that have consumed me: Tana, my family, and this work. And the imaging it just changed everything. What I learned really early on is nobody wants to see a psychiatrist. I told my dad I was going to be a psychiatrist in 1980 and he asked my why I didn't want to be a real doctor.
Tana Amen: Yep.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Why I wanted to be a nut doctor and hang out with nuts all day long?
Tana Amen: Your Dad. I can so hear your Dad.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's so ... that's so rude. But years later I sort of get where he's coming from and you almost canceled your first date with me-
Tana Amen: I did.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... when you found out I was a psychiatrist.
Tana Amen: I did.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What was that about?
Tana Amen: Have you met a lot of psychiatrists? But the truth is as I say that jokingly but-
Dr. Daniel Amen: I have almost 40 that work with me and I love them.
Tana Amen: But they're different, I know. But they're different, I have to say we have some amazing psychiatrists. Honestly where that comes from is because I had been hurt by a psychiatrist. Most people in my family have been hurt by psychiatrists. And we've told some of the stories. I haven't told all of them. But we've told some of those stories and that's where that comes from and so it always just felt like this woo woo kind of practice where it bothered me. And so that's where your Dad gets that from.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so you're a highly educated medically trained neurosurgical ICU nurse-
Tana Amen: But I deal with neurosurgeons. I deal with cardiothoracic surgeons.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and you still had that thought.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and-
Tana Amen: Because I deal with data.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I realized a long time ago ... and I can't tell you the countless number of people who've told their families I'm not going to see no damn psychiatrist because I'm not crazy-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and it's associated with shame, with stigma, and it almost stains a person's soul.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That you have a quote-
Tana Amen: Right, there's just a shame.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... mental health issue.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, nobody wants to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal.
Tana Amen: Well, and when I met you on our first date. So I had worked for Medtronic which was a medical device company. What I did with them was I worked with deep brain stimulators. I was a neurosurgical ICU nurse. So, like I said, data and science. And so I'm like, "What am I going to say to a psychiatrist, seriously." I'm used to only calling you guys when I need to like ... someones climbing out of bed and I just need some Haldol, we called it vitamin H. So, and then it's like go away. So I'm thinking to myself, this is just going to be one of those, "So, tell me about your life." And I'm like, "Can you read my mind right now?" So that's what I thought it was going to be like. And you wouldn't have wanted to read my mind. But anyways-
Dr. Daniel Amen: No. What were you thinking? I'm like seriously curious now.
Tana Amen: It wouldn't have been nice. But it didn't turn out that way. Because what you do is so different that I was instantly intrigued. And for me, I'm like you're very upfront. You were telling me about the controversy of what you do right away but I was like, "That doesn't make sense." What you do made sense to me right away. In fact, I was fascinated by it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So for those of you who are listening that don't know, if you come to Amen Clinics, we want to look at your brain. It's one of the first things we want to do. Of course, we'll talk to you and we'll put it in the context of your life.
Tana Amen: But I'm like, "Why don't all?"
Dr. Daniel Amen: But without looking how do you know what to do for people?
Tana Amen: Well, my thought was why isn't everybody doing this?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, nobody wants to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal, borderline, bipolar, depressed, schizophrenic, but everybody wants a better brain. So, what if mental health was brain health. And so, one of the big lessons I've learned is we have a serious marketing problem.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That by labeling things as "mental" illnesses when in fact they are brain illnesses the science is much more solid with changes in your brain associated with anti-social personality disorder, or aggression, or depression, or anxiety, or panic, that if we just shifted it to helping people have better brains that they would want that. Who wouldn't want that? So what if we reimagined mental health as brain health. I'm going to spend the rest of my life helping people end this concept of mental illness and start getting their brains right.
Tana Amen: Makes sense to me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I learned that from imaging work I've done. So, we started with quantitative EEG, looking at the electrical activity in your brain in the late 1980s and then in 1991 we went to SPECT. SPECT is the study that looks at blood flow and activity, looks at how your brain works and it just, it caused a revolution in my life. The first lesson I learned is that how we diagnose people is outdated because we're not looking at the brain. And if you don't look at the brain symptoms will never tell you if the brain has had a traumatic brain injury, if it's toxic, if it works too hard, or not hard enough.
Tana Amen: You don't discount the symptoms.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm not.
Tana Amen: But you have to take into ... take it all ... they're all pieces of the puzzle.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the former director, said, "It's much harder to fix something if you don't know what is going wrong." And you know, how most people are diagnosed is, "I have this symptom. I'm depressed." So they give them a diagnosis with the same name, "Oh, you're depressed." And then they give a medicine for depression. Or you go, "I'm anxious." So they go, "You're anxious." And they give you an anti-anxiety medication, that has been shown to increase the risk of dementia. Or you have a attentional problems and so they go, "Oh you have ADD," attention deficit disorder. I mean if you follow the insanity in this ... Or my favorite one to explain this is you explode intermittently-
Tana Amen: IED.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... you have Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Really there's a diagnostic category called IED? What does that mean? It means you explode. There's just insanity with this.
The second big lesson I learned is that all diagnoses, all psychiatric diagnoses, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, are not single or simple disorders. They all have multiple types that require their own treatment.
Tana Amen: So, can I give you an example of why it was so frustrating ... I mean I can give you billions of, not billions, but I can give you multiple examples of family, but personally. I'm feeling like life's not worth living, right. I wasn't having thoughts that I should kill myself but I could not find any reason that life was worth living and so I'm feeling just terrible. I can't get out of bed. So, I go to a psychiatrist. He says, "We should put you on Prozac." I'm like, "Okay, I'll do anything at this point. I'll do anything to just get out of bed in the morning and think that life is worth living." Puts me on Prozac and within a couple of days I'm, like, "All right, I don't feel like dying." So, that's a good thing. Don't feel like dying. Fell kind of numb. But I don't feel like dying.
But I notice that within a couple of weeks I'm like, "I don't feel like ... I'm not me." And I'm not as thoughtful about things. My conscience isn't quite as ... like I'm a pretty anxious person and I have a pretty strong conscience and I'm not feeling that so ... So, I go back and I'm like, "I don't fell like myself. I'm feeling like ... " I didn't use the word impulsive but that's really what it was. I'm like, "Something's not quite right. But I don't feel like dying. I don't feel like that. But I also don't feel like myself." He goes, "Well I think we should try doubling the dose."
Now what I want to point out, never asked me about my thyroid, which was what it was by the way. Never asked me, "Oh, have you had a head injury." Which might not have helped because I didn't think I did. But, he didn't ask me about a head injury, he didn't ask me what trauma have you recently been through. I mean he asked me about my past, did you have an emotional childhood or traumatic childhood. Those kinds of questions. But none of this stuff about did you have a head injury, did you ... none of those things. He just said, "Maybe we should try doubling your dose."
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's what happens. People often in a seven minute office visit, end up on medication that once you start it you can't stop it.
Tana Amen: And then I felt like I was going crazy. So I took myself off of it. I actually called him and he was like, "Well, we still might not have the right dose." And I went, "You're a quack." And so I took myself off of it. So that's ... that was why-
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when we initially scanned you we realized it was not the right thing for you.
Tana Amen: And that was ... that was part of the story I didn't add on. When you scanned me you realize that I have sleepy frontal lobes. The exact wrong medication would have been Prozac.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. How do you know unless you look? I'm just not that good at reading people's brains. I'm not good at reading your mind and I have no idea how to read your brain unless I actually look at it. And so the second lesson is all psychiatric disorders ... So you were depressed and sometimes depression goes from your brain working too hard or from not working hard enough.
Tana Amen: Like with thyroid problems.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Like you have thyroid problems. Sometimes it can be from a head injury or sometimes it can be from toxic exposure.
Tana Amen: Or all of the above.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so I often say a picture's worth a thousand words. But a map is worth a thousand pictures. A map tells you where you are and gives you direction on how to get to where you want to go and without a map you're lost. And so when we come back we're going to talk about more big lessons I've learned from imaging that can help you have a better brain and a better life to feel better faster.
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