4 Strategies to Help Heal YouTube Star’s Depression After a Head Injury

4 Strategies to Help Heal YouTube Star’s Depression After a Head Injury

When YouTube star Jeff Wittek suffered a head injury after a filmed stunt went terribly wrong, he started experiencing depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional stress. His mental health had sunk so low, he visited Amen Clinics to get his brain scanned (read about Wittek’s initial brain scan evaluation here) and find out what he could do to improve his symptoms. In true YouTuber fashion, he did his evaluation with Daniel G. Amen, MD—a renowned psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and founder of Amen Clinics—in front of a camera.

In the initial aftermath of his accident, Wittek tried to hide what happened to him from his fans and followers. “I covered it up, and I put on prosthetic makeup, and I’ve played up the injuries as a joke like it was fake because I was so embarrassed about what happened,” he admitted to Dr. Amen.

Wittek has made a name for himself with a YouTube talk show that features him in a barbershop giving his guests a haircut. Wittek is a trained barber, but many of his guests aren’t aware of that fact and are put on edge wondering if he’s going to butcher their hair. It makes for some hilarious interactions. In the show, Wittek comes off as an arrogant, narcissistic New Yorker, but that’s simply a character he’s created. He’s never wanted to reveal his true self. “I don’t want to do that, because I don’t want to open myself up to criticism from people,” he said.

But now, faced with head trauma and mental health issues, Wittek has decided he’s ready to be more vulnerable and wants to share his journey. “It got really dark at times,” he said, but “I can document my healing over time.” He hopes his story can help others who might be suffering.

The Link Between Head Injuries and Psychiatric Issues

In his evaluation at Amen Clinics, Wittek learned something that few people—even doctors and psychiatrists—know. Mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a major cause of psychiatric disorders. This remains a little-known fact because the field of psychiatry typically never looks at the organ it treats—the brain. Amen Clinics is different and uses brain SPECT imaging as one of a suite of evaluation tools. SPECT is a sophisticated brain mapping tool that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It shows 3 things:

  • Areas of the brain with healthy activity
  • Areas of the brain with low activity
  • Areas of the brain with too much activity

A wealth of research shows that concussions and other head injuries increase the risk of depression, anxiety and panic disorders, ADD/ADHD, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, personality disorders, psychosis, suicide, and more.

Many people never make the connection between their mental health issues and a head injury they experienced. In part, this is because symptoms may not appear for weeks or months after the head trauma occurred. This means people may eventually seek treatment for their psychiatric symptoms, but if they never heal their brain from the underlying trauma, traditional treatments may not be effective.

Wittek is one of the lucky ones in that respect. He noticed that his mental health symptoms arose following his head injury and suspected that his brain had been damaged and was affecting his emotional well-being. He was right. The YouTuber underwent brain SPECT imaging so he could see how the injury was impacting the way his brain functions. Seeing his brain helped him make a commitment to follow Dr. Amen’s recommendations for healing.

YouTuber Jeff Wittek noticed that his mental health symptoms arose following his head injury and suspected that his brain had been damaged and was affecting his emotional well-being. He was right. Click To Tweet

Healing from Head Trauma and Mental Health Issues

In Wittek’s evaluation, he learned about several strategies to help heal the brain after experiencing head trauma. In addition, he discovered ways he can change negative thinking patterns that contribute to depression. Here are just some of the recommendations he and Dr. Amen discussed:

Avoid alcohol.

Amen informed Wittek that brain imaging clearly shows that alcohol can damage the brain. Wittek admits he used to consume alcohol, but he gave up drinking several years ago. “With alcohol, I was numbing my brain and there were so many parts of it that I didn’t unlock because I was hungover,” he said, adding that drinking “would give me confidence, and make me funnier, and more charismatic, and likable, the life of the party. But in turn, that would just make me worse the next day, when I had to film videos for millions of people.”

Stop smoking marijuana.

Wittek admitted that he switched from drinking to smoking marijuana, which he said helps him temporarily disconnect from the stresses of the real world. He also thinks it heightens his creativity and helps him come up with ideas. “Sometimes, a little weed gives me a million-dollar idea,” the YouTuber said. Dr. Amen explained to Wittek that he needs to stop smoking marijuana because Amen Clinics studies show that cannabis prematurely ages the brain and lowers blood flow to the brain. Other research has found that smoking pot can trigger psychosis. When the brain is damaged, it’s imperative to eliminate things that hurt the brain.

Be careful with over-the-counter medications.

Many people don’t realize that some everyday medications you can buy off the shelf at the drug store can actually be harmful to the brain. Take sleep aids, for example. Wittek had been taking Ambien to help calm his busy mind at night so he could sleep, but Dr. Amen said there are healthier ways to do so. He recommends natural supplements that promote rest and relaxation, including magnesium, melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, vitamin B6, and L-theanine.

Change your thinking patterns.

As Dr. Amen explained to Wittek, your thoughts influence your brain function. Every time you have a negative thought, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel bad. Think a happy thought, and it triggers the release of chemicals that make you feel good. Learning to question your automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) is a powerful technique to enhance brain function and help you feel better on a more consistent basis.

Seeing is Believing

By showing Wittek his damaged brain and explaining how his brain function impacts his mental and emotional well-being, it helped the YouTuber in many ways. Seeing his brain scan helped Wittek understand that the damage to his brain is real, his issues are medical, not moral, and there is hope for healing.

Head injuries, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

4 Comments

  1. Thank you and God bless. Could you mention something about payment programs?

    Comment by Diane Conroy — May 28, 2021 @ 9:44 AM

  2. I have had traumatic brain injury an cannot drive , supposedly I am fit walk at least a mile a day an heart rate is around 60 beats a minute, had to take a test a few weeks ago an get results Monday, very anxious time for me, I’m 64 an I know a lot about my life an will go into a office that will show how educated the doctor is , but now I have to prove myself, I have no degree , but I know farming well , no degree in it but I ve done it over 40 years an I’m having to prove myself, I don’t think that’s fair. I would enjoy a call from you guys , about my dilemma, I will be glad to share my story with you James Dale Shumate,
    Sincerely
    Dale Shumate

    Comment by Dale Shumate — June 4, 2021 @ 3:53 AM

  3. Hello Dale, thanks for reaching out. We’d be more than happy to reach out to you directly with more information regarding your situation and getting you scheduled to see one of our doctors. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 4, 2021 @ 4:53 PM

  4. Is this help available is Australia?

    Comment by Kirsty — June 6, 2021 @ 6:46 PM

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