5 Mind-Blowing Principles for Treating Any Mental Illness

a graphic image of a man and a brain

Have you seen a psychiatrist for a mental health disorder? Chances are, you walked out of their office with a prescription for antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, or some other medication.

The pharmaceutical revolution has consumed psychiatry for the past 50 years, but unfortunately, outcomes have not improved along with the enthusiasm.

The pharmaceutical revolution has consumed psychiatry for the past 50 years, but unfortunately, outcomes have not improved along with the enthusiasm. Click To Tweet

One of the reasons why outcomes lag behind is that mental health professionals are working within the wrong paradigm. They continue to make diagnoses based on symptom clusters without any biological information.

Mental healthcare providers typically ignore overall brain health and the 11 common risk factors that can contribute to problems.


In some cases, psychiatric medications can be helpful. However, medications should never be the first and only thing you do to help your brain and your mind. There is so much more that can and needs to be done to overcome mental illness.

Medication isn’t always the answer. In fact, brain SPECT imaging shows that some of the medications psychiatrists are taught to prescribe, especially benzodiazepines for anxiety and opiates for pain, are associated with unhealthy looking scans.

In a healthy brain scan, activity and blood flow are full, even, and symmetrical. On brain scans, long-term use of benzos or painkillers is associated with decreased overall blood flow.

Healthy SPECT Scan

Healthy SPECT Scan                           

Benzos SPECT Scan

Benzos SPECT Scan

Opiates SPECT Scan

Opiates SPECT Scan

In thinking of the principle all physicians are taught the first year of medical school “primum non nocere”—Latin for “first do no harm”—it’s important to look for less toxic options for people with mental health disorders.


In making treatment recommendations for patients, the team at Amen Clinics always keeps the following 5 principles in mind:

  1. First, do no harm.
  2. Use the least toxic, most effective, science-based treatments.
  3. Consider short-term pain versus long-term gain. This means don’t fix one problem just to cause another one.
  4. Don’t start people on something that they will have a hard time stopping just to cope with the depression or anxiety of the moment. For example, stopping anti-anxiety pills or antidepressant medications (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs) can come with withdrawal symptoms in some individuals.
  5. Medications should never be the first and only thing people do. Until the mental health field understands this concept, we will never truly get well as a society.

All psychiatrists should adhere to these principles. If you’re suffering from mental health problems, be sure to seek out a professional who does.


Increasingly, research is finding that treatments from nature, including nutraceuticals (nutritional supplements) and phytoceuticals (plant-based medicines and herbal supplements), can be highly effective. This means you can find alternatives to anti-anxiety pills and alternatives to antidepressants. In some cases, you can treat depression and other issues without any medication.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition, it’s important to use natural tools. This is especially true if these supplements are science-based, effective, cheaper, and have minimal side effects.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the use of nutritional supplements for many mental health issues. Websites dedicated to the extensive science of nutraceuticals for health and wellness, including brain health and mental wellness, include:

Based on the clinical science evidence, these sites often grade nutraceuticals on a scale of A through F. This is similar to the way they rate pharmaceuticals.

For example, a few of the nutraceuticals with A-level or B-level evidence for mental health symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and stress: ashwagandha, L-theanine, omega-3 fatty acids, GABA, 5-HTP, and magnesium
  • Attention, focus, and energy: EPA omega-3s, phosphatidylserine, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and green tea extract
  • Mood: saffron, SAMe, EPA omega-3s, and St. John’s wort
  • Psychotic symptoms: sarcosine, N-acetylcysteine, omega-3s, and folate
  • Sleep: melatonin, theanine, magnesium, valerian, and probiotics
  • Memory: Ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, alpha GPC, omega-3s, and Huperzine A
  • Addictions and cravings: N-acetylcysteine, huperzine A, chromium picolinate, and ashwagandha

Although nutritional supplements can be beneficial, there is one major flaw in prescribing them. As with medications, nutraceuticals are generally recommended based on symptom clusters, rather than biology.

One of the main lessons learned from the brain-imaging work at Amen Clinics—over 250,000 SPECT scans and growing—is that treatment is not one-size-fits-all. This is the case when it comes to medication, and it also holds true for natural treatments for mental health issues.

Treatment with nutraceuticals and/or medications is much more effective when prescribed using biological information from brain scans.

Seeing which areas of the brain have healthy blood flow and activity and which regions are low or high in activity helps psychiatrists develop more personalized treatmen plans.


For more severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, medications may be necessary. Medications often prescribed to treat these psychiatric conditions include antipsychotics and mood stabilizers.

Even when medication is recommended, it’s a good idea to add other treatments for a more comprehensive plan.

For example, taking foundational nutraceuticals—such as omega-3s, a multiple vitamin/mineral complex, and vitamin D—may provide additional support.

This is in addition to taking action to prevent, reduce, or eliminate the 11 risk factors, such as:

  • Enhancing blood flow to the brain
  • Learning new things to keep the brain active
  • Calming inflammation
  • Knowing your genetic risk
  • Avoiding head trauma
  • Limiting exposure to toxins
  • Treating mental health issues
  • Treating infections
  • Balancing hormones
  • Preventing or treating diabetes and obesity
  • Getting adequate sleep

Interventions to support treatment include lab tests, helpful forms of psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, food recommendations, physical and mental exercises, and more.

By supporting overall brain health in this way, people with mental health problems typically get better faster and have fewer relapses.

Anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. great advice!

    Comment by Doug Morris — April 17, 2024 @ 11:44 AM

  2. Very helpful thank you
    Do you know anything about Undermethylation?

    Comment by Clare c — April 23, 2024 @ 3:40 PM

  3. Brilliant article! I hope many people come into contact with it.

    Comment by Matt — April 24, 2024 @ 2:07 AM

  4. I really respect your balance approach!!

    Comment by Sally Moore — April 24, 2024 @ 7:30 AM

  5. Good article, but I wish doctors and psychiatrists would stop underestimating the severity and commonality of harm stemming from withdrawal from psychiatric meds particularly anti-depressants and benzodiazepines. This article says stopping psych meds "can come with withdrawal symptoms in some individuals," which understates the scope of the problem. The best recent research shows that up to one half of people who stop antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms with some of the effects "being severe and long-lasting."

    Horowitz, M.A., Framer, A., Hengartner, M.P. et al. Estimating Risk of Antidepressant Withdrawal from a Review of Published Data. CNS Drugs 37, 143–157 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40263-022-00960-y

    Comment by Peter Eliasberg — April 24, 2024 @ 8:05 AM

  6. Ive sent this to my family members so that they can read and help themselves with this great knowledge.

    Comment by Mari — April 24, 2024 @ 9:58 AM

  7. Hi! How can I get a SPECT done in Melbourne, Australia? Can you recommend a place that can do this and have Amen Clinic get results/do the diagnosis, etc?


    Comment by Nat — April 25, 2024 @ 3:07 AM

  8. I went to one of your seminars years ago, and have recommended more natural solutions from that and your books, and have had much success, so I thank you. Whole body exercise and eating healthy, with an emphasis on dark green leafy vegetables is also helpful

    Comment by Becky Brown — April 25, 2024 @ 7:31 AM

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