5 Mind-Blowing Principles for Treating Any Mental Illness

5 Mind-Blowing Principles for Treating Any Mental Illness

Have you seen a psychiatrist for a mental health condition? Chances are, you walked out of their office with a prescription for antidepressants, antianxiety 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.

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—ignoring overall brain health and the 11 common risk factors I’ve identified that can contribute to problems.

Why You Need to Be Wary of Psych Meds

At Amen Clinics we are not opposed to medications for your mind and prescribe them when necessary. However, we are opposed to medications being the first and only thing you do to help your brain and your mind. As I reveal in my book, The End of Mental Illness, there is so much more that can and needs to be done to end mental illness now

Medication isn’t always the answer. I realized this when I started using brain SPECT imaging in 1991 and could see that some of the medications I was taught to prescribe, especially benzodiazepines for anxiety and opiates for pain, were clearly associated with unhealthy looking scans.

In thinking of the principle all physicians are taught the first year of medical school “primum non nocere”—Latin for “first do no harm”—I started looking for fewer toxic options for my patients.

5 Principles for Better Mental Health Treatment

In making treatment recommendations for our patients at Amen Clinics, we always keep 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 (don’t fix one problem just to cause another one).
  4. Don’t start something people will have a hard time stopping (withdrawing from many anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications can be very hard), just to deal with the anxiety or depression of the moment.
  5. Medications should never be the first and only thing people do. Until we understand this concept we will never truly get well as a society.

Searching for Natural Alternatives

Whenever I am treating a patient, I always consider, “What would I prescribe if this were my mother, my wife, or my child?” After nearly 40 years as a psychiatrist, I recommend more and more treatments from nature, including foods and nutraceuticals. We want you to use all the tools available, especially if they are science-based, effective, cheaper, and have minimal side effects.

There is a growing body of scientific literature to support the use of supplements for many brain health/mental health issues. One major flaw in prescribing nutraceuticals, as with medications, is that they are generally recommended based on symptoms, rather than biology. Our experience is that treatment is much more effective with nutraceuticals and/or medications when we add the biological information from our brain imaging work.

When Meds are Necessary

For more severe psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or true bipolar disorder, I usually start with medications, such as antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. Yet, even when I am prescribing medication, I am also recommending the support of nutraceuticals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, multiple vitamins, and vitamin D. This is in addition to attacking the 11 risk factors and making nutritional changes. By supporting overall brain health in this way, people typically get better faster and have fewer relapses.

In The End of Mental Illness, I take you through the pros and cons of medications as well as the pros and cons of nutraceuticals. I also share the specific interventions we typically recommend for people with:

These interventions include suggested lab tests, helpful therapies, lifestyle changes, supplements, food recommendations, exercises, and more.

The End of Mental Illness is written by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain health expert Dr. Daniel Amen and relies on the latest neuroscience and leading-edge brain imaging to show that mental health is really brain health. The book reveals that “mental illnesses” are really “brain health issues” that steal your mind, and it shows how using the least toxic, most effective solutions can be the key to alleviating “psychiatric” symptoms without side effects. Order your copy here.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health and overcome their symptoms at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. I have been on antidepressants for 20 years. I am an experienced meditator but the medications I take keep my emotions so flat that I am unable to cry or feel intense feelings of joy or gratitude. My psychiatrist tells me I will have to be on antidepressants the rest of my life. I have no sexual desire which is a strain on my marriage as you can imagine. I have tried to come off of one of my medications slowly but felt anger thst I could not suppress and I directed it towards those that I love, so I started taking them again. I have been watching Dr. Amen’s podcasts and I am worried about my brain health since I also have been prescribed klonopin. Is it possible that I can ever be freed from these medications? I am a positive person in good health but I feel like I am being robbed of all emotions snd nothing affects me one way or another.

    Comment by Leanne P Porter — February 9, 2020 @ 2:33 PM

  2. Hello Leanne, thank you for reaching out and sharing your journey. Our Care Coordinators will reach out to you directly to provide additional information and resources.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 10, 2020 @ 8:46 AM

  3. What is the latest on Parkinson’s. I have been diagnosed with a mild case. I take Rytary 3 times a day.

    Comment by Don Anderson — February 10, 2020 @ 10:46 AM

  4. My doctor is from Africa I know for a fact she doesn’t study brain health, because she has me on medication, that can cause my death.

    Comment by Latonia Franklin — March 6, 2020 @ 4:28 AM

  5. ps** she was prescribed .5 alprazolam in july 2019 – as needed which was 1/2 dose (.25) every 3-4 days, now 2x.25 in 24 hour period and rarely/occasionally 3x.25

    Comment by kajalziba@gmail.com — March 6, 2020 @ 5:13 AM

  6. my mother just turned 87 in january-
    in a 2 week period in december of 2016 she had one small procedure and 2 major abdominal surgeries- as a result of all the drugs used to put her to sleep for these procedures she hasn’t been the same – she’s confused, forgetful, frustrated, panicked, scared and now paranoid all the time-
    what can be done for her considering her age?
    ***she was prescribed .5 alprazolam in july 2019 – as needed which was 1/2 dose (.25) every 3-4 days, now 2x.25 in 24 hour period and rarely/occasionally 3x.25

    Comment by kajalziba@gmail.com — March 6, 2020 @ 5:45 AM

  7. Just like Leanne who previously commented, Over here in the UK I have struggled for over 50yrs with bouts of severe, recurrent, depression, being OK-between bouts. All the psychiatrists here do is endlessly prescribe anti-depressants, which just make me feel horribly flat & sluggish. I appear to have a treatment-resistant type of depression too, despite trying different types of anti-depressant. I always came back to amitriptyline, not that it helped the depression, but it enabled me to get a good nights sleep. The downside was that it piled enormous weight on, which is particularly bad for me as I also have severe rheumatoid arthritis, & it’s associated inflammation. I have attended CBT courses, done a couple of Mindfulness courses, & had some CATS therapy, joined an exercise-class in the past, have read umpteen self-help books, eaten a healthy diet when well, but my depression ALWAYS returns. It is usually associated with the way people have treated me. Emotional trauma has certainly taken its toll. I too have been told that I should probably have to take anti-depressants for the rest of my life! There were vague thoughts on whether I was bi-polar, but it was never conclusively confirmed, & when they tied putting me on lithium, to see if it would help, I could literally not even get off my sofa! I was reduced to the state of being an empty shell—a completely walking-dead zombie. Having watched Dr Amen’s videos I am sure a SECT scan would help, but unfortunately in the UK there is nothing like that. In my deepest, longest bout to date, I have ended up with unshakable ruminations & suicidal ideation, which is horrendous to cope with. I was recently horrified when my current inexperienced psychiatrist recently asked ME to choose another anti-depressant, from a list of about 6–7 anti-depressants which he read out to me! He didn’t even seem to understand that when you’re severely depressed, you simply cannot take in too much information, let alone process it! I ended up choosing one at random, more to shut him up than anything, (agomelatine), but it made my suicidal ideations stronger than ever. I am at my wits end & suffering huge anhedonia, & feel I need a miracle to ever help me feel normal again. At present I can’t even eat properly, make normal decisions or function normally at all. I can’t go on like this indefinitely. Is there any way you can help?

    Comment by Lyn Bowler — March 6, 2020 @ 6:08 AM

  8. I have been on the lowest dose of Ativan
    for insomnia for many years. I am 70 years old now and have read it’s more dangerous at this age. I’m frankly scared of the withdrawal process. Any suggestions ?

    Comment by Judy Coleman — March 6, 2020 @ 6:26 AM

  9. I love knowing your willing to work with people to help rid them of anxiety and panic attacks but how can you help someone who doesn’t have a place like th his near them how can I get the help I need I’m from wellsburg wv I’ve been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks for 24 years and no doctor wants to run test or do anything but prescribe medication if you can help please contact me I cant travel for I have fear of panic attacks and and it makes it to hard to me to go long distance but if you can help me please I would appreciate it. I hope to hear from you thanks sincerely Chad Coen

    Comment by Chad coen — March 6, 2020 @ 7:08 AM

  10. Are you continuing to take it?

    Comment by el — March 6, 2020 @ 9:03 AM

  11. Hello~ reading your post, I am wondering if there is unresolved trauma in your life. EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reproccessing) therapy has proven to be tremendously helpful in helping people move past trauma. It is non-invasive and can be done by a therapist/psychologist trained in this technique. I encourage you to look into this.

    Comment by Jill Curry — March 7, 2020 @ 8:54 AM

  12. Lyn Bowler I am not an expert but I believe most, or certainly a lot of depression, is connected to trauma. The MH teams in the UK do not treat trauma, they prefer to just prescribe meds. The meds will stop you from being able to take in the information, as well as the depression. Can you afford to pay for some treatment from someone experienced in treating trauma? Think about it. It is more useful to give you meds for years and years , the pharmaceutical companies gain, and you are convinced you can’t be helped. and it saves the NHS money by not treating the cause of your illness.
    If the meds worked, you would be feeling a lot better.
    I expect there is somewhere you could get a scan done, but of course you would need a knowledgeable Dr to work with.there is a clinic on London which treats people with similar issues. Are you close to London?

    Comment by Lyn Bowler I am not an expert but I believe most, or certainly a lot,of depression is connected to trauma. It is not just the depression that makes you feel you can't take in the information but I suspect it is the meds you are on.Unfortubately — March 7, 2020 @ 8:58 AM

  13. Hi, I have been taking medication since 1997. It started with only one for depression and other to anxiety prescribed by a primary doctor. Later I had a relapse and I started to see a psychiatric who prescribed more medications. Meanwhile I started to see psychologists, changing my life style with more exercises and healthier food, etc. I also tried Yoga, Cranio Sacral (excelent!), Tai-Shi, Acupuncture, massage, Reike, Passes (see “Spiritism – Allan Kardec) and I have always trying to be updated on depression/anxiety news always hoping that someday I will be healed from both diseases, although most doctors I have seen all these years (I am 60 yr old man now), they first NEVER ask any kind of “Brain Imaging”, MRI, etc, second, they all have said that I will have to be on the “medication cocktail” for the rest of my life, just like the diabetics will. Right now I am taking:

    Cymbalta – 90 mg / Seroquel – 100 mg (anxiety and tinnitus) / Xanax – 0.5 mg / Bystolic – 10 mg / Crestor – 5 mg / Potassium Citrate (Kidney Stones).

    When I first saw Dr. Amen website I put a great hope that things should be different now with his right and rational, logical, biological, approach. If there will be no healing at all (maybe in my next reincarnation). I am at least hoping that I will be suffering less, especially when it comes to sexual side effect. My wife and I are been married for 23 yr now and we have an adorable daughter in college now. It has been for about two years now that my wife and I have no sex at all and it had caused a lot of distress in our relationship. I grateful that she understands why and we have been trying to live our best life. Because of my anxiety I have the desire and erection but not able to ejaculate and this is the big problem. I have tried not to take the medications before going to bed with her, but it never work because it just make me more anxious. As our sexual organ differs from the women’s, we have to expel out the sperm, just like what happens when we pee in the bathroom. If we don’t expel it, it accumulates in our body and it started to feel pain and anxious just like when we need to go…! And the only way I can relief it and empty it is by masturbating which does not make me feel good. It feels as being selfish by not been able to share that so great and HEALTHFUL sexual ENERGY so strong on me, at least. I am not sure about other men, with my wife.

    Please, Dr. AMEN, give me some feedback or advise through here or we can set up a session by phone where I can pay for your time. Do you take ANTHEM BLUE CROSS Health Insurance? Or, would you refer me to a psychiatrist that uses your same approach here in Maryland? Please, if so, send me his/her name and phone number for me to see them in person. You will be helping someone almost in desperation to have a healthier sexual and all other aspects LIFE!

    We have seeing a lot of teenagers (especially boys) that are having the negative sexual effects due to antidepressant medications and we ignore to pay attention to that and they end up committing suicide or the so ‘normal’ now shootings in our schools, churches, etc. I have written letters to all drug makers for depression asking WHY their medications has a so strong interference on sexual function. A young boy without sex can make him very aggressive, anxious, disoriented, and thus we have seeing on TV etc, the consequences of that negative side effect. I found out that there are at least two medications in the market such as Wellbutrin, that it says, does not have negative sexual side effect. My psychiatrist and I tried but as we try to gradually replace Cymbalta to Wellbutrin, my Tinnitus got worse and we decided to stop. I have asked the drug makers also if is there a hope that one day their products will NOT have any negative sexual side effect but so far none of them have not reply to me. I don’t want to believe that there is not really interest from them to make a 99% efficient antidepressants that will not have that sexual effect, less toxic and addictive product because of the high profit that those medications make for them. Until they have a case in their own family and they will then work harder to make better products. We are becoming a drug moving society and this is very serious if we think about our future generations moved by artificial ways of having a “health life”.

    Thank you for your time!


    Comment by ALOISIO CORREIA — March 8, 2020 @ 6:10 AM

  14. I recommend you try dr. Kelly’s Brogan Vital Mind Reset Program. You can join it from anywhere in the world. Also, you can find advice on how you can withdraw from medications.
    I hope it helps.

    Comment by ali — March 8, 2020 @ 7:24 AM

  15. Hello Dr amen ive ordered your book after listening to your interview via tom bilyeu podcast; My older sister has been on mental health meds for approx. 29 years it has done zero for her .she hates it makes sleep most of the day shes locked in under new Zealand mental health laws so she only takes medication so they don’t take her away and force her to take it via injection at a psychiatric ward , after learning nutrition to help my parents I gave her some guidance with juicing and healthy eating habits ,my question, is there an avenue to help her get off these toxic meds and onto alternative holistic health care before this so called tardive dyskinesia visits her ; at present she is on antipsychotics, olanzapine ,haloperidol. They initially diagnosed her with schizophrenia now they say its psychosis your thoughts would be very much appreciated thank you kind regards

    Comment by walter faiva — March 10, 2020 @ 12:15 AM

  16. Hello Walter, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. Our Care Coordinators are available to provide additional information and resources, they can be reached at the contact information here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2020 @ 8:07 AM

  17. Hello Chad, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We’d be happy to contact you directly to provide additional information and resources. If you’d like to reach out to a Care Coordinator, our contact information can be found here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2020 @ 8:11 AM

  18. Hello Lyn, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We’d be happy to contact you directly with information and resources. We currently have 8 clinic locations, but only in the U.S.: https://amenclinics.com/locations/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2020 @ 8:13 AM

  19. Hello, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss the details and resources we can provide. If you’d like to contact our Care Coordinators, our contact information can be found here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2020 @ 8:15 AM

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