A Celebrity Stylist Learns to Clean Out Her Mental Closet

Maeve Reilly

Negativity is all around us. Nasty comments fill social media pages. Bullies torment their peers. And too many of us mentally beat ourselves up. Celebrity stylist Maeve Reilly—whose clients include Hailey Bieber, Megan Fox, and Ciara—knows the impacts of these hurtful practices only too well.

Years of being bullied in school made Reilly feel unsafe. “It was so awful,” she says in an episode of Scan My Brain with Daniel G. Amen, MD. To avoid her tormentors, she adds, “I used to eat my lunch in the bathroom stall.”

The relentless bullying fueled low self-esteem and led to drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and using cocaine as coping mechanisms to numb the pain. The substance use quickly became an addiction and by the time she was 16 years old, Reilly was using 8-12 grams of cocaine a day. It ravaged her health and when she entered treatment at age 17, she weighed only 90 pounds and was “near death” as she puts it.

Reilly emerged from treatment 4 months later and has been sober ever since. But that doesn’t mean her painful past doesn’t still live inside her mind. Now, at age 34, she wanted to know if her past experiences had negatively impacted her brain health, so she visited Amen Clinics for a brain SPECT scan.


Like many people who have endured trauma, Reilly’s SPECT scans showed overactivity in the brain’s emotional centers. As Dr. Amen explains in the Scan My Brain episode, this is associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. It’s also commonly seen in people who are highly sensitive, empathetic, and who tend to feel deeply. Negative or hurtful comments can be especially painful for individuals with this brain activity pattern.

Past traumas, such as bullying or emotional abuse, can continue to haunt a person’s mind years or even decades later. Hateful and hurtful comments may pop up or play in a seemingly endless loop that leaves people feeling worthless, hopeless, and helpless. When people are exposed to negativity early in life, they are more likely to adopt a negative outlook. In fact, research shows that people can become addicted to negativity.

Overcoming negative thinking habits is one of the keys to calming the emotional brain. To help Reilly conquer negative thinking patterns, Dr. Amen asked her to do an exercise he uses with many of his patients—write down her 10 worst thoughts about herself. Then he helped her work through one of those ANTs (automatic negative thoughts)—“I’m not good enough”—by questioning it.

Learning to challenge your thoughts is like cleaning out your mental closet, getting rid of anything that doesn’t serve that’s taking up space, and making room for thoughts that help you in life.


Substance abuse has a toxic effect on the brain. On SPECT scans, the brains of people with addictions often show a pattern called scalloping due to overall low blood flow. Reilly was concerned her brain might show some lasting damage from her alcohol and drug use during her teenage years. She was relieved when her SPECT scan did not show the abnormal brain function typically seen in addicts.

What you can learn from Reilly’s SPECT scan is that when you stop using toxic substances—whether it’s alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or other substances—the brain can heal. Putting the brain in a healthy environment that includes nutritious foods, nutritional supplements, physical exercise, and healthy thinking patterns can speed the healing process.

Addictions, depression, anxiety, 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. Thank you for a great article.

    Comment by Timothy Lee — January 28, 2022 @ 4:50 AM

  2. Well, I would leave a comment, but no one likes me and will probably not read it anways! 🙂

    (Yes, humour is a good antidote to negativity!)

    Comment by JR — January 28, 2022 @ 9:30 AM

  3. This is a great article that I’m actually going out of my way to do some research on. When you think of addiction you tend to resort your thoughts to alcohol, drugs, shopping, self destruct… but I rarely think about my negativity or negative thinking patterns. I’ve been focusing on “reframing” my thoughts about my personal circumstances, after 15 days of this challenge I’ve seen such a difference. This article is such a great accountability and reminder! Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Miranda Moore — January 28, 2022 @ 10:49 AM

  4. How much does a Spect scan cost?

    Comment by Kathy Wentworth — January 28, 2022 @ 11:37 AM

  5. Hello I have been all my life been in negativity. Starting from my father. My teen years were rough on the streets. I had had fun years with my first husband and giving birth to my three children. Got remarried worst thing emotionally abusive for 25 years. 2/28/18 found my Son Benedict deceased thought I would lose my mind & I did. I have negative thoughts a lot. Can you help me. Thank you

    Comment by Veronica Tsitakis — January 28, 2022 @ 6:09 PM

  6. So helpful I’ve often wondered if bullying and negative events in early life (for me my teens) results in permanent damage
    I’m certain events in my life impacted my way of thinking and how I react to people and circumstances-

    Comment by Antonia — January 29, 2022 @ 3:29 AM

  7. So true I am currently dealing with a person who has been bulling me on the internet. They were even at the point of blackmailing me. I turned them in but I guess information that is obtained on the internet is not conisidered blackmail. But we all have our dragons and I am so thankful that I am a certified brain trainer as it is really helping.

    Comment by Russell Shaw — January 29, 2022 @ 11:10 AM

  8. gave me hope to read this article, thank you!

    Comment by RS — January 30, 2022 @ 5:24 AM

  9. How much is a SPECT scan and if it show damage from shaken baby syndrome is there anything that can be done for that trauma?

    Comment by Carol Gunzburg — January 30, 2022 @ 8:29 PM

  10. I need help, was left alone till age 2, then raised by aunt and uncle, then at age 30s, wife and I lost our 3.5 year old child tragically, then age 49 my wife died of anuerysm. Struggling with thoughts and brain activity but not sure how can afford brain scan and help.

    Comment by Anthony E Salatino — February 1, 2022 @ 7:42 AM

  11. Hello Kathy, thank you for reaching out. For information regarding pricing, insurance, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 1, 2022 @ 1:58 PM

  12. Well. how did you treat her? (generally I know you can’t get into specifics).

    Comment by Paul — February 2, 2022 @ 10:00 AM

  13. Hello Paul, thank you for reaching out. For more on this, go check out the video over on the Amen Clinic’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/eUwJebltYXI

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 2, 2022 @ 3:02 PM

  14. Hello Veronica, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our nine clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 3, 2022 @ 12:00 PM

  15. Hello Carol, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with information regarding pricing, insurance, and more. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 3, 2022 @ 12:13 PM

  16. Hello Anthony, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to provide you with more information about SPECT scans and our services, as well as cost, insurance, and financing options. Please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 5, 2022 @ 6:39 PM

  17. excellent article!

    Comment by Doug Morris — September 27, 2023 @ 6:32 AM

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