Dr. Amen on Dr. Phil: Will Jessica Ever Stop Raging?

Temporal Lobe ADD and Anger Issues

Everyone in Jessica’s family has repeatedly been the target of her unbounded rage, yet she takes no responsibility for her behavior. Ironically, she feels like people hate her, and doesn’t seem to understand why.

Jessica has had anger problems all of her life, and now at age 18, she continues to destroy relationships and other things in her path. Without question, she is a very difficult and challenging teen.

She has undergone numerous psychiatric evaluations, been admitted twice for 72-hour involuntary stays at mental health facilities, was sent to 3 different residential treatment schools, and was arrested for assaulting her mother.

No treatment has successfully changed Jessica’s behavior. Not only does she continue to lash out at others—without provocation, but she also lies, has zero empathy or apology for her behavior, and acts entitled. Yet, she blames everyone else for the problems she invokes.

Is it Jessica’s fault? Or is there something happening in her brain that is driving her behavior?

Dr. Phil’s Insight: Jessica Needs a Brain Scan

Jessica, her mother, Victoria, and other family members were on the Dr. Phil show to see if he could help them.  After learning more about her, Dr. Phil said he believed that Jessica has not yet been properly diagnosed and that for her to make changes to her behavior, she will need to get her brain assessed and treated. He recommended that she undergo an evaluation that includes brain SPECT imaging with Dr. Daniel Amen, world-renowned neuropsychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics. By using SPECT scans, the doctors at Amen Clinics can identify areas of the brain that aren’t working well and are likely causing problems for a patient.

By using SPECT scans, the doctors at Amen Clinics can identify areas of the brain that aren’t working well and are likely causing problems for a patient. Click To Tweet

Dr. Amen appeared on the show to talk with Jessica and her family about the results from her brain scans, which showed she has severe temporal lobe ADD. This condition is caused by lower-than-normal activity in her prefrontal cortex (PFC) and temporal lobes and is one of the 7 Types of ADD discovered through the brain imaging work at Amen Clinics.

Temper Problems and Other Temporal Lobe Symptoms

The temporal lobes, which are on either side of the brain, play a critical role in mood stability, temper control, and learning. This finding likely accounts for Jessica’s aggression and emotional instability, as well as the learning disorder and reading difficulties she was diagnosed with in childhood. It was not her fault that she struggled academically—this part of her brain does not work as well as it should.

Temporal lobes are also involved with other important functions; thus, deficits in this part of the brain can also be related to problems with:

  • Memory
  • Aggression
  • Emotional instability
  • Irritability
  • Periods of spaciness or confusion
  • Auditory processing
  • Periods of panic and/or fear for no reason
  • Headaches or abdominal pain of uncertain origin
  • Dark thoughts (may involve suicidal or homicidal thoughts)

Prefrontal Cortex Symptoms

Jessica’s scans also revealed low activity in her prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is a consistent finding in all types of ADD. When the PFC works well, it helps us stay focused and on task. It also helps us control our emotions and behavior. But when the activity in the PFC is low, it can lead to many issues, including problems with:

  • Concentration and attention span
  • Decision-making and reasoning
  • Organization
  • Procrastination
  • Follow-through
  • Forgetfulness
  • Empathy
  • Insight
  • Impulse control

The PFC is also like the command center for behavior and functions as its “brakes.” This may explain why Jessica uninhibitedly attacks people: The decreased blood flow in her temporal lobes contributes to her rage, while the low blood flow in her PFC makes it difficult to stop herself.

Moodiness, Anger, and More in Temporal Lobe ADD

Sudden bursts of unbridled anger are common with temporal lobe ADD, along with these behaviors and symptoms:

  • Periods of mood instability and misinterpreting comments in a conversation
  • Defiance towards parents or authority figures during episodes of aggression
  • Difficulty controlling negative thoughts
  • Some people may experience déjà vu, see shadows or objects changing shape, and may hear sounds that nobody else can hear

Dr. Amen also noted that according to her scans, the emotional center in Jessica’s brain was overactive, which can cause a person to be prone to depression or color the world with negativity.

There is Hope for Temporal Lobe ADD and Anger Issues

The good news for Jessica is that her brain problems are treatable, especially because her brain is still developing—and will continue to until she’s in her mid-twenties. There’s an opportunity for significant improvement if she chooses to comply with the treatment plan Dr. Amen created for her.

Aside from any medication or supplements to support brain function, there are some specific lifestyle changes necessary to help Jessica optimize her brain function. These include:

  • Avoiding things that are bad for her brain, such as drugs, alcohol, and vaping
  • Doing things that help her brain, like eating a healthy diet (no sugar or junk food!) and getting regular exercise

Dr. Amen told Jessica that if she does the right things now to rehabilitate her brain, she’ll be able to achieve her potential—and not have to live with the regret that she didn’t take those steps. Getting her family involved in supporting her in adopting brain healthy habits is another strategy that is important for anyone trying to overcome mental health challenges.

ADD, depression, 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.

35 Comments

  1. I suffer from bipolar 1 generalized anxiety and ADHD I can’t get life together.

    Comment by George — March 10, 2021 @ 3:23 AM

  2. What causes these issues in a child?

    Comment by John Heffernan — March 10, 2021 @ 4:01 AM

  3. More of a question: Would “neurofeedback” help Jessica? You frequently encouraged diet and excercise changes but I don’t remember you ever recommending any form of Neurofeedack. Does your clinic use this?

    Comment by Steven Bulcroft — March 10, 2021 @ 4:27 AM

  4. My older sister has dysgraphia and dyslexia. She also has temper problems, and is untrusting. She never calls us. Sometimes we worry that something has happened to her. In 1956 when she was born, she weighed 2 pounds 6 ounces. She lost a few ounces after birth. She was in an incubator for 2 months with only rubber gloves touching her. I think my 2 sisters and I have had concussions. It must be rare to meet people who have not had brain concussions. If we had great health care in our country, our brain health would not be only possible for people who have $5K in the bank. Everyone would be able to get a SPECT. We live in a country that has given people abortions, not encouraged condom use to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, and only 14 states have insurance for people with infertility. Our country is supposed to be the richest in the world. Without healthy brains and bodies, how will our country continue to prosper?

    Comment by Charlotte Fairchild — March 10, 2021 @ 4:28 AM

  5. Parental mismanagement. Discipline lacking in early life – allowed to get away with temper tantrums when little and NOT stopped. This is the result.

    Comment by Jasmine robertson — March 10, 2021 @ 4:57 AM

  6. Can you work with my 18 year old son on Zoom?
    He has been diagnosed with an ADD/underdeveloped frontal lobe. He needs to learn more about how he can help himself and that part of his brain mature faster.

    Comment by Anastasia Lallas Read — March 10, 2021 @ 4:58 AM

  7. What supplements did he suggest?

    Comment by Lisa A. Hawkins — March 10, 2021 @ 6:31 AM

  8. I feel my adult daughter has the same condition. Is there anything to do for someone that is 26 years old. She acted the same way all through adolescence had several impatient stays and behavioral facilities. At one point was treated for bipolar disorder. As an adult she does not believe it’s bipolar. She’s also had been a traumas in her life been through three different relationships and has four children. It’s a constant struggle at this point children have been removed from DCS because of her anger I am placed with family members. We really could use some help and insight to help her and support her as her family.

    Comment by Juli Peterson — March 10, 2021 @ 6:34 AM

  9. I’m the custodian grandma of my granddaughter Nevaeh. Nevaeh has never been checked for ADD, can I have her regular Dr do the test?

    Comment by Bernadette Spieth — March 10, 2021 @ 6:42 AM

  10. Wow, this is very interesting. Is no drugs, alcohol, vaping, sugar, and junk food the only things that can be done for her? Will she need meds, therapy, brain surgery, or some other treatment? The story seems unfinished, will there be a follow up? Thank you

    Comment by Nalomeli — March 10, 2021 @ 7:59 AM

  11. Dr. Amen your the best. I have no doubt that this young brought under your supervision she will come out to be on top.
    Continue you all your good work. I wish you can start opening up in Canada to make it easier for us in Canada to have faster and better help. Please think seriously about this.

    Comment by chandra — March 10, 2021 @ 8:46 AM

  12. Hello George, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly with more information about bipolar disorders and scheduling an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 9:30 AM

  13. Hello Anastasia, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly with more information. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 9:44 AM

  14. Hello Juli, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 9:45 AM

  15. What about people who did not have rage problems but started them later on in life, in many cases after leaving a bad family situation like stressful divorce? Often these people are aware of what they are doing, know what caused it, yet get diagnosed as bipolar or ptsd, or c-ptsd, or borderline or even psychotic if they have insomnia. Doctors never ask about diet or sleep and definitely not about stress from growing up in divorce and step-families. Thanks.

    Comment by baj — March 10, 2021 @ 9:51 AM

  16. i also had anger from damage to my skull (sphenoid twist – temporal bleed) when i was nearly 3 – which was untreated.
    given strict discipline from mum and dad my temper, when held inside me, eventually gave way to tears – that was/is my bodily reaction to the physiological damage of not being able to ‘live in the moment.
    am so lucky that i have a brain that is very strong and inquisitive and that had always been looking at odd stuff that comes along in my life. ahhh – to be a conscious human takes such a struggle

    Comment by penny waters — March 10, 2021 @ 10:11 AM

  17. I have a young adult son who was diagnosed at 7 with mild to moderate adhd. He has a 135 IQ, well read but has several of the characteristics described in this article. Is 32 too old to help him. I’ve read a couple of Dr.Amen’s books when he was first diagnosed by child clinical psychologist. Did what I could as a single mom but it was a struggle because his dad was in denial. Now here we are…

    Comment by Cam — March 10, 2021 @ 10:12 AM

  18. Hello Bernadette, thanks for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly with more information regarding ADD and scheduling an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you soon

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 10:32 AM

  19. raising my 15 year old grandson, he has all the symptoms described for Jessica. He has been very negative, intermittently extremely aggressive and recently suicidal. He was diagnosed with ADD and takes medication but fights it, can not swallow medications has to have chewable, is EXTREMELY irritated by sounds like swallowing, clearing throat or sometimes even breathing (mostly by me). He does go to counseling and has been sent to a behavioral boot camp. He procrastinates, is not empathetic and lacks accountability. Our family is constantly on eggshells, we could not love him more but this behavior is destroying us all. Need help thank you

    Comment by Lesa Brown — March 10, 2021 @ 1:03 PM

  20. Could you contact me regarding getting some possible help from me 21-year-old daughter? I think we missed a possible brain injury on her growing up and she is still struggling anxiety anxiety depression moodiness etc.

    Comment by Carrie — March 10, 2021 @ 1:59 PM

  21. Hmm, maybe you could something about Jasmine Robertson too, Doc?

    Comment by Eileen — March 10, 2021 @ 2:18 PM

  22. How do you help a 14 year old teen who diagnosed with attachment disorder, not able to express his feelings and would destroy things when angry. His mom is a single parent, has depression and anxiety , a drug user and has been in prison twice. Both mom and son live with mom’s adopted parents.

    Comment by Grace — March 10, 2021 @ 2:40 PM

  23. Hello John, thanks for reaching out. For more information on what can cause certain issues in children, check out this other blog: https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/7-guaranteed-ways-to-mess-up-your-kids/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 2:44 PM

  24. Hello Steven, thanks for your questions. Yes we use neurofeedback at Amen Clinics. For more information on it, check out this link to our website: https://www.amenclinics.com/services/neurofeedback/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 2:45 PM

  25. Hello Lisa, thanks for reaching out. For more information on supplements, check out BrainMD: https://brainmd.com/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 2:52 PM

  26. Hello Cam, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 3:05 PM

  27. Hello Lesa, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly provide you more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 3:16 PM

  28. Hello Carrie, thanks for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 3:24 PM

  29. Hello Grace, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 10, 2021 @ 3:26 PM

  30. I noticed and read the information on Jessica because much of what I read was extremely similar to my husband’s problems and behavioral difficulties. He is 70 years old and I suspect was ADHD early on in life, but not diagnosed. He grew up in a fairly dysfunctional family setting which ended in divorce when he was in his early teens. Two fairly serious head injuries were never really addressed in his teens. He receives a good portion of his health care through the V.A. and in 2014, a tumor was found in his right temporal lobe and removed at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City. It was benign and encapsulated, but since that time, he has suffered from memory loss, depression, anxiety, difficulty with auditory comprehension, and many temper outbursts and rages. The professionals we have seen have just referred to it as dementia and he has nearly given up hope of finding anything that would help him, but I have felt that a proper diagnosis with a Spect Scan might reveal information that could lead to proper treatment and improvement. Does VA Community Care ever refer patients to you? Does medicare pay for any of your services? We are in St. George, Utah. What city would your closest clinic be in? Thank you very much.

    Comment by Joyce Gardner — March 11, 2021 @ 2:50 AM

  31. Do you take insurance or consider a person’s financial limitations? You’ve described my 31 year old son. He’s married now with 2 kids. He’s desperate for help.

    Comment by Yolanda Stith James — March 11, 2021 @ 5:48 AM

  32. Hello Joyce, thanks for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our clinics. Our care coordinators can also help answer your questions regarding payment and insurance. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 11, 2021 @ 10:17 AM

  33. Hello Yolanda, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with information regarding insurance and scheduling an appointment with one of our clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 11, 2021 @ 10:19 AM

  34. I suffer from bi polar type 1 disorder and add as well as a frontal love injury it is possible to have a normal life as long as youre proactive in your health and seek treatment and always take your meds!

    Comment by Melanie Perry — March 12, 2021 @ 9:00 PM

  35. I love the insights that brain scans bring to real life issues. This was a great illustration of that. I do find myself wondering though, “Who is Jessica and what is her super power?”. What does a healthy Jessica look like? Maybe it’s too hard to see the real Jessica through the brokenness right now. I’m one who can’t afford a brain scan. I’ve taken the brain type tests and am taking supplements, getting exercise and doing things for a healthy brain. One major issue for me is I see things other people don’t see – probably due to an over active problem solving part of my brain. I’m wondering how much of that is broken and how much is “how God made me”. The thought of becoming someone who doesn’t see things (blind to what is actually there) is not attractive to me. Right now I value true and accuracy over relationships. And the more I learn about people who “value relationships” the more I see that their relationships are not much more fulfilling than mine are – even with my lower relationship priority. All of that to say – how do you see “what is broken and should be fixed” versus “how God made you which you should celebrate and use to influence your world”?

    Comment by Kevin — March 13, 2021 @ 7:46 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Have a Question?