Eliminate Mental Illness by Healing The Brain

Smart and successful, Chase was a recent college graduate with a great job. Inside, however, he felt awful. For years he had been struggling with intense anxiety, negativity, unstable moods, debilitating panic attacks, and a hot temper. He had trouble with relationships both at work and in his social life. He found it hard to start conversations with others. He was tired of feeling so bad. Then a brain scan changed everything.

Chase was a recent college graduate with a great job. Inside, however, he had been struggling with intense anxiety, negativity, unstable moods, debilitating panic attacks and a hot temper. Then a brain scan changed everything. Click To Tweet

GETTING DIAGNOSED WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

As a teenager, Chase saw a traditional psychiatrist and received a diagnosis that included multiple mental health disorders:

  • Bipolar disorder—a mood disorder that involves cycling between episodes of mania and depression
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also called attention-deficit disorder (ADD)—a common condition that includes problems with attention and impulse control
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)—a condition in which people experience bouts of rage

Chase’s psychiatrist made these diagnoses the standard way. He used checklists and looked for symptom clusters that are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is generally considered to be bible in the mental health field.

His treatment plan centered on medications. As the years passed, Chase tried multiple medications, but nothing seemed to work. In fact, the pharmaceuticals came with unwanted side effects. For example, he put on over 80 pounds, which added to his social anxiety.

Ultimately, his treatment was making his life worse. Eventually, he suffered a nervous breakdown and had to stop working. That’s when a family member recommended that he visit Amen Clinics for an evaluation.

BRAIN IMAGING FOR MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS

Unlike traditional psychiatry, which relies on symptom clusters and the DSM to diagnose people, Amen Clinics uses brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive evaluation. Assessing biological data in addition to symptoms helps people get a more accurate diagnosis.

A psychiatric evaluation should include:

  • A detailed history
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Lab workup (Chase had low levels of vitamin D and testosterone)
  • Brain SPECT imaging

SPECT is a functional brain-imaging technology that measures blood flow and activity patterns in the brain. Unlike CT and MRI scans, which assess the brain’s structure, SPECT looks at how the brain functions.

SPECT shows areas of the brain with healthy activity, as well as regions that are working too hard or not working hard enough. This means SPECT is a better tool for individuals with complex mental health conditions.

The biggest lesson from brain imaging in psychiatry is that mental health disorders are really brain health problems that steal your mind. Looking at the brain changes everything.

HOW A BRAIN SCAN CAN CHANGE A MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS

Chase’s SPECT scan (see image of his scan compared to a healthy scan below) revealed decreased blood flow in the brain, especially in the following areas:

  • Prefrontal cortex (PFC)—involved with focus, planning, impulse control, judgment, and more
  • Temporal lobes (TL)—involved with moods, memory, learning, and temper control

His scan also revealed patterns typically seen in people who have experienced head trauma. It also showed toxicity. Seeing these patterns prompted additional investigation to find the root causes behind Chase’s troubled brain.

After asking Chase more direct questions, It turned out that he had spent much of his childhood at a racetrack. His family’s owned a NASCAR speedway. Chase loved it and had grown up behind the wheel of race cars.

Unfortunately, this meant he also spent a lot of time inhaling toxic fumes from gasoline. And he’d experienced more than a few concussions, including one when he crashed into a wall while racing.

It’s not uncommon for someone with head trauma that impacts the PFC and TL (brain illness) to be misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder (mental illness). But treating for bipolar disorder doesn’t help heal the underlying damage to the brain. It’s no wonder Chase’s treatment failed.

Healthy SPECT Scan                             

Chase Healthy SPECT Scan             

Full, even, symmetrical activity.

 

Chase’s SPECT Scan

Chase SPECT Scan

Low activity, (areas that look like indentations) especially in the prefrontal and temporal lobes.

After analyzing his brain scans and hearing more about Chase’s life history, it became clear that he was not suffering from mental illness. He didn’t have ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, and IED. Rather, he was struggling with the chronic consequences of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI)  and exposure to toxic fumes. This was what was fueling his symptoms.

HOW BRAIN IMAGING CHANGES MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT

Based on the brain scans as well as other testing results and Chase’s personal history, his treatment plan changed dramatically. He was able to stop taking his medications. Instead, he began rehabilitating his brain using the Amen Clinics Method.

This protocol included:

  • Giving up racing cars to protect his brain from further damage
  • Taking supplements that support brain health
  • Eliminating junk foods that harm the brain and eating only foods that enhance brain function
  • Daily exercise
  • Learning techniques to tackle his negative thinking patterns
  • Using a 4-step strategy to break a panic attack
  • Implementing a breathing protocol when his temper flared up
  • Making sleep a priority

On the surface it may seem that popping a pill is the easy route to treating mental illness. It isn’t. Psychiatric medications can be harmful to the brain, and some of them can be habit-forming. This means that once you begin taking them, you can find it very difficult to quit taking them.

Some psychiatric pharmaceuticals change the way the brain functions, so a person needs to take them to feel normal. Overall, putting in some effort to make lifestyle changes can be more effective in the long term.

Chase’s SPECT Scan Before Treatment                         

Chase SPECT Scan Before Treatment

Low activity, especially in the prefrontal and temporal lobes.

Chases’s SPECT Scan After Treatment

Chase SPECT Scan After Treatment

Overall improvement.

HOW A BRAIN SCAN CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

For Chase, seeing his brain changed his life. With his new treatment plan, he began to feel better quickly—more confident, less anxious, more stable, and more in control of his anger.

His follow-up brain scan several months after his initial scan revealed dramatic improvement. (See his before-and-after scans below.) The blood flow levels to his brain had increased and the activity patterns looked better.

As a bonus, he dropped the 80 pounds he had gained and his skin cleared up. These are both external signs that his brain was functioning better.

Buoyed by his newfound confidence, he landed a better job and has formed strong relationships with his colleagues. He has also cultivated a better social life with more friends and a loving relationship.

As Chase’s experience shows, getting a brain SPECT scan as part of a psychiatric evaluation can make the difference between years of suffering and finding effective solutions.

Anyone who is struggling with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, or other issues and not getting results should seek a more complete evaluation. Be sure to look for a mental health professional who understands that mental health problems are really brain health problems.

Bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, IED, 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.

2 Comments »

  1. interesting topic!

    Comment by Doug Morris — November 29, 2023 @ 1:00 PM

  2. I likе it when individuals get together and share views. Great website, keep it up!

    Comment by scramble — November 29, 2023 @ 2:08 PM

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