From Hallucinations to Happy and Healthy

At age 18, Jason, a college freshman, began hearing voices. The voices inside his head assaulted him with a constant barrage of nasty comments about himself, his teachers, his fellow students, and others. The voices would compete for his attention and often spoke to him at the same time. To make things worse, he also started having gruesome visions about dying. In one grisly scenario, a snake wrapped itself around his neck and slowly strangled him.

Understandably concerned, the student went to the campus psychiatrist for help. The young man left the appointment with a schizophrenia diagnosis and a prescription for antipsychotic medication.

The psychiatrist informed Jason’s parents that their son would need the medication as long as he lived. When Jason started taking the antipsychotics, however, he began having suicidal thoughts. Desperate to help her son, Jason’s mother sought out a more advanced psychiatric evaluation that would look at Jason’s brain.

The brain scan showed that something else was causing his symptoms.

Traditional healthcare professionals typically make mental health diagnoses based on symptom clusters despite the availability of brain-imaging technology that can provide insights into biological causes for mental health problems. Click To Tweet


In traditional medicine, healthcare professionals typically make mental health diagnoses based on symptom clusters. Jason’s symptoms—hallucinations and hearing voices—fit with the schizophrenia symptoms described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Healthcare providers use this authoritative guide as a primary tool for diagnosis. This is despite the availability of sophisticated brain-imaging technology that can provide insights into biological causes for mental health problems.

Looking at symptom clusters only can lead to misdiagnosis. One Canadian study found that in the primary care setting, which is the first place many people go when struggling with psychological problems, misdiagnosis is common.

In fact, the study found that misdiagnosis rates were alarmingly high:

Misdiagnosis can unnecessarily prolong a person’s suffering. For people like Jason, a misdiagnosis and improper treatment can be life-threatening as thoughts of suicide may arise.


Jason visited Amen Clinics for a more thorough psychiatric evaluation that included brain SPECT imaging. SPECT is a type of functional brain-imaging technology that looks at blood flow and activity patterns in the brain.

SPECT reveals how the brain is functioning and shows areas with:

  • Healthy activity
  • Too much activity
  • Too little activity

What did Jason’s SPECT scan reveal?

His scan showed evidence of previous head trauma that had impacted areas of his brain. Seeing the signs of abnormal blood flow and activity prompted Amen Clinics physicians to ask Jason about any head injuries he may have sustained.

It turned out that Jason had experienced several concussions. The first one he recalled happened when he was just 5 years old. That’s when he dove headlong into an empty bathtub, a stunt that caused him to black out temporarily.

Other concussions occurred when he competed in wrestling at school and when he was playing soccer. These head injuries took an additional toll on his brain.


Brain imaging with SPECT reveals damage to the brain that may have occurred years or even decades earlier. Jason’s brain scan showed the hallmark signs of head trauma, especially in two areas: the left temporal lobe and the prefrontal cortex.

  • Left temporal lobe: The temporal lobes are involved in mood stability, visual and auditory processing, memory, and learning. When the left temporal lobe is injured, it can lead to dark thoughts, unstable moods, and hallucinations.
  • Prefrontal cortex: This region plays an important role in planning, judgement, forethought, and impulse control. When there is low activity here, it can be associated with problems in these areas.

Abnormal brain function is associated with symptoms commonly seen in mental health problems. Starting at age 5, Jason suffered from mild depression. Things got worse when he went to middle school and became the target of class bullies.

Healthy SPECT Scan                                       Jason’s SPECT Scan

Full, even, symmetrical activity               Low activity, especially in
prefrontal and temporal lobes


After Jason’s new evaluation, which included not only the brain scans but also neuropsychological testing and an extensive personal history, his diagnosis changed. Jason didn’t have schizophrenia.

Rather, he had a psychotic depression. Also called delusional depression, this is when a person experiences both depressive symptoms and psychosis.

In Jason’s case, his previous brain injuries, chronic negative thinking, and excessive stress had exacerbated the condition. It all contributed to him losing touch with reality, hearing those voices, and having those visual hallucinations.


Based on the findings from his more advanced evaluation, it was clear that Jason needed a new mental health treatment plan. The antipsychotic medication he was taking wouldn’t help him and, in fact, was making him worse. The first step in Jason’s new treatment program was to stop taking the medication.

Instead, his psychiatrist recommended a protocol with a brain-body-mind approach involving biological and psychological spiritual changes.

  • Biological: To help heal his brain, Jason began doing hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). This noninvasive therapy involves breathing 100% pure oxygen to accelerate tissue repair. He further supported his brain recovery by taking nutritional supplements and eating a brain-healthy diet.
  • Psychological: From a psychological standpoint, he committed to practicing a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helped him challenge his automatic negative thoughts (ANTs).

Basically, any time he had a frightening or worrisome thought, he questioned it rather than automatically believing it. He would ask himself, “Is it true?” This helped him adopt a more realistic thinking pattern.

By sticking with this targeted treatment plan, Jason showed significant improvements in just 4 months. He felt happier and his brain looked healthier. In fact, he felt so much better that he returned to college the following year.

If Jason hadn’t gotten that brain scan, he wouldn’t have gotten the right treatment for his needs. As his case shows, when it comes to mental health, brain health is the underlying key. And how would you—or your mental healthcare provider—know if your brain isn’t functioning optimally if you never get a brain scan?


Depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, 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.





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    Comment by dashes — December 5, 2023 @ 2:56 PM

  2. I love reading these articles. They are life changing. I’m an fan of dr.Amen.
    I’m a new nurse and I’m thinking on specializing in neuroscience. I got very much inspired by dr.Amen.
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    Comment by Vanessa — December 6, 2023 @ 2:41 PM

  3. I’m so grateful for the work you guys are doing. I live in the UK & have had both EMDR & BRWT both of which have been brilliant but have had me asking myself, why isn’t this available to all? Its costly but nothing like the cost of year upon year if talking therapy. My heartfelt thanks once again & God Bless you all

    Comment by joanna marsden — December 6, 2023 @ 2:56 PM

  4. We need this technic really, I'm very grateful for getting this informations to help my patients, but in Switzerland, we don't use the technic to controll the brain for treatments reasons already. Only for rheumatology and cancer issues, degenerative processes.
    I'll try to find a center to do the examinations for several patients who really need it.

    Comment by Azar Hanna Christine — December 7, 2023 @ 12:21 AM

  5. I'm suffering from depression, anxiety and alot of headaches.

    Comment by Sharunda Seagraves — December 7, 2023 @ 10:42 AM

  6. I was misdiagnosed with bipolar while I was in a domestically abusive relationship and also had undiagnosed Hashimoto's symptoms. Thankfully, with information like Dr. Amen, I pursued a mentally healthy brain, which also involved leaving the relationship six years ago. I am healthy and doing fabulous. I'm very grateful for information like this to help people understand mental challenges holistically. #livebrighterwithTara

    Comment by Tara Wolfe — December 8, 2023 @ 12:19 PM

  7. My Son had a brain scan and has had a similiar situation growing up as Jason. Yet we have not been given any path that has helped or advice that we can say has improved our son's condition and we are still having to give him an antiphsycotic which I agree was always that wrong way. Why has the scan not helped us to find a way?

    Comment by Fred — December 8, 2023 @ 4:14 PM

  8. What if my son has been on psychiatric meds for years. Can these procedures help him?

    Comment by Deborah Colon — December 10, 2023 @ 4:19 PM

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