How Justin Bieber is Using Brain Science to Fight Depression
“No one has ever grown up in the history of humanity like Justin Bieber. No one has ever been that famous worldwide in an era of social media where every year of your adolescence you were the most Googled person on the planet.”
In Justin Bieber’s new docuseries, “Seasons,” that’s how his manager Scooter Braun describes what it was like for the superstar to grow up in the public eye. The “Baby,” “Sorry,” and “Love Yourself” artist was discovered at age 13 and shot to instant fame, becoming the world’s biggest YouTube sensation, a social media phenom, and an international chart-topper.
Despite his enormous talent and the adulation that came with fame, he faced some serious struggles like so many people do. “Being human is challenging for everybody,” he says in the docuseries. “We’re all struggling to some degree. We all have our individual pains, and fears and anxieties, worries.” Justin knows this only too well because while his career was soaring, his personal life was spinning out of control into anxiety, depression, and addiction. And his brain was under assault.
Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll, and the Adolescent Brain
The adolescent brain is a remarkable work in progress, with billions of connections called synapses being created at lightning-fast speeds, and an important process called myelinization underway. With myelinization, brain cells are coated with a protective sheath that increases the brain’s processing speeds. The process begins at the back of the brain and works its way forward, with the prefrontal cortex (the area involved in impulse control, forethought, judgment, and empathy) the last area to gain the protective covering, usually around a person’s mid-20s.
Certain things like alcohol, drugs, and even fame can disrupt this important process. A brain imaging study appearing in the Journal of Psychiatric Research showed that heavy marijuana use among young adults and adolescents may affect normal brain development. The study found brain abnormalities in areas involved with decision-making, memory, and executive functions—the regions in the front of the brain that are the last to undergo myelinization.
Substance use and fame at a young age can also disrupt the reward system in the adolescent brain. In a healthy brain, whenever we do something enjoyable, it’s like pressing a button in the brain to release a little bit of the neurotransmitter dopamine to make us feel pleasure. Pushing these pleasure buttons too often or too strong reduces dopamine’s effectiveness. Eventually, it takes more and more excitement and stimulation to feel anything at all.
In the YouTube docuseries, Justin reveals he started smoking marijuana when he was just 13. Then he moved on to harder substances, including a mind-numbing cocktail of cough syrup (hydrocodone) mixed with alcohol and prescription medication. The concoction was so potent, his security team would creep into his room in the middle of the night to check his pulse and make sure he was still breathing. With the substance abuse and all those screaming fans, Justin’s reward system was getting worn out. He was addicted not only to the drugs but also to fame. And he was in a downward spiral.
It became so overwhelming for him that he canceled the final dates of his “Purpose” world tour in 2017, and the media announced that he was having issues and it seemed like he was “falling into another dark place.” They were right.
What Justin Bieber’s Brain Scan Showed
In Episode 5 of the docuseries (which is currently available on YouTube premium), Justin reveals that he has been coming to neuropsychiatrist and brain imaging expert Dr. Daniel Amen at Amen Clinics for 5 years for help with the issues he’s been struggling with.
Justin bravely opened up to Dr. Amen about the trauma and instability he experienced in his childhood, his addictions, and his anxiety and depression. To find the root causes of his issues, he underwent brain SPECT imaging. SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain and shows 3 things: areas with healthy activity, too much activity, or too little activity.
Before coming to Amen Clinics, Justin had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition that is often misdiagnosed. In fact, 57% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder don’t actually have the condition, according to a 2008 study from researchers at Brown University. Justin’s brain scans showed something other than bipolar disorder, and it changed the course of his care. You can see more about what his brain scans revealed in the episode.
Justin’s Journey to Healing
Drawing on our brain imaging work and the latest neuroscience, Justin made the commitment to get on a path to better brain health. To help heal his brain, the young man started doing hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a noninvasive treatment that involves breathing 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. The increased oxygen is picked up via the bloodstream and transported to damaged tissues to facilitate the healing process.
HBOT has been used to improve many issues including, but not limited to:
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Anxiety and depression
- Attention problems
- Lyme disease
Justin has told Dr. Amen that he loves HBOT therapy so much he got a hyperbaric chamber for his home, and he uses it on a daily basis.
When Dr. Amen informed Justin how important nutrition and supplementation is if you want to change your brain and heal your mind, the musical artist cleaned up his diet and also started doing IV nutrient therapy on a regular basis. IV therapy provides more potent doses of important nutrients than oral supplements, and because it bypasses the digestive system you get 100% absorption without any gastrointestinal issues.
HBOT and IV therapy are only part of the brain-based plan that has been helping him cope with the anxiety, depression, and other issues he faces.
The artist has subsequently received a diagnosis of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can lead to a vast array of neuropsychological symptoms, including:
- Impaired attention, focus, concentration, judgment, and impulse control
- Impaired memory and speech functions
- Disorganization and getting lost
- Poor problem-solving and decision-making abilities
- Slower mental processing speed
- Symptoms similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Psychosis and hallucinations
With a comprehensive treatment plan in place, the superstar feels like he’s on the right track to healing and getting back to the creative music-making process and performing that feeds his soul. He says it’s because he’s “in a good headspace… a better headspace.” We would say, it’s really all about being in a better “brainspace.”
At Amen Clinics, we take a unique brain-body approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes brain SPECT imaging, as well as laboratory testing to check physical health, and other important factors that could be contributing to symptoms of depression. By getting to the root cause of your symptoms, we can create a more effective, personalized treatment plan for you.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and improved their quality of life 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.