Is Your Brain Stuck in Overdrive or Stuck Off?

Is Your Brain Stuck in Overdrive or Stuck Off

Have you ever experienced trauma? Were you physically, emotionally, or sexually abuse? Have you been subjected to intense stress, such as surviving a fire, flood, or assault? Were you the victim of bullying at school? Or maybe you’re being traumatized by the coronavirus pandemic?

Emotional trauma tends to activate the limbic or emotional centers of the brain. When trauma is severe or prolonged—think of the months-long pandemic—your brain’s emotional centers can get stuck.

In some people who experience trauma, the brain gets “stuck in overdrive,” making you feel anxious, fearful, and sleepless. This can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that affects 3.5% of U.S. adults, but that may affect far more people due to the pandemic.

In some people who experience trauma, the brain gets “stuck in overdrive,” making you feel anxious, fearful, and sleepless. Click To Tweet

In other people who experience trauma, the emotional brain becomes overwhelmed and shuts down. It’s like your brain is “stuck off,” leaving you feeling depressed, flat, tired, and confused.

In some people who experience trauma, the brain gets “stuck off,” leaving you feeling depressed, flat, tired, and confused. Click To Tweet

If you’ve experienced emotional trauma, your brain may be stuck too. Take a moment to assess whether your symptoms are more in line with a brain that’s stuck in overdrive or a brain that’s stuck off.


Understanding what’s happening in the brain is critical in terms of getting help for your symptoms. Here’s why. People with PTSD are often misdiagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) because the 2 conditions share many overlapping symptoms. Similarly, people with trauma-related depression may be misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, or even dementia.

Getting misdiagnosed means you may be given a treatment plan that isn’t right for your brain. It can stimulate a brain that’s already stuck in overdrive, making you feel even more anxious and on edge. Or, it may further calm a brain that’s already stuck off, making you feel more numb, exhausted, and disoriented.

Functional brain SPECT imaging can help. A pair of brain imaging studies from Amen Clinics (published in Plos One and Brain Imaging and Behavior) shows that emotional trauma can leave a lasting imprint on your brain. The study in Plos One found that people with PTSD showed increased in the limbic regions, cingulum, basal ganglia, insula, thalamus, prefrontal cortex, and temporal lobes. And both studies showed that SPECT imaging can distinguish PTSD from TBI with high accuracy.

With trauma-related depression, it’s important to differentiate from other mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, as well as other conditions like ADD/ADHD or dementia. Looking at the brain can help you get a more accurate diagnosis.


The good news is that if your brain is stuck—either in overdrive or off—you can get it unstuck. And there are many natural ways to help you do it.

If your emotional brain seems to be stuck in overdrive, you can calm it with the following:

  • meditation
  • prayer
  • hypnosis
  • scents, like lavender
  • supplements, such as GABA, magnesium, or theanine
  • EMDR (a psychotherapeutic technique)

If you feel shut down, you can activate your brain with:

  • physical exercise
  • upbeat music
  • scents, such as peppermint or eucalyptus or
  • stimulating supplements, such as rhodiola, green tea, or L-tyrosine
  • neurofeedback (a non-invasive, medication-free treatment)

When your brain gets unstuck, you’ll be able to move beyond past emotional trauma and feel happier, more motivated, and more at peace.

PTSD, depression, anxiety, 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. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. My husband was recovering quite well from multiple strokes and now his personality seems to of gone a bit flat and he has a lot of anxiety about running out of things.

    Comment by Isabelle — September 21, 2020 @ 3:21 AM

  2. Where can I go to in and around Jackson ,Ms to seek treatment?

    Comment by Alma Lewis — September 21, 2020 @ 4:41 AM

  3. This is fascinating! I appreciate these articles so much, as they’re informative and help me feel less alone in my struggles. This one in particular gave me an “ah-ha!” moment. I wonder is it’s possible to be both stuck in overdrive and shut down simultaneously?

    Comment by Jenn — September 21, 2020 @ 5:16 AM

  4. Thank you for this excellent article, describing exactly what God has revealed to me, and had me pondering about in the past couple days.

    Comment by Susan — September 21, 2020 @ 5:22 AM

  5. Do you have scholarships for people who definitely can’t afford your services ?? Or are you able to accept Ohio Medicare ???

    Comment by Lisa Townsley — September 21, 2020 @ 6:05 AM

  6. You often mention corona virus as a stressor for people. The Domestic Terrorism that has taken place this year tops Corona! It has really done a number on me, my neighbors, and the country. And I’m sure you have California readers that have been burned out literally! Gulf states…hurricane clean up! Still can’t afford to see you though.

    Comment by Paula Kavanaugh — September 21, 2020 @ 6:49 AM

  7. So sad that most who need testing and treatment can’t afford it because they need treatment in order to work…… vicious cycle.

    Comment by Karen Ham — September 21, 2020 @ 9:49 AM

  8. Unaffordable health care is one of our biggest health crises.

    Comment by k — September 21, 2020 @ 5:54 PM

  9. Hello Alma, thank you for reaching out. At this time we have 8 locations ( If you’re unable to travel to one of our locations, our Care Coordinators may be able to assist you with resources or referrals closer to you:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 22, 2020 @ 6:46 AM

  10. Any clinics in ohio? husband had a stroke would like to find out what is going on with him and how or why is speech not returned?

    Comment by Ginger Lunce — September 24, 2020 @ 3:43 PM

  11. It’s cruel to give unaffordable hope.

    Comment by Hillary — September 27, 2020 @ 9:23 AM

  12. Actually, when you look at the cost of the medical system as a whole, Amen Clinics is surprisingly afffordable.

    Comment by Christina — October 1, 2020 @ 2:55 PM

  13. The threat of a socialist agenda by the far left if Biden wins will be devastating for our country and just the thoughts of it have given me insomnia and a great deal of anxiety. People just don’t realize what a threat socializm will have on our freedoms and very few people even realize that we are under attack through psychological warfare by the mainstream and social media.

    Comment by KC — October 6, 2020 @ 10:12 AM

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