What Doctors Can’t Tell You About Your Depression, Anxiety, or Anger

What Doctors Can’t Tell You About Your Depression, Anxiety, or Anger

Experienced psychiatrists and clinicians can tell if someone is likely to have ADD/ADHD, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, or intermittent explosive disorder. But what clinicians cannot do, and will never be able to do, without functional brain imaging is to know the underlying brain biology of the patients they treat.

As I reveal in my book The End of Mental Illness, without imaging your brain using functional assessment tools—such as SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) or QEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram)—your doctor cannot tell if your inattention, depression, compulsions, mood swings, or aggression is from:

  • Low blood flow from vascular disease
  • A premature aging process
  • An inflammatory process, related to low omega-3 fatty acids or gut problems
  • A genetic abnormality
  • Lasting physical trauma from a car accident or from playing football in high school
  • Toxic exposure from carbon monoxide or mold exposure, which needs to be treated
  • Seizure activity
  • A brain infection
  • Nutrient or neurohormone abnormalities
  • Blood sugar abnormalities
  • Undiagnosed sleep apnea
  • A brain that is working too hard and needs to be calmed down
  • A brain that is not working hard enough and needs to be stimulated

If we don’t look at the brain, we are unnecessarily flying blind. That can lead us to miss important diagnoses, give the wrong treatment plan, and hurt the people we are entrusted to help.

How Traditional Psychiatry Missed the Root Cause of Jason’s Mental Illness

Jason is a prime example of how not looking at the brain can be life-threatening. He was 18 and in his first year in college at the University of Rhode Island when he first started hearing voices and having visual hallucinations. Based on his symptoms, the university psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia and told his parents he would need to be on antipsychotic medication for the rest of his life, but the medication triggered suicidal thoughts.

Horrified, his mother called me. She and I had worked together at a large public television station. I told her I wanted to see Jason immediately.

Jason’s brain SPECT scan showed evidence of a past brain injury affecting his left temporal lobe, which when damaged is often involved in mood instability, dark thoughts, and hallucinations, and low activity in his frontal lobes (where focus, forethought, and planning occur). When he was 5 years old, Jason jumped headfirst into an empty bathtub and was unconscious for a brief period. He also had sustained several concussions from wrestling and playing soccer.

Since the age of 5, Jason had struggled with low-grade depression. His symptoms worsened when he was 12 years old and experienced bullying at school. While at college, Jason started hearing voices. They constantly made mean comments about him and others. Often, the voices would speak at the same time. In addition, he began seeing gory visions of his own death, including being strangled by a snake.

After meeting with Jason and reviewing his SPECT brain scans, my conclusion was that he did not have schizophrenia; rather, he had psychotic depression, which had been made worse by the prior brain injury, undisciplined thought patterns, and chronic stress.

I took him off his antipsychotic medication, supported his brain recovery with healing nutrients, and had him do cognitive-behavioral therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help heal his prior brain injury. Within 4 months he was remarkably improved and the following year he was back at school. If we hadn’t looked at his brain and altered his treatment plan, I shudder to think of what might have happened to Jason.

Why Is Traditional Psychiatry So Slow to Incorporate Brain Imaging?

If looking at the brain has helped people like Jason—and tens of thousands of others—why isn’t the whole of psychiatry on board with brain imaging? Because this new way of thinking completely changes the diagnostic and treatment paradigm that has been taught in medical schools and psychiatric residency training programs for more than 50 years.

Functional brain imaging takes psychiatry from a generalized symptom-cluster diagnostic and treatment specialty without any biological evidence to a more objective specialty, one that is solidly based on using state-of-the-art brain mapping tools to help optimize the patient’s brain function.

Besides completely changing the way we diagnose brain health/mental health, functional imaging leads to completely different treatment protocols to improve brain function. These include strategies that are often more natural and lifestyle-based and more directly accessible to patients. These types of protocols are not taught in medical schools and are not underwritten by the pharmaceutical establishment that has dominated the financial support of the psychiatric establishment. (One only has to attend psychiatric meetings or read most psychiatric journals to see the massive advertising spent by the pharmaceutical industry).

When my colleagues began attacking me for our brain imaging work, it initially made me anxious and upset. Then I realized anyone who tries to change a paradigm invites vitriol. In the 15th century, the Italian politician, Niccolo Machiavelli, explained: “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions.”

The time has come for a new paradigm in psychiatry. The end of mental illness begins with a revolution in brain health.

The End of Mental Illness is written by psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and brain health expert Dr. Daniel Amen and relies on the latest neuroscience and leading-edge brain imaging to show that mental health is really brain health. In the book, he shares more about the strange history of psychiatry and how the field is stuck in an outdated, ineffective paradigm. The book reveals that we need a completely different paradigm for diagnosing and treating mental health conditions—one that is rooted in neuroscience and hope. Order your copy here.

While most traditional psychiatrists remain stuck in an industry that refuses to look at the organ it treats, the future of psychiatry is here now at Amen Clinics. We use brain SPECT imaging to more accurately diagnose and treat people who are struggling with a wide range of issues. And we believe in using the least toxic, most effective solutions for our patients. If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health and overcome their symptoms 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.


  1. My grandson is suffering from depression, he says he hears voices in his head. He was also bullied in jr. high. I’m very worried about him . He can’t work because of the panic attacks he gets. He also tried college but couldn’t make it after a couple of weeks. He never really played sports. Was never interested in it. He is angry and not modevatated todo anything except play video games . His Mom is a single mom and is really concerned. Now he is 20, and can’t hold a job . His panic attacks are to hard to handle. He does see a therapist, but many times he cancels . He says they don’t help. We are very worried about him . What can we do ? We are at a stand still.

    Comment by Elia — February 26, 2020 @ 5:16 AM

  2. I have been diagnosed as having Bipolar Depression. I’ve had depression since i was a child. Trauma is part of the reason I was so depressed at a young age. I was also bullied growing up. Now I’m experiencing memory loss at the age of 56. I think I’ve always had it to some degree. I never could learn in school because I couldn’t focus. I am taking fluoxetine and Olanzapine currently. I hit my head against the concrete of a silo. I remember my Kindergarten teacher writing on a report card say Rhonda doesn’t seem to pay attention. Through school I had a hard time reading. My family tells me I repeat myself over and over. I’m scared that I could have Dementia. I hope you can help, but I can’t pay your fees. I might be able to get to your office.

    Rhonda Crane

    Comment by Rhonda — February 26, 2020 @ 7:49 AM

  3. Do you respond to comments ?

    Comment by MARY Ramirez — February 26, 2020 @ 8:44 AM

  4. There is something wrong. I have mood swings, hurt the person closest to me, was abused as a child, but never told anyone but my cousin and husband. I had a severe head trauma three years ago. I just want the depression gone along with the anxiety. I’m not on any medication.

    Comment by Nancy Beaulieu — February 26, 2020 @ 9:19 AM

  5. I have a daughter that has suffered for years with depression she is 23 years old. I see an AMEM clinic in Washington state do they take State health insurance? How much is a SPECT ? and treatments to follow?

    Comment by Martin — February 26, 2020 @ 10:23 AM

  6. I think part of the problem is the cost of getting a scan, out of pocket is very expensive. It’s very sad that our medical care is driven by the pharmaceutical companies because of $$$$$

    Comment by Patricia — February 26, 2020 @ 11:38 AM

  7. How much does the Spec testing cost?

    Comment by Vicki Grieshaber — February 26, 2020 @ 12:08 PM

  8. Hello Vicki, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with information on our consultations and evaluations.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:26 PM

  9. Hello Martin, thank you for reaching out. Yes, we have a clinic in Bellevue, WA (https://amenclinics.com/locations/seattle-metro-area/). Reimbursement by insurance companies varies according to your plan. Amen Clinics, Inc. is an out-of-network provider. Our Care Coordinators would be happy to reach out to you to discuss insurance, reimbursement and financing options. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:28 PM

  10. Hello Nancy, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss your symptoms and offer resources.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:29 PM

  11. Hello Mary, yes we do. How can we help you today? You can also reach out to us with the form on this page: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:29 PM

  12. Hello Rhonda, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss insurance, reimbursement, financing options and any other resources we can offer you. We do have 8 clinic locations – https://amenclinics.com/locations/. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:31 PM

  13. Hello Elia, thank you for reaching out and sharing with us. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss your grandson further and provide information on our treatments and services. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:34 PM

  14. I have noticed in the Neuropsych textbooks there are a number of brain imaging options mentioned, but SPECT is conspicuously absent. Why is this?

    Comment by Jeanne Meyer — February 26, 2020 @ 7:36 PM

  15. Hello Jeanne, we have many published research studies for your reference:

    These studies can be found in detail on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ by searching SPECT.

    Thank you for reaching out!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 27, 2020 @ 6:29 AM

  16. I had to drop out of nursing school 2 times related to health issues. Unfortunately, upon returning I learned that studying nutrition was no longer emphasized since it was not where things were headed in medicine. This upset me because I had grown up with a father who always said, “You are what you eat.” Anyway, I have learned from reading that our politicians were influenced heavily by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries starting in the 70’s. I only wish I had known about the Amen Clinics and SPECT scans as I could have gotten help back in the early 90″s and alleviated much investigation and searching for help.

    Comment by alice — February 27, 2020 @ 7:05 AM

  17. I suffered a head injury during a car accident at age 16. I went unconscious for moments after, then came to with a profuse nosebleed and a terrible headache.A drunk driver had hit us from behind at 50 kms. at a set of lights.I never was helped by any doctor in follow-up care.
    I could not concentrate or learn at school from grade 10 and up and had bouts of depression for years after. I am so desperate for genuine help! Now, I experience big mood swings and emotionally tense interactions with close family.
    I tried to get psychiatric help but have been wrongly diagnosed a number of times.Is there anyone who will read this able to please point me in the right direction for me to get genuine help?Thank you.

    Comment by Mariette — February 29, 2020 @ 10:25 AM

  18. How is the SPECT scan different from the QEEG?
    Which one is better?

    Comment by Tessa — March 15, 2020 @ 1:39 PM

  19. Hello Tessa, here are some additional articles for you:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — March 16, 2020 @ 6:57 AM

  20. my son has been diagnosed with many different mental health illnesses since 12 years old. now 22. Currently it is schizophrenia but seems to be changing once again. his Dr now is saying he has never seen anything like it and needs to search for some advice and wants him to get some neuro testing done. I am in Australia so can’t come to you as much as I would love that to happen. My question is could you please suggest what tests I should push for.
    I feel so scared and desperate, this has been such a long hard journey for us all and I feel no one ever listens to me. This is the first time any Dr has considered imaging and testing so I don’t want to miss this opportunity.
    Please help
    thank you

    Comment by debra — July 17, 2020 @ 10:49 PM

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