What Made This Kid Stab His Own Family Members?

intermittent explosive disorder

Can a childhood infection change your life?

For 14-year-old DJ, everything changed after a series of bad ear infections he had at age 4. Before that, he was a sweet, loving kid. But after, he could explode in an uncontrollable violent rage out of nowhere or when he didn’t get his way. He made national news when he was just 5 years old when he stabbed 3 people in his family over a juice box!

When he was just 5 years old, he stabbed 3 people in his family over a juice box! Here’s what his brain scan revealed. Click To Tweet

As a teen, DJ has bitten, kicked, and punched his family members. He broke his mother Victoria’s nose. One time, while in the car, DJ’s mom said they couldn’t go to McDonald’s and DJ went ballistic, grabbing the steering wheel and trying to run them off the road.  On other occasions, he’s tried to jump out of a moving car if he doesn’t get his way. His mom says that when DJ isn’t enraged, he’s a wonderful, loving teen who is highly intelligent. Why can’t he be like that all the time, and why does he fly out of control?

To find out, Dr. Phil recently invited Daniel G. Amen, MD, to join him on the Dr. Phil show to get to the root of DJ’s anger issues. According to Dr. Amen there are 4 Circles of health or illness—biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. On the Dr. Phil show, he delved into some of these areas and how they are contributing to DJ’s issues.

The 4 Circles in DJ’s Life

In the biological circle, it all starts with the brain. After reviewing over 170,000 brain SPECT imaging scans at Amen Clinics, Dr. Amen says it has become clear that mental health problems are really brain health problems that steal your mind. SPECT is a functional imaging tool that measures blood flow and activity in the brain and shows 3 things: areas with healthy activity, areas with too much activity, and areas with too little activity.

What did DJ’s brain scans reveal? It’s interesting to note that a previous MRI of his brain showed “normal” results. MRI and CT scans show the physical structure of the brain whereas SPECT shows how the brain functions. DJ’s SPECT scans showed signs of:

  • Head trauma—DJ’s father viciously abused him, strangling him and smashing his face into a car door when he was 8 years old
  • Decreased blood flow in the left medial temporal lobe—the temporal lobes are associated with mood and anger issues
  • Overall increased activity—often seen in a particular type of ADD/ADHD called the “Ring of Fire” and in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Too much activity in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus—associated with getting stuck on thoughts and actions


(DJ’s Surface SPECT scan and Active SPECT scan)

DJ had other biological issues as well. Labwork showed that he had previously had a strep infection, and he tested positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial infection commonly referred to as “walking pneumonia.”

Infections in children can sometimes lead to PANS/PANDAS, a common cause of mental health issues in kids, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, tics, personality changes, and more. He also experienced anoxia (lack of oxygen) when he crowned for 2.5 hours before birth, which is bad for overall brain health. And he had a genetic vulnerability to violence based on his father’s violent tendencies.

In the psychological circle, DJ had dealt with abandonment after his father left and stopped communicating with him. In general, the teen feels unwanted, has low self-esteem, and is highly emotional.

In the social circle, DJ experienced trauma vicariously by seeing his mother being abused, being abused himself by his father, and being “farmed out” by his mother to others—including his grandmother and treatment centers—to parent him. He grew up witnessing his father model violent behavior. Children learn by exposure and when they are exposed to violence, they often learn that this is the way to deal with the stresses and problems in life. When DJ was living with his grandmother, he was incident-free, so his environment was likely playing a role in his aggressive behavior.

What’s DJ’s Diagnosis?

Based on DJ’s scans as well as a full evaluation at Amen Clinics that included psychological testing, a clinical history, and lab work, DJ was diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, ADHD (the overfocused and temporal lobe subtypes), traumatic brain injury (TBI), anoxia at birth, PTSD, PANDAS, restrictive eating disorder (he only likes eating potatoes), and video game addiction (he plays Grand Theft Auto from the time he wakes up until 2 am).

Can DJ’s behavior change? YES!

Tens of thousands of patients at Amen Clinics have shown that you can change your brain and change your life. With the proper treatment and by addressing all of the contributing factors in the 4 circles of his life, DJ is improving his brain health and his overall behavior is much better.

Violence, anger, OCD, TBIs and other brain health conditions 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 or visit our contact page here.


  1. My son has OCD, BY POLAR, ANXIETY, PANIC ATTACKS, DEPRESSION, and INSOMIA . I have try several places including Menninger in Houston Tx. currently He is getting ketamine infusions, and takes a lot of medication. What kind of therapy or treatment will you be able to offer him to help and what will be the cost?

    Comment by maria Hambrick — December 2, 2020 @ 4:48 PM

  2. Diagnosis: PTSD/TBI; BiPolar Disorder, ADHD, P.N.E.S. , Alcoholism – 43 years sobriety, severe abuse Mother & Father age 4 to 18, severe anger issues in the past, consistent failure on cusp of success.
    Frozen at decision point, and now.

    Thank you,

    James J. Korman

    Comment by James John Korman — December 2, 2020 @ 6:44 PM

  3. Hello Maria. I’m sorry to hear this about your son. You can try and call one of Dr Amen’s clinics (the closest one to you) and have a consultation. In order to have the proper diagnostics not only a Spect could be done but also an interview with you and direct family members to know more about his life choices, childhood, any accidents or injuries, traumatic events.
    A benign was to start helping your son is paying attention to his diet and try to minimize the intake of processed foods, sugar and sometimes gluten. Dr Amen can also recommend vitamins and supplements that could best serve your son ‘s brain needs such as vitamin D, serotonin and even Omega 3…also exercise and meditation are excellent tools to help balance the state of mind.
    I hope you can get all the help you need.
    God bless you.

    Comment by Valeria — December 2, 2020 @ 7:00 PM

  4. Nothing was mentioned about nutrition. It can be very important!

    Comment by W Carpenter — December 2, 2020 @ 10:29 PM

  5. What about his spiritual dimension? That was omitted.

    Comment by smayer97 — December 3, 2020 @ 12:08 AM

  6. well this was a VERY disappointing article – why didn’t you also include HOW you treated him – AND what type of results you saw after treatment???
    Doesn’t make me want to try your services!

    Comment by inquisitive — December 3, 2020 @ 2:39 AM

  7. Dear Dr Amen and all the others as well Please Please Please do what it takes to address the issues that impact the Children at Lincoln Hills School for Boy which is part of the Department of Corrections for the State of Wiscomsin. These Children were all abuse and traumatized before they were sent to Lincoln Hills and they suffered even more abuse at the hands of the State of Wisconsin DOC under a Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature.

    Please see your involvement in this as breaking the barrier for the treatment of all incarcerated children who as you know have been abused and traumatized before they were incarcerated and then more often than not have suffered more abuse and trauma while being incarcerated.

    I will work with those who you feel are appropriate to address these issues .


    PS Why I know what I know is a long story but it is critical that SPECT images become the standard for treatment . As you well know this is revolutionary and that change is scary to say the least.

    Comment by Thomas Spellman — December 3, 2020 @ 4:10 AM

  8. Would you please screen the comments so people won’t have a platform to display their political leanings such as the above commentary? Mr. Spellman above has done a disservice to people seeking help, but then may turn away after more politics thrown in our faces. Shameful!

    Comment by Notad Emoc — December 3, 2020 @ 9:44 AM

  9. I fully agree that incarcerated children need all the help available-

    Comment by Joanne — December 5, 2020 @ 6:13 AM

  10. Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. was truly information. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by zortilo nrel — December 17, 2020 @ 10:09 PM

  11. Hello Maria, thank you for reaching out. We are opening a clinic in Dallas/Fort Worth: https://amenclinics.com/locations/. For information about our services and pricing, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — December 21, 2020 @ 7:37 PM

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