What Your Brain Type Says About How You’re Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Are you one of those people who are hoarding toilet paper and face masks? Are you freaking out from all the scary news or feeling completely depressed from all the social distancing? Or are you like those Spring Breakers flocking to the beaches like nothing’s wrong?
The way you react in a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic depends on your brain type. After studying more than 160,000 brain SPECT scans at Amen Clinics, it’s clear that not all brains are the same. SPECT is a brain imaging tool that measures blood flow and activity and shows areas of the brain with healthy activity, too much activity, or not enough activity.
Based on our brain imaging work, we have identified 5 primary brain types that influence who you are, how you behave, and how you relate to others. Here’s a look at how each of the brain types tends to respond during times of crisis and pandemics.
Brain Type 1 — Balanced
On brain SPECT scans, the balanced brain shows full, even, symmetrical blood flow in most areas.
If you have the Balanced Brain Type, you’re likely to be focused, flexible, and emotionally stable. You’re one of those people who shows up on time, follows through on promises, and copes well with life’s ups and downs—even with global pandemics.
In times of extreme stress, you tend to have healthy levels of worry and anxiety, which means you’ll be prepared but won’t go overboard by hoarding or panicking. In general, you aren’t much of a risk-taker, so you listen to what the government and experts say and follow the rules regarding social distancing. You stick to getting information about the virus from reputable sources like the CDC, and you also follow sound advice to boost your immune system to minimize your risk of developing COVID-19.
Support your Brain Type: Eat a healthy diet; get regular exercise; and take multi-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
Brain Type 2 — Spontaneous
This type typically has lower activity in the front part of the brain in an area called the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
The Spontaneous Brain Type tends to be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who would rather do things on the spur of the moment than have a set schedule. You may struggle with a short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, and impulse control problems. These people are often adrenaline junkies—think of firefighters, for example, who are more likely to run toward a fire than away from it. Spontaneous types often don’t believe that rules apply to you, so in this pandemic, you might not be adhering to social distancing recommendations. You may even be one of those people crowding the beaches in Florida or having a “coronavirus party” with your other spontaneous friends.
These are the “Don’t worry, be happy” type of people. This means you aren’t worried about the pandemic, but you likely aren’t taking the precautions that could help you prevent exposure to it. And you may not be doing anything to enhance your immunity since you aren’t afraid of catching it. Unfortunately, a longevity study found that “Don’t worry, be happy” people die the earliest from accidents and preventable causes. This type is often seen in people with ADD/ADHD.
Support your Brain Type: Engage in lifestyle strategies that boost activity in the PFC, including eating a higher-protein diet; taking supplements, such as green tea, rhodiola, and ginseng; and doing cardio exercise.
Brain Type 3 — Persistent
People with this brain type often have increased activity in the front part of the brain in an area called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG).
People with this brain type are like a dog with a bone. You tend to be strong-willed, don’t take no for an answer, and think it’s your way or the highway. With frontal lobes that work hard, you’re always on alert, so in a crisis or pandemic, you go into overdrive. In an effort to prevent the virus, you may wash your hands so much your skin cracks, which actually increases your vulnerability for infections. You’re a natural prepper who likely has a storeroom stocked with every conceivable emergency supply. You may even be one of those people stockpiling face masks, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. It isn’t because you lack empathy for others; it’s because you worry so much you need to feel like you have some control over the situation.
You also tend to thrive when you can follow a routine, so suddenly being out of a job, having to work from home, or having to self-isolate can cause you to get bent out of shape. You may struggle more than others with a new schedule. When the brain’s ACG is overactive, it also means you can get stuck on negative thoughts, which can be associated with anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It’s critical for people with this type to disinfect your thoughts. Mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands.
Support your Brain Type: To calm an overactive ACG, boost serotonin in the brain with healthy carbs (such as sweet potatoes and hummus), salmon, turkey, eggs, nuts, and seeds; supplements like 5-HTP and saffron; and burst training.
Brain Type 4 — Sensitive
This type often has increased activity in the limbic system, the emotional centers of the brain.
Having the Sensitive Brain Type means you tend to have great empathy for others. On the downside, it means you can be deeply impacted by frightening news and distressing social media posts. In a global crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, you may be feeling so overwhelmed that you retreat from everything and everyone. You may go beyond healthy social distancing and self-isolation by completely removing yourself from any contact with anyone, which only exacerbates feelings of sadness and loneliness.
Many people with this brain type struggle with moods, can feel overwhelmed and are likely to have lots of automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). You’re a glass half empty type who tends to see doom and gloom in our future. Being highly sensitive can make you more vulnerable to depressive disorder, addiction, and cyclic mood disorders like bipolar disorder.
Support your Brain Type: Calm the emotional centers of the brain with healthy fats, such as avocado, almonds, and salmon; take omega-3 fatty acids (the kind with more EPA than DHA), s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and vitamin D; get some sunshine or try bright light therapy; and do physical activities like dancing. Be sure to reach out to connect with loves ones, whether it’s a phone call, a video conference, or Face Time.
Brain Type 5 — Cautious
Heightened activity in the anxiety centers of the brain—such as the basal ganglia, insular cortex, or amygdala—is seen in this type. This is often linked to low levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.
If you have the Cautious Brain Type, you’re likely to feel anxious, which typically makes you more prepared. You probably already had extra rolls of toilet paper and paper towels on hand before the pandemic even arrived. People with this type tend to have such busy minds that it’s hard to relax. In stressful situations, it’s common to have trouble sleeping or to experience physical symptoms from anxiety, such as headaches, muscle aches, or an upset stomach.
You may be so anxious about what’s going on that you watch the news constantly for the latest updates, but this just fuels your anxiety. You typically follow the rules, so in a pandemic, you’re doing what the experts recommend. You may even be going further by wearing a face mask at all times in your own home or preaching to your followers on social media to make sure they take things seriously.
People with this brain type are more vulnerable to anxiety and panic attacks, and substance use disorders. This means you may be turning to a glass of wine—or 3 or 4 of them—to self-medicate in times of stress. This may work in the short-term, but it boosts anxiety in the long run. There are healthier ways to soothe your nerves.
Support your Brain Type: Calm the brain’s anxiety centers by avoiding caffeine, booze, and sugary sweets; supplement your diet with GABA, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids (higher in DHA than EPA), and theanine from green tea; and try calming activities like meditation, hypnosis, deep breathing, and yoga.
To discover your brain type and get targeted recommendations to boost your brain type, take our free online Brain Health Assessment quiz. It only takes about 5 minutes to complete and your answers are strictly confidential.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or other mental health issues, you aren’t alone—45% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their mental health. Just because you’re sheltering at home doesn’t mean you have to wait for the pandemic to be over before seeking help. In fact, during these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. 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.