What Your Doctor Might Be Missing About Your Depression

What Your Doctor Might Be Missing About Your Depression

If you’re feeling depressed, you may go to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or your primary care physician (who prescribe 85% of psychiatric medications), who will ask you to describe your symptoms. In most cases, your doctor will listen, do a brief examination, then look for symptom clusters. Based on this, they’ll give you a diagnosis and treatment plan, usually involving one or more psychiatric medications.

For example, you may say, “I’m depressed.” Your doctor will then label you with a diagnosis that has the same name as your symptoms—depression, in this example—without taking any biological information into consideration. And you’re likely to walk out with a prescription for antidepressant medication.

Unfortunately, antidepressants are often ineffective. Approximately one-third of people with depression don’t respond fully to treatment with antidepressants, according to a 2015 study in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.

What’s the problem?

Symptoms don’t reveal anything about the underlying biology of the problems people have. All other medical professionals look directly at the organs they treat, but psychiatrists are taught to assume what the underlying biological mechanisms are for illnesses, such as depression, without ever looking at the brain. Because of this, the root causes of depression are often missed.

Here are 8 facts about depression that traditional medical professionals may miss.

1. Depression isn’t just 1 thing.

Brain SPECT imaging studies show that depression isn’t a simple or single disorder. In fact, there are 7 types of depression and anxiety. Giving everyone the same treatment will never work. You need to know your depression type.

What you need to know: Getting a brain scan can help determine which type of depression you have so you can get the most effective treatment.

2. Head trauma can cause mood disorders.

Mild traumatic brain injury is a major cause of psychiatric problems, but very few people know it. Head injuries, even minor ones, increase the risk of depression, according to research in Frontiers in Psychiatry. At Amen Clinics, 40% of patients had a significant brain injury prior to seeking help. Most of them didn’t connect the injury to their psychiatric issues, and many didn’t even remember hurting their head.

What you need to know: A brain scan can reveal damage from a past head injury that may be contributing to feelings of depression.

3. Chronic inflammation is linked to depression.

Just as inflammation can ravage your body, it can also damage your brain and mind. It has been associated with a wide range of neurological and psychiatric illnesses, including depression. If you’ve been treated for major depressive disorder without success, it may be time to look at inflammation as a possible root cause.

What you need to know: Have your doctor check your inflammation levels with tests for C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and the omega-3 index. Avoid eating pro-inflammatory foods (such as corn and soy). A 2015 study in Brain and Behavior has found that some anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin and ibuprofen) and nutraceuticals (such as omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin) have been found to decrease depression in people who have evidence of persistent inflammation.

4. Depression may be a symptom of underlying infections.

Infectious illnesses including Lyme disease, streptococcus (strep throat), toxoplasmosis, syphilis, helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), HIV/AIDS, herpes, and others are a major cause of psychiatric problems like depression that few medical professionals recognize.

What you need to know: If you or a loved one’s depression is not getting better with standard treatment, consider testing for (and treating) infectious diseases that commonly affect the mind.

5. Neurohormonal imbalances can produce symptoms of depression.

In particular, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, moodiness, and lack of motivation are common symptoms when neurohormones—such as thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone—levels are abnormal.

What you need to know: Have your doctor check your hormone levels and balance them if necessary.

6. Diabesity is tied to depression.

Diabesity is having high blood sugar and/or being overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with a greater risk of depression. According to 2016 research in Current Diabetes Reviews, depression and anxiety are 2-3 times higher in patients with Type 2 diabetes than the general population.

What you need to know: Eat brain healthy foods to help balance blood sugar and to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

7. Depression may be related to sleep problems.

In general, a single night of staring at the ceiling can make you wake up feeling sad, irritable, or moody. Over time, sleep problems can lead to a higher risk of depression. Research in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience shows that about 75% of people with depression also have insomnia. In addition, having untreated sleep apnea nearly triples your risk of depression, according to a 2016 study in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

What you need to know: Create a healthy sleep routine and if you snore, get checked for sleep apnea and treat it if necessary.

8. Exposure to toxins can cause depressive symptoms.

Your brain is the most metabolically active organ in your body. As such, it is vulnerable to damage from toxins, such as toxic mold, smoke, conventional cleaning products, carbon monoxide, pesticides, and more. Toxins are one of the major causes of psychiatric issues, such as depression, that traditional psychiatrists almost completely ignore.

What you need to know: Avoid exposure to environmental toxins and get tested for levels of mold toxins, especially if your home has ever been flooded or had water damage.

Depression—as well as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, 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. Are brain scans covered by most insurance plans? Can we get a brain scan thru Amen Clincs Arvin off-site location?

    Comment by Jo Hebert — August 28, 2020 @ 3:36 AM

  2. You hit the nail on the head.
    I have gotten more information and understanding in this small article than I have from any of my doctor’s. And that is upsetting to me.

    Comment by Joyce Stromatt — August 28, 2020 @ 3:41 AM

  3. I now realize I have battled Depression my whole life. And as I approach retirement I’m really concerned about brain issues.
    Reading you points on Depression I have many of them so wondering if I should get some help from the clinic??
    How expensive is this process??

    Comment by diane kelley — August 28, 2020 @ 5:51 AM

  4. Where are your clinics? I’ve had Lyme disease well over 10 yrs. I’m majorly depressed & anxious. I’ve very limited income, & basically no support. I think I have most types of depression listed above. I’m not currently on any antidrpressants. Too many meds! I’ve been to a LLMD. Was he!ping, but difficult. Lack of income made me stop appts & treatment. Insurance doesn’t cover it. I’m mentally on a bad way. I’m a 66 year old female, living in Bedford Co, PA. Can you help or give suggestions? Thank You!

    Comment by Vicki Claybaugh — August 28, 2020 @ 6:14 AM

  5. I was asked if I was suicidal when I wanted to discuss my depression concern. . I told the doctor well no. That was the end of the discussion. 🙁

    Comment by Daisy — August 28, 2020 @ 7:18 AM

  6. Our mental health system is a disgrace. Dr. Amen is right on the mark and actually offers treatments and helpful info in a structured, methodical format. A rarity in that field – which needs a major overhaul.

    Thank you, Dr. Amen, for all your research and hard work and perseverance.

    Comment by k — August 28, 2020 @ 3:12 PM

  7. You’re based in the United States. Are there some insurance companies in Canada that will cover expenses or a portion thereof?

    Comment by Tamie — August 28, 2020 @ 3:36 PM

  8. I’ve never heard of a brain scan. I’ve been with my reputable psychiatrist for almost 14 yrs. My depression is genetic. How is your brain scanned? Then I guess psychiatrists won’t be needed…I am totally confused.

    Comment by Diana Epstein — August 28, 2020 @ 7:26 PM

  9. I can reply, since the clinic has not. No, insurance companies don’t cover this. If you have $2k+ to invest in your health, that’s a starting price range.

    Comment by Julie Carpenter — August 28, 2020 @ 7:43 PM

  10. Are there any trained Amen doctors in Australia and if so where do I find a list of them? Many thanks. It appears I have already asked that a few months ago but have not had an answer – can anybody help me?

    Comment by Judy Nicol — August 28, 2020 @ 9:07 PM


    Comment by JEANETTE — August 29, 2020 @ 5:15 AM

  12. For over 45 years of my life I was deeply depressed as far back as I can remember into my youth. Nothing was helping and it wasn’t going to end well. Then my wife and I read Tana’s book, The Omni Diet, followed the advice and got the results. It took most of a year following the new diet for me to suddenly realize the depression was gone. That was more than 5 years ago, and these have been the best of my life so far. I still don’t know what the specific causes were, but I guarantee you that we will never return to the Standard American Diet. I’m here today to write this because of the Amen’s work and I will be forever grateful.

    Comment by Fred Hubler — August 29, 2020 @ 6:16 AM

  13. I feel down and depressed. Sometimes feel like I’m not going to make it. Head feels funny. Like paranoid or something only because I feel funny sometimes. I am going to order your serotonin. Don’t want to get mentally sick. What can I eat for serotonin in the brain.

    Comment by Carol Stratton — August 29, 2020 @ 7:19 AM

  14. Does Medicare coverAny of these expenses?

    Comment by Doris Godfrey — August 29, 2020 @ 1:44 PM

  15. Hello Doris, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics is an out-of-network provider. We’d be happy to contact you directly with information on pricing, insurance, reimbursement, and financing options. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 8:16 AM

  16. Hello Carol, thank you for reaching out. Dr. Amen’s brain-directed supplement brand is called BrainMD and they have wonderful articles on their blog that can assist you with information related to serotonin: https://brainmd.com/blog/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 8:19 AM

  17. Hello Judy, at this time our clinics are located in the U.S.: https://amenclinics.com/locations/. Our Care Coordinators may be able to assist you with possible referrals in Australia, but if not you may need to conduct your own research on Brain SPECT imaging to see if there are providers near you. You can reach out Care Coordinators here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 8:21 AM

  18. Hello Diana, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information. You can learn more about Brain SPECT scans and our Amen Clinics Method here: https://amenclinics.com/approach/amen-clinics-method/. Here is additional information related to Depression: https://amenclinics.com/conditions/depression/. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 8:23 AM

  19. Hello Tamie, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics is an out-of-network provider. We’d be happy to contact you directly to discuss pricing, insurance, reimbursement, and financing options.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 8:25 AM

  20. Hello Vicki, thank you for reaching out. We can provide additional information on how we diagnose and treat Lyme disease: https://amenclinics.com/conditions/lyme-disease-and-other-infections/. We do also offer integrative and functional medicine services at some of our clinics: https://amenclinics.com/services/integrative-medicine/. For more information about pricing, insurance, reimbursement, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 8:46 AM

  21. Hello Diane, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information on pricing. Here is some additional information on our website regarding brain SPECT imaging and depression: https://amenclinics.com/conditions/depression/. Our Care Coordinators can be reached here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 10:00 AM

  22. Hello Jo, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics is an out-of-network provider. Our Care Coordinators can assist you with additional information regarding pricing, insurance, reimbursement and financing options. We currently have 8 locations: https://amenclinics.com/locations/. We are seeing patient in the clinics for brain SPECT scans and can do other aspects of the evaluation process via telehealth methods: https://amenclinics.com/covid-19-safety-practices-and-procedures/. Our Care Coordinators can be reached here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 1, 2020 @ 10:02 AM

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