What’s Your Bad Habit Brain Type?

6 Bad Habits/Addictions Brain Types

Wine, cigarettes, caffeine, painkillers, carbs, gambling, shopping, online pornography—these are all bad habits that can slip into substance use disorders or behavioral addictions. Most people think that everyone who becomes addicted to bad habits is alike or have the same character flaws or lack of willpower. Not true!

Based on over 160,000 functional brain scans related to behavior, Amen Clinics has found that underlying brain dysfunction is the #1 reason why people get addicted to bad habits. And brain SPECT imaging, which measures blood flow and activity in the brain, shows that there are 6 different brain types associated with bad habits and addictions. The key to overcoming your unhealthy behaviors is to know your brain type and to use interventions targeted for your brain. With a healthier brain, you’ll finally be able to unchain your brain from your bad habits or addictions.

Brain SPECT imaging shows that there are 6 different brain types associated with bad habits and addictions. The key to overcoming your unhealthy behaviors is to know your brain type and use interventions targeted for your brain. Click To Tweet


Type 1: Compulsive Bad Habits/Addictions

If you have trouble shifting your attention from one thought to the next or from one course of action to the next, you may have the Compulsive Brain Type. These people tend to get stuck on thoughts of smoking, drinking, overeating, gambling or other substances or behaviors. Underneath these bad habits or addictions are obsessive thought patterns that get you locked into a single course of action. It’s hard for you to see options so you keep engaging in unhealthy behavior.

Brain scan findings: The most common brain SPECT finding in the Compulsive Brain Type is too much activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG). This is often associated with low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The ACG is known as the brain’s gear shifter and it’s what helps you go from thought to thought or action to action. Too much activity here can keep you stuck in bad behaviors even though they are harmful to you and cause consequences in your life.

Common conditions: Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Help for Compulsive Bad Habits/Addictions: Interventions that boost serotonin to calm activity in the ACG include the following.

  • Avoid high-protein diets. Eat more complex carbohydrates (not refined carbs) to boost serotonin.
  • Avoid stimulants.
  • Exercise to allow more of the serotonin precursor L-tryptophan to get into the brain
  • If you get an addiction-oriented thought in your head more than 3 times, do something to distract yourself.
  • Make a list of 10 things you can do instead of the bad habit so you can distract yourself.
  • Try supplements that calm the brain, such as saffron, 5-HTP, and L-tryptophan.

Type 2: Impulsive Bad Habits/Addictions

If you’re the type who wants to eliminate bad habits or addictions, but you can’t control your urges, you may have the Impulsive Brain Type. For example, if you want to stop smoking, but whenever you’re around someone else who lights up, you give in to your desire for a cigarette. If you want to quit drinking and no longer keep alcohol in your home, but you can’t say no if someone offers you a drink. Or if you want to cut sugar out of your diet, but if you drive by the bakery, you can’t resist going in and buying cookies. If you have this type, you may have trouble with impulse control even though you have good intentions to change your behaviors.

Brain scan findings: This type is associated with low activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is likely due to low levels of dopamine. The PFC acts as the brain’s supervisor and is involved in impulse control, judgment, planning, follow-through, decision-making, and attention. When the PFC is underactive, people can be easily distracted, bored, inattentive, and impulsive.

Common conditions: ADD/ADHD

Help for Impulsive Bad Habits/Addictions: Interventions that boost dopamine to stimulate activity in the PFC include the following.

  • Follow a higher-protein diet.
  • Exercise (especially an activity you love) to increase blood flow and dopamine in the brain.
  • Develop a clear focus—write your goals on a single page (this is called the One Page Miracle because it can change your life) and display it where you can see it every day.
  • Get outside supervision—have someone you trust to check in with you on a regular basis to help you stay focused on your goals.
  • Practice saying “No.” Avoid impulsively saying “yes” to offers of alcohol, drugs, food, or whatever it is that you’re trying to eliminate.
  • Try supplements that stimulate the PFC, such as rhodiola, green tea, and l-tyrosine.

Type 3: Impulsive-Compulsive Bad Habits/Addictions

If you give in to your urges impulsively as well as feel compulsively driven to engage in bad habits or addictions, you may have this combination brain type.

Brain scan findings: Typical SPECT findings for this type show low activity in the PFC (associated with impulsivity, likely due to low dopamine levels) and too much activity in the ACG (associated with compulsivity and low serotonin levels). This pattern is common in the children and grandchildren of alcoholics.

Common conditions: ADD/ADHD, OCD, eating disorders (especially bulimia)

Help for Impulsive-Compulsive Bad Habits/Addictions: Interventions that boost both dopamine (to stimulate activity in the PFC) and serotonin (to calm the ACG) include the following.

  • Follow a more balanced diet.
  • Set goals (See more on the One Page Miracle).
  • Practice saying no and avoid impulsively saying “yes.”
  • Distract yourself whenever thoughts about your bad habits or addictions get stuck in your head.
  • Try supplements that raise both serotonin (such as saffron and 5-HTP) and dopamine (such as rhodiola and green tea).

Type 4: Sad Or Emotional Bad Habits/Addictions

If you have underlying feelings of depression, hopelessness, or negativity and you use alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, food (especially carbs), or other substances or activities to make yourself temporarily feel better, you may have the Sad or Emotional Brain Type. This type is more commonly seen in women. For some people, these feelings may come and go with the seasons and tend to worsen in winter. Others experience mild feelings of chronic sadness, which is called dysthymia. Still, others suffer from more serious depression.

Brain scan findings: The typical SPECT findings seen in this type are overactivity in the deep limbic system (the brain’s emotional centers) and underactivity in the PFC.

Common conditions: Depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), self-esteem issues

Help for Sad or Emotional Bad Habits/Addictions: Interventions that calm the deep limbic system include the following.

  • Brain healthy diet
  • Exercise to boost blood flow and multiple neurotransmitters, including the “don’t worry, be happy” neurotransmitter serotonin.
  • Kill the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that steal your happiness.
  • Write 5 things you’re grateful for every day (shown to increase happiness levels in just 3 weeks).
  • Volunteer to help others, which helps get you outside of yourself and less focused on your own internal problems.
  • Work to improve your relationships.
  • Surround yourself with great scents, such as lavender, jasmine, and chamomile
  • Psychotherapy
  • Bright light therapy
  • Take vitamin D—it can be beneficial, especially for people whose addictions worsen or are triggered during the winter months
  • Try supplements, such as saffron (some studies show it’s as effective as antidepressant medication), SAMe, and DHEA (a master hormone found to be low in people with depression and obesity).

Type 5: Anxious Bad Habits/Addictions

If you try to calm your feelings of anxiety, nervousness, or tension, with wine, weed, or watching Internet pornography, you may have the Anxious Brain Type. More commonly seen in women, people with this type often struggle with physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, headaches, stomachaches, nail biting, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations. You may feel you need substances to help you relax or “wind down.” If you have this type, you are likely to predict the worst, be extra sensitive to rejection or judgment, or may feel like you’re waiting for something bad to happen.

Brain scan findings: On SPECT scans, this type is associated with too much activity in the basal ganglia, likely due to low levels of GABA.

Common conditions: Anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and emotional trauma, panic disorder, chronic stress

Help for Anxious Bad Habits/Addictions: Interventions that calm the basal ganglia include the following.

  • Brain healthy diet—avoid high-glycemic foods and don’t go too long without food, both of which can cause blood sugar issues that increase feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Exercise, including relaxing activities like yoga or tai chi
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Try hypnosis.
  • Learn to warm your hands using your mind.
  • Kill the anxious ANTs.
  • Try supplements, such as vitamin B6, magnesium, and GABA.

Type 6: Temporal Lobe Bad Habits/Addictions

Do you have bad habits combined with a short temper, mood swings, or problems with your memory or learning? You may have the Temporal Lobe Brain Type. Trouble with the temporal lobes may be due to a number of things. Investigating what’s causing any abnormal activity is critical.

Brain scan findings: SPECT scans typically show decreased activity in the temporal lobes, although in some cases, increased activity may be present.

Common conditions: Concussions and traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins (such as toxic mold), infections (such as Lyme disease)

Help for Temporal Lobe Bad Habits/Addictions: Interventions that stabilize activity in the temporal lobes include the following.

  • Try a higher-protein diet and eliminate sugar completely.
  • Engage in new learning.
  • If you experienced head trauma, protect your brain from further head injuries.
  • Boost the calming neurotransmitter GABA with supplements, such as GABA and magnesium
  • Boost the learning and memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine with supplements, such as Huperzine-A and acetyl-l-carnitine

Addictions—as well as PTSD, anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, OCD, and other co-occurring 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. Hello, I’m a recently retired special operationsAir Force Pararescueman
    I would like to know more about getting a brain scan, such as price and if Tricare will cove any of these procedures.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Charlie Rey — October 19, 2020 @ 5:13 AM

  2. I’m interested in learning more about your brain scans….

    Comment by Lisa Stirgus — October 19, 2020 @ 6:20 AM

  3. This information is critical for most of my clients and I thank you for publishing it. I am one of your referral sources in the Scottsdale area and I look forward to the first client that you recommend. Again, thank you so much for these handy,
    concise, comprehensive handouts…

    Comment by D.J. Diebold — October 19, 2020 @ 6:37 AM

  4. I’m not a professional healthcare worker , but it seems to to me that an individual can be exhibiting a combination of more than one of these brain types. Is it possible for someone to have type 4 and type 6 brain concurrently?

    Comment by Eve L — October 19, 2020 @ 7:05 AM

  5. Thanks for great useful info. Am interested in brain scan & hormone replacement therapy. I leave in Florida. I learn a lot from your books. Are there lab work / tests that can be done before being seen in the Georgia clinic?

    Comment by MARIE HYPPOLITE — October 19, 2020 @ 4:24 PM

  6. Thanks for great useful info. I enjoy, and learn a lot from your books. I live in WPBch Fl. I am interested in hormone therapy & brain scan. Can tests or lab be done before a possible visit to the Georgia center.

    Comment by MARIE HYPPOLITE — October 19, 2020 @ 4:30 PM

  7. I have a combination of about 3 of these. I live in Alabama and on a limited income. I have medicare and mutual of Omaha. What are my options and cost. A lot is due to the abuse and trauma I experienced as a child and it’s not getting any better. Thank you for your time sir, I do appreciate it. H.

    Comment by Mary Helen Higginbotham — October 19, 2020 @ 9:08 PM

  8. I am in the addictions treatment field and have been following Dr. Amen and the Amen Clinics informative articles for the past couple of years. I, too, am wondering how expensive the Spect imaging is. And, since my client base is usually on the lower end of the income spectrum, I wonder if after building the world’s largest data base of brain images, if the Amen Clinics would start accepting persons to continue building their data base by giving some Spect scans for free!

    Comment by Kim Shird — October 20, 2020 @ 6:02 AM

  9. Hi,
    you mentioned caffeine in the title. Can you please tell me what exactly is the negative effect of caffeine or share a link in which it is explained? Why is it a bad habit to use caffeine? How does it affect the brain?

    Comment by Dennis Dunker — October 20, 2020 @ 7:41 AM

  10. Thank you so much for this information. I see myself in a number of these habits, so I plan to head to NY, in the near future, for a spect scan.

    Comment by Karen — October 20, 2020 @ 2:23 PM

  11. excellent information.

    Comment by Doug Morris — January 4, 2023 @ 1:58 PM

  12. I identify with all 6. Is this possible?

    Comment by Megan — January 6, 2023 @ 2:45 PM

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