The One Question Psychiatrists Don’t Ask…But Should
If you go to a psychiatrist for anxiety, depression, attention problems, anger issues, or another “mental illness,” you’re likely to be asked a number of questions about your symptoms, your feelings, and your family history. But there’s one question most psychiatrists—and other healthcare professionals—never ask but should:
“Have you ever had a head injury?”
The Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Mental Illness
Head trauma is a major cause of psychiatric illness and very few people know it because most mental health professionals never look at the brains of their patients. A wealth of research shows that concussions and other types of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) increase the risk of:
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Borderline and antisocial personality disorders
We see this in so many of our patients. In fact, in our database of tens of thousands of patients, 40% had a significant brain injury before they came to see us. And many of them don’t remember experiencing head trauma until they see the damage on their brain SPECT scan.
How Do You Know Unless You Look?
It’s astounding how many people forget they’ve had a significant head injury. At Amen Clinics, we routinely ask patients several times whether or not they have had a head injury. Our intake paperwork asks the question “Have you ever had a head injury?” The historian, who gathers patients’ histories before they see the physician, asks them again about head injuries. The computer testing we have patients complete asks a third time about head injuries. If I see no, no, no to the question of head injuries, I’ll ask again. If I get a fourth no, I will then ask if they’ve experienced any of the following common causes of head injuries:
- Falls—falling out of bed, slipping in the bath or shower, falling down steps, falling off ladders
- Motor vehicle-related collisions—involving cars, motorcycles or bicycles; also, pedestrians involved in accidents
- Violence—caused by gunshot wounds, assaults, domestic violence, or child abuse
- Sports injuries—besides football, they are common in soccer, boxing, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, hockey, cycling, basketball, and other high-impact or extreme sports
- Explosive blasts and other combat injuries
I’m constantly amazed at how many people think their head injuries were too insignificant to mention. For others, they simply do not remember the incident as amnesia is a common occurrence in head traumas. When asked the question for the fifth time, one patient put his hand on his forehead and said, “Oh yeah! When I was 5 years old, I fell out of a second-story window.” Likewise, I have had other patients forget they went through windshields, fell out of moving vehicles, or were knocked unconscious when they fell off their bicycles.
The vast majority of these people never realized the connection between their head injury and their mental health symptoms. And the traditional treatments they’re prescribed often don’t work because they don’t heal the underlying trauma to the brain. You may be in the same situation. Anyone who is not responding to traditional treatment for depression or other mental health conditions should consider if a past head injury might be contributing to symptoms.
Healing the Brain is Possible
The good news is that the brain can heal, and this can help you overcome psychiatric symptoms. In my book The End of Mental Illness, I detail specific strategies to enhance the brain following a concussion or other TBI, including:
- 2 non-invasive therapies with scientific evidence they help TBIs
- 3 lab tests you must get if you’ve suffered a head injury
- 2 imaging studies that can help identify hidden head trauma
- 3 nutraceuticals that are essential to help support the brain’s healing process
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. The book reveals that “mental illnesses” are really “brain health issues” that steal your mind, and it shows how healing the brain after a head injury can help alleviate “psychiatric” symptoms. Order your copy here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms that may be related to a concussion or TBI, it’s important to heal the underlying trauma. If you want to join the thousands of people who have already healed from TBIs with the Amen Clinics Concussion Rescue Protocol, 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.