What Doctors Can’t Tell You About Your Depression, Anxiety, or Anger
Experienced psychiatrists and clinicians can tell if someone is likely to have ADD/ADHD, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, or intermittent explosive disorder. But what clinicians cannot do, and will never be able to do, without functional brain imaging is to know the underlying brain biology of the patients they treat.
As I reveal in my book The End of Mental Illness, without imaging your brain using functional assessment tools—such as SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) or QEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram)—your doctor cannot tell if your inattention, depression, compulsions, mood swings, or aggression is from:
- Low blood flow from vascular disease
- A premature aging process
- An inflammatory process, related to low omega-3 fatty acids or gut problems
- A genetic abnormality
- Lasting physical trauma from a car accident or from playing football in high school
- Toxic exposure from carbon monoxide or mold exposure, which needs to be treated
- Seizure activity
- A brain infection
- Nutrient or neurohormone abnormalities
- Blood sugar abnormalities
- Undiagnosed sleep apnea
- A brain that is working too hard and needs to be calmed down
- A brain that is not working hard enough and needs to be stimulated
If we don’t look at the brain, we are unnecessarily flying blind. That can lead us to miss important diagnoses, give the wrong treatment plan, and hurt the people we are entrusted to help.
How Traditional Psychiatry Missed the Root Cause of Jason’s Mental Illness
Jason is a prime example of how not looking at the brain can be life-threatening. He was 18 and in his first year in college at the University of Rhode Island when he first started hearing voices and having visual hallucinations. Based on his symptoms, the university psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia and told his parents he would need to be on antipsychotic medication for the rest of his life, but the medication triggered suicidal thoughts.
Horrified, his mother called me. She and I had worked together at a large public television station. I told her I wanted to see Jason immediately.
Jason’s brain SPECT scan showed evidence of a past brain injury affecting his left temporal lobe, which when damaged is often involved in mood instability, dark thoughts, and hallucinations, and low activity in his frontal lobes (where focus, forethought, and planning occur). When he was 5 years old, Jason jumped headfirst into an empty bathtub and was unconscious for a brief period. He also had sustained several concussions from wrestling and playing soccer.
Since the age of 5, Jason had struggled with low-grade depression. His symptoms worsened when he was 12 years old and experienced bullying at school. While at college, Jason started hearing voices. They constantly made mean comments about him and others. Often, the voices would speak at the same time. In addition, he began seeing gory visions of his own death, including being strangled by a snake.
After meeting with Jason and reviewing his SPECT brain scans, my conclusion was that he did not have schizophrenia; rather, he had psychotic depression, which had been made worse by the prior brain injury, undisciplined thought patterns, and chronic stress.
I took him off his antipsychotic medication, supported his brain recovery with healing nutrients, and had him do cognitive-behavioral therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help heal his prior brain injury. Within 4 months he was remarkably improved and the following year he was back at school. If we hadn’t looked at his brain and altered his treatment plan, I shudder to think of what might have happened to Jason.
Why Is Traditional Psychiatry So Slow to Incorporate Brain Imaging?
If looking at the brain has helped people like Jason—and tens of thousands of others—why isn’t the whole of psychiatry on board with brain imaging? Because this new way of thinking completely changes the diagnostic and treatment paradigm that has been taught in medical schools and psychiatric residency training programs for more than 50 years.
Functional brain imaging takes psychiatry from a generalized symptom-cluster diagnostic and treatment specialty without any biological evidence to a more objective specialty, one that is solidly based on using state-of-the-art brain mapping tools to help optimize the patient’s brain function.
Besides completely changing the way we diagnose brain health/mental health, functional imaging leads to completely different treatment protocols to improve brain function. These include strategies that are often more natural and lifestyle-based and more directly accessible to patients. These types of protocols are not taught in medical schools and are not underwritten by the pharmaceutical establishment that has dominated the financial support of the psychiatric establishment. (One only has to attend psychiatric meetings or read most psychiatric journals to see the massive advertising spent by the pharmaceutical industry).
When my colleagues began attacking me for our brain imaging work, it initially made me anxious and upset. Then I realized anyone who tries to change a paradigm invites vitriol. In the 15th century, the Italian politician, Niccolo Machiavelli, explained: “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions.”
The time has come for a new paradigm in psychiatry. The end of mental illness begins with a revolution in brain health.
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. In the book, he shares more about the strange history of psychiatry and how the field is stuck in an outdated, ineffective paradigm. The book reveals that we need a completely different paradigm for diagnosing and treating mental health conditions—one that is rooted in neuroscience and hope. Order your copy here.
While most traditional psychiatrists remain stuck in an industry that refuses to look at the organ it treats, the future of psychiatry is here now at Amen Clinics. We use brain SPECT imaging to more accurately diagnose and treat people who are struggling with a wide range of issues. And we believe in using the least toxic, most effective solutions for our patients. If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health and overcome their symptoms at Amen Clinics, 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.