Psychiatrist Daniel Amen Answers Brain Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED

published on July 2, 2020

– Why the [bleep] is my anxiety

through the [bleep] roof today?

What do you want from me, brain?

There's a lot of that going on

Hi, this is Doctor Daniel Amen

I'm a double board-certified psychiatrist,

founder of Amen Clinics,

and the author of "The
End of Mental Illness"

This is Brain Support

[rhythmic music]

Rory Banwell, "Why does
your brain sometimes

"completely forget common words?

"I just couldn't remember
drawer, like what?"

Interrupt signals that
happen in your brain,

it can be due to a lack
of sleep, not eating,

negative thoughts, low blood sugar

If it happens once a week,
I wouldn't worry about it,

but if it's beginning to
happen two, three, four

times a week and if it's worse
than it was 10 years ago,

it actually could be a
sign of impending trouble,

and that's where you wanna really

begin to look at your brain habits

If you have hypertension,
high blood pressure,

as blood pressure goes up blood
flow to the brain does down

If you have any form of heart
disease or vascular disease

like a heart arrhythmia, if
you had general anesthesia

at some point in the past
that can lower blood flow,

if you don't exercise

The simple way for each of
these risk factors, it's, okay,

what is it, how do you
know if you have it,

and what to do about it,

and what to do about low blood flow,

exercise boosts blood flow to the brain

There are simple things like
eating beets, cayenne pepper,

oregano, rosemary, all of those things

have been found to increase blood flow,

as have simple supplements
like ginkgo biloba

Dylan_Saunders, "Right brained people,

"how do you turn off your left brains?"

Well, we really can't turn
off a part of our brain

Dolphins can, dolphins actually sleep

with one hemisphere asleep at a time,

but humans can't do that

You would literally have to cut

this area of the brain
called the corpus callosum,

and it's like so many
wires connecting the left

and right hemispheres of the brain

that it's just not
possible to turn it off

There's some people who are
born without a corpus callosum,

so then the sides of the brain
are not talking to each other

and they have some very interesting

neuropsychological findings,

but ultimately you want both
sides connected to each other

Dayaawarrior, "Why does my brain start

"to go 60 miles an hour when
I'm trying to go to sleep?"

As you start to sleep, your frontal lobes,

front part of your brain,
start to get quiet,

which unfortunately takes the breaks

off your emotional brain,
and so if this is happening

you need a routine and habits

to get your emotional
brain back under control

If the thoughts are
repetitive, they just circle,

have a little journal by
your bed and write them down,

and then ask yourself,
so what can I do about it

and what can I not do about it,

but the act of writing it down helps

to get it out of your head

When I go to bed I say a prayer,

very intentionally, specifically,

I review what went well today,

and I'm looking for at least three things

I love it because, you
know, like you, I'm busy

I often don't take time during the day

to just go that was awesome

How many special moments are in your day,

even during a pandemic?

You just don't think about it,

and when you do it right before bed

it sets your dreams up to
actually be more positive

and REM sleep, dream sleep,

is one of the most important
healing parts of sleep

@Coywolfy, "Anybody else having

"some severe PTSD attacks
during quarantine?

"I feel like my overall mental health

"has tanked over the past two months

"I'm losing my appetite,
massive anxiety attacks,

"and I'm having some
intense intrusive thoughts"

I feel for you

The term I use is we are now experiencing

a global amygdala hijacking

So the amygdala deep in
your brain is a structure,

it's in the shape of an
almond, that responds to fear

What's happening in the world

is activating our amygdala, and
it's making very many people

feeling anxious and stressed

I think our baseline stress
levels went up about 30%

So if yours were already heightened,

now you can be having
massive panic attacks

and intrusive thoughts

Mental hygiene is just as
important as washing your hands

We have to disinfect our
thoughts and kill the ANTs,

the automatic negative thoughts,
that steal our happiness

You want to become masterful
at diaphragmatic breathing,

and there's actually a
very specific pattern

that will calm down your amygdala

and activate your frontal lobe
so you make better decisions

Three seconds in, so big
breath, hold it for a second,

and then take six seconds
out and hold it for a second

So it's an 11 second breath,
but if you do that 10 times

it'll actually trigger a
relaxation response in your brain

and begin to give you some control

You know, I think it's something they

should actually teach second graders

Do this breathing

It's the first step in getting
control of your anxiety

Jeff Golenski, "As I'm
getting older I'm noticing

"that if I spend 10 plus
hours working on my computer

"on a given day, not typical,
I often have difficulty

"shutting my brain down at night to sleep

"When I wake the next
day I'm often plagued

"by a sort of a hangover from
the day before, anyone else?"

This is actually common

The lights from the computer may

be sending interrupt
signals to your brain

Before they unleashed digital
technology unto the world,

there's actually no
neuroscience study on the impact

of being flooded with the
blue lights from screens

Many of my colleagues and I
recommend blue light blockers,

especially if you have
any screen on after dark

Blue light in the late
afternoon and the evening

begins to turn off the
production of melatonin,

which sort of naturally
helps us go to sleep

Plus, if you're 10 hours
plus on a computer screen,

you're not getting the exercise

You know, the best natural treatment

for depression and cognitive impairment

actually seems to be exercise

@hog_mild, "So I got enough
sleep, ate breakfast,

"took my meds, am hydrated,
don't have a crazy busy day,

"am stable in my relationships

"So why the [bleep] is my anxiety

"through the [bleep] roof today?

"I can feel my heartbeat in my eyes

"What do you want from me, brain?"

Anxiety disorders are still

the most common mental
health issue in the world

Begin to put a daily stress
reduction practice in your life

For me, I love table tennis

It's exercise, it's
distracting, it's good for me

A lot of people love meditation

There's a kind of meditation I really like

that we've studied called loving-kindness

I'm a huge fan of hypnosis, self-hypnosis

Certain music will activate
you and make you anxious

A lot of other music will
actually calm and soothe you

So I'm a huge fan of having
a daily relaxation practice

to get control, and then
what I teach my patients

is whenever you feel
sad, or mad, or nervous,

or out of control, write
down what you're thinking,

then ask yourself if it's true

Thoughts are automatic, they just happen,

and what most people don't know
is the thoughts in your head

often lie to you, they
often terrorize you

I teach my patients how to kill the ANTs,

the automatic negative thoughts

You have to develop an internal anteater

patrolling the streets of your mind,

and just learning this
technique is just so helpful

Rylee B writes, "Why
does my brain provide

"only wonderful dialog when I shower,

"and why is it always when
there's shampoo in my hair

"so I can't get out to write it down?"

I like this a lot

When you're in the shower

and you're doing something
you know how to do,

then basically your cerebellum's doing it

It's sort of an automatic process

The rest of your brain can
relax and you're distracted,

which is often when creativity flows

It's happened to me a lot over the years

I just have something that I can

get out of the shower,
quickly write it down,

and then get back in and finish it

Just have some mechanism to capture it

and you'll be able to remember
it as you rinse your hair

and then write down your thought,

and if you can't then we have
to boost your brain's health

@aishakhvnx, "Y'all ever forget

"what you're talking about
while you're talking?

"It happens to me so often

"that I swear I'm getting amnesia"

I hear this actually a lot

in my patients who have ADD or ADHD

Because they have so many thoughts,

while they're talking
they actually get lost

Do you notice you have
a short attention span,

you're easily distracted,
you tend to be late,

you're disorganized, you procrastinate,

and you might say or
do things impulsively?

When I first read that question, I go,

huh, I wonder if she has ADD

If it's not that and
it's happening so often,

I worry that your brain
might not be as healthy

as it could be, and
that's where I would begin

to explore those 11 major risk factors

that steal people's minds,

and the pneumonic is called BRIGHT MINDS

The B we talked about is blood flow

R is retirement and aging

When people stop learning,
their brain starts dying

I is inflammation

If you have low omega-3 fatty acid levels,

if you have an unhealthy gut,

if you have periodontal disease,

you're not really good at
taking care of your teeth,

all of those things can
actually increase inflammation

and negatively impact your
memory and your brain

Syddtayy, "Why doesn't anybody
talk about the brain fog

"that comes along with
anxiety and depression?

"It makes me feel like I
can't function normally,

"and I thought I was going
crazy until I looked it up

"and realized that it
happens to a lot of people

"Can we start talking
about these things more?"

So brain fog is when you feel
like your brain is in mud,

that it just takes more
effort to think and respond

than you think is reasonable

It is very common

Anxiety, because your brain
is so focused on negativity

or depression where you don't have

enough activity in your brain,

there's one type of
depression, I call it un-focus,

where they have really
low activity in the brain

commonly associated with brain fog

Again, you wanna keep your brain healthy

or rescue it if it's
headed to the dark place

You have to prevent or treat

these risk factors I've
been talking about

So BRIGHT MINDS, B is for blood flow,

R is retirement and
aging, I is inflammation,

G is genetics, stuff like anxiety

and depression run in families,

but also the negative thinking,

the dysfunctional thinking patterns

can also be modeled in families

I often say genes are
not a death sentence

What they should be is a wake up call

Gene's load the gun

It's what happened to us and our behavior

that pulls the trigger

So if I know I have anxiety in my family,

then I'm gonna work even
harder to prevent it

The H in BRIGHT MINDS is head trauma,

a major cause of psychiatric problems

that nobody knows about
because most psychiatrists

actually never look at the brain

I actually have a database
of 160,000 scans on patients

from 155 countries, and
if you said, hey, Daniel,

single most important thing you learned

from the world's largest
brain imaging database

related to psychiatry, I
would say mild traumatic

brain injury's a major cause
of psychiatric problems

If you don't get the right diagnosis,

you'll never end up with
the right treatment plan

The T in BRIGHT MINDS is for toxins

If you have brain fog,
anxiety, and depression,

I wanna make sure you don't
have mold in your house

Mold is a very common cause of brain fog,

anxiety, and depression

It's one of the toxins along
with marijuana is a toxin,

alcohol can be toxic

Of all the firefighters I've treated,

over 90% have toxic looking brains

because of the carbon
monoxide they breathe

or the cyanide they breathe
from burning furniture

or burning buildings and from fires

Anxiety and depression, they're not single

or simple disorders, and
if you wanna take care

of the brain fog you have to

become serious about brain health

The bottom line is this, after
looking at all these scans

most psychiatric problems
are not mental health issues,

rather they are brain health issues,

and this one idea changes everything

Get your brain right and
your mind will follow,

and I'm convinced that
the end of mental illness

will begin with a
revolution in brain health

Needysabs, "My mental
health really do be like,"

arrows up, arrows down,
arrows up, arrows down

"How do you fix a broken brain, please?"

I've been talking about that

This gives me an opportunity

to finish our BRIGHT MINDS pneumonic

If you wanna keep your brain
healthy or fix a broken brain,

you have to prevent or treat

the 11 major risk factors
that steal your mind

BRIGHT MINDS is the pneumonic

Blood flow, retirement
and aging, inflammation,

genetics, head trauma, toxins

M is something I call mind storms,

which is abnormal electrical activity,

especially in the temporal lobes,

and it can come from a head injury,

you could be born with it

It causes people to be up and down,

just like the icons you used

Sometimes anti-seizure medications

can actually be really
helpful to stabilize things

Sometimes a ketogenic
diet can actually help

I found that can be really
helpful in balancing the brains

There are treatments like neurofeedback

to help reset the brain

The second I in BRIGHT MINDS
is immunity and infections,

and I had no idea how
prophetic that would be

right before a pandemic,

and let me be really clear about this,

your best defense against COVID-19

is not gonna be a drug or a vaccine

Your best defense is your immune system

So keeping it healthy is critical

You do that by what you eat,
by keeping your gut healthy,

by making sure you have
healthy vitamin D levels,

vitamin C levels, zinc,
magnesium, selenium

All of those are nutrients to
support your immune system,

but this is why you need
to stay away from sugar

and foods that quickly turn to sugar

because all of those are pro-inflammatory

and can damage your immune
system, as can gluten and dairy

The N in BRIGHT MINDS is
neurohormone disorders

Your thyroid is high or low,

you're gonna be anxious or depressed

If your testosterone is low,
odds are you're gonna be sad

and have no motivation and no
libido for a girl or a guy

The D is diabesity, it's this combination

of you have high blood
sugar, you're pre-diabetic

or diabetic, and overweight or obese

As your weight goes up,
the actual physical size

and function of your brain goes down,

which should scare the fat off anyone

And then the S in BRIGHT MINDS is sleep

Getting your sleep right is so important

So if you want to fix a
broken brain, you can,

that's the exciting news that
comes out of our imaging

You are not stuck with the brain you have

You can make it better,
but you have to love it,

you have to treat it right

I'm in a new docuseries
with Justin Bieber

I've been Justin's doctor
for the last five years

He would come and then
he'd go and then he'd come

and then he'd go, and
finally he married Hailey

and he kept coming 'cause she made him

More than a year ago,
he walked into my office

and he said, "My brain can have problems

"just like my heart can have problems

"If you told me I had heart problems,

"I'd do everything you said

"I'm gonna start doing
everything you say"

And then he got remarkably better

You can be better

This is Doctor Daniel
Amen for Brain Support

To learn more about my
work, you can get my book

"The End of Mental Illness"
or go to amenclinicscom

and learn about our
clinics around the world

And big thank you to WIRED,

and hope all of you stay safe

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