Re-Build Your Brain: An Interview with Dr. Daniel Amen
Typically, the mental wellness field views DSM diagnoses as behavioral or biochemical in orientation and the treatment is generally a combination of talk therapy and psychotropic medications. Dr. Daniel Amen adds another layer to the mix. His experience informs his perspective that the ways in which our brains function play a role in behavior, addiction, anger, cognitive decline, and learning challenges. His approach destigmatizes these conditions since when viewed as a brain disorder they can be compared, without shame, to other medical diagnoses.
“Your brain is the organ of your personality, character, and intelligence and is heavily involved in making you who you are,” he says.
Dr. Amen, Director of Amen Clinics is the author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life “coined the term ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) in the early 1990’s after a hard day at the office, during which he had several very difficult sessions with suicidal patients, teenagers in turmoil, and a married couple who hated each other.
When he got home that evening, he found thousands of ants in his kitchen. As he started to clean them up, an acronym developed in his mind. He thought of his patients from that day — just like the infested kitchen, his patients’ brains were also infested by Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that were robbing them of their joy and stealing their happiness.”
In addition, Dr. Amen has written Memory Rescue, and The Brain Warrior’s Way. His newest book, The End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience Is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictions, PTSD, Psychosis, Personality Disorders, and More strives to revolutionize the way we think about the conditions for which people seek relief.
As part of a functional medicine approach, he also recommends fitness activities, nutritional awareness and cognitive restructuring. His smiling visage has been seen on numerous television screens and on YouTube videos as he simply explains how our brains are more than the three pound organ nestled in our skulls.
Edie: What drew you to the field of psychiatry?
Dr. Amen: When I was in medical school someone I loved tried to kill herself and I took her to see a wonderful psychiatrist. I came to realize if her helped her, it wouldn’t just help her but also later, her children and grandchildren as they would have been shaped by someone who was happier and more stable. I fell in love with psychiatry because I realized it could help generations of people.