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

The title definitely packs a punch and offers insight on what exactly this book has to offer. Dr Daniel Amen is, by almost any measure, the most popular psychiatrist in America. Over the years, he has built a psychiatric empire, with a chain of six Amen Clinics across the country, a steady stream of mega-selling books, a substantial media arm that produces programs shown on PBS member stations nationwide and a business promoting and selling proprietary nutritional supplements.

There’s no doubt that Dr. Amen is disrupting psychiatry with his brain scans, and the evidence is there on the wall at his clinics. You will see in plain view as you walk to his office, the famous studies he’s conducted. Dr. Amen has published “more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles, including some of the largest brain imaging studies ever done…if you type in ‘brain SPECT’ in the National Library of Medicine’s website www.pubmed.gov it will return more than 14,000 scientific abstracts.”

Curiously, he ridicules his own profession. “Psychiatry is broken,” he is given to say, and psychiatrists “remain the only medical specialists that rarely look at the organ they treat.” He scoffs that those diagnostic methods have scarcely progressed since “the days of Abe Lincoln.”

In The End of Mental Illness, Dr. Amen draws on the latest findings of neuroscience to challenge an outdated psychiatric paradigm and help listeners take control and improve the health of their own brain, minimizing or reversing conditions that may be preventing them from living a full and emotionally healthy life.

In the first few pages of this book, he poses the question, “What if mental health was brain health?”

Part 1 of the book gives a history of mental health over the years, with some tips for brain health that can change your life. You will see some SPECT image scans and case studies and begin to see how some common brain health issues like depression, anxiety, TBI, substance abuse, or Alzheimer’s Disease show up in the brain vs a healthy brain scan image.

Part 2 of the book explains the BRIGHT MINDS acronym which is a guide for well-being with the brain in mind.

Part 3 of the book offers strategies that can be used in schools and the workplace to end mental illness with a focus on brain health.

The End of Mental Illness will help you discover:

  • Why labeling someone as having a “mental illness” is not only inaccurate but harmful
  • Why standard treatment may not have helped you or a loved one—and why diagnosing and treating you based on your symptoms alone so often misses the true cause of those symptoms and results in poor outcomes
  • At least 100 simple things you can do yourself to heal your brain and prevent or reverse the problems that are making you feel sad, mad, or bad
  • How to identify your “brain type” and what you can do to optimize your particular type
  • Where to find the kind of health provider who understands and uses the new paradigm of brain health

My personal take:

I found it a very intriguing read, to reframe psychiatry with neurobiology was a major influence to set up Lagom as well, to end the stigma and shame surrounding mental health, and to approach psychiatric illness from a Functional Medicine approach. For all those reasons and more, I took a couple of months to carefully dissect this book.

Some disclaimers I have to mention are: SPECT is not endorsed by any of the major scientific associations in the US as a definite diagnostic tool for psychiatric disorders, due to inadequate evidence published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. There needs to be more research in this field, while it seems to portray that it is a diagnostic tool with immense potential to understand our brains and bodies, but at the moment, there aren’t sufficient experts to corroborate this.

Coming from a medical perspective, I wish that the etiologies of physical disease (like trauma, infections and endocrine disorders) were discussed more as ddx for mental disorders. However, I understand that the language used was very simple and easy to assimilate for the average reader so this was just something the inner nerd in me was curious about and hopefully, would be able to explore through Lagom’s work.

I personally founding it very repetitive, specifically “Evil ruler vs. Benevolent ruler” or “Steps to create mental illness… and make my nieces, Alizé and Amelie, suffer vs. Steps to end mental illness… and keep my nieces, Alizé and Amelie, healthy” portions of the chapters. Full disclosure, I skimmed through these components of each chapter, but I understand that the author wanted to ensure that he was driving the point home.

Lastly, about the product placements, the book itself reads as a clever marketing tool for Amen Clinics. It relies heavily on anecdotes and doesn’t give the reader more than what a quick google search would.

Dr. Daniel Amen insists that when we take a closer look at individual neurons and overall brain health, we are better equipped to diagnose and treat what is manifesting physically in order to be psychologically whole. “Get your brain right, and your mind will follow,” he asserts. A physician, psychiatrist, and founder of Amen Clinics, Dr. Amen’s exploration takes this mantra to heart, detailing specific, practical ways to implement new routines to break the disconcerting cycle of mental illness.

I am an avid reader of both neuroscience and psychiatry/psychology books, and I enjoyed the way he painted the two into one complex and beautiful tapestry, the human mind. Amen provides examples of his work, and explains how psychiatry needs to be reformed. There are several diagrams illustrating his work and the ways SPECT scans advance the treatment of mental illnesses, and allow for the alleviation of symptoms, and even completely reinvent diagnosis and cure the patient of discomfort and disturbance. Amen also introduces the importance of diet and exercise, and the biological impacts of mental illness, and the impacts of hormone imbalances to the brain, and to mental health. He sparks a revolution and shows that mental illness isn’t restricted to just the head, but to the entire physical and emotional existence of the person.

Overall, it makes for an interesting read for anyone who’s interested in the field.

 How the Book Changed Me

  • It helped me build healthy habits like exercising regularly or taking my supplements.
  • From now on whenever I seek to change my behaviour I look inwards trying to change my identity first instead of starting with the desired outcome.
  • I realised that systems are more important than goals since systems are what really takes us to our goals. (Remember – journey before destination – systems are like the journey and the goals are our destinations).
  • I definitely notice much more of what I do each day, and I’m more conscious of ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). Every little thing – good or bad – becomes a habit over time that will compound and work for or against us depending on whether it’s positive or negative!

Book Synopsis

Vyshnavi

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