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When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-disease Connection [Hardcover]

Gabor Maté
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Jun 2003
Praise For WHEN THE BODY SAYS NO "Once thought to be in the domain of genes, our health and behavior have recently been revealed to be controlled by our perception of the environment and our beliefs. Gabor Mate, M.D., skillfully blends recent advances in biomedicine with the personal insights of his patients to provide empowering insight into how deeply developmental experiences shape our health, behavior, attitudes, and relationships. A must–read for health professionals and lay readers seeking awareness of how the mind controls health." –– Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., cellular biologist "The interviewees′ stories are often touching and haunting. . . . Mate carefully explains the biological mechanisms that are activated when stress and trauma exert a powerful influence on the body, and he backs up his claims with compelling evidence from the field. . . . Both the lay and specialist reader will be grateful for the final chapter, ′The Seven A′s of Healing,′ in which Mate presents an open formula for healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stress." –– Quill & Quire "Medical science searches high and low for the causes of cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a host of other conditions. Yet it often ignores one of the most pervasive factors leading to illness: the hidden stresses embedded in our daily lives. In this important book, Dr. Gabor Mate combines a passionate examination of his patients′ life histories with lucid explanations of the science behind mind–body unity. He makes a compelling argument for the importance of understanding stress both in the causation of disease and in the restoration of health." –– Richard Earle, Ph.D. Director of the Canadian Institute of Stress/ Hans Selye Foundation Praise For SCATTERED "One of the most comprehensive and accessible books about Attention Deficit Disorder." –– Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Utterly sensible and deeply moving." –– The Vancouver Sun

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (11 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471219827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471219828
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,116,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

The potential for wholeness and health resides in all of us, affirms Dr Gabor Maté in When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. But disease is often the body's way of saying "no" to what the mind cannot or will not acknowledge, warns the author, who quotes the latest scientific findings about the roles stress and individual emotional makeup play in causing cancer and other chronic illnesses. Maté is a medical doctor and the bestselling author of Scattered. This work offers stories from his own patients in the belief that insight is more helpful to people than advice. Natalie, for example, develops multiple sclerosis after years of marriage to a drunken and emotionally abusive husband. In another case, a 74-year-old man diagnosed with cancer experiences spontaneous remission. His own body mobilised formidable immune responses to defeat the disease. "If we gain the ability to look into ourselves with honesty, compassion and with unclouded vision, we can identify the ways we need to take care of ourselves," says Maté, who invites us all to be our own health advocates by pursuing emotional competence in seven areas: acceptance, awareness, anger, autonomy, attachment, assertion and affirmation. If a link exists between emotions and psychology, he says, not to inform people of it will deprive them of a powerful tool. --Carolyn Leitch, Amazon.ca

From the Inside Flap

Can a person literally die of loneliness? Is there a connection between inhibited emotion and Alzheimer’s disease? Is there a "cancer personality"? Questions such as these are emerging as scientific findings throw new light on the controversy that surrounds the mind–body connection in illness and health. Modern research is confirming the age–old wisdom that emotions profoundly affect our physiology. Repressed emotions frequently bring on stress–– which, in turn, can lead to disease. Provocative and beautifully written, When the Body Says No provides fresh information regarding these and other important issues concerning the effects of stress on health. In lucid, easy–to–follow language, Dr. Gabor Maté summarizes the latest scientific findings about the role that stress and individual emotional makeup play in an array of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cancer, and ALS, among others. Emotions like anger share with our immune system the role of defending our boundaries. When we repress emotions, we may also suppress our immune defenses. In some people, these defenses may go awry, destroying the body rather than protecting it. Dr. Maté explores the reason why, despite a rapidly accumulating body of evidence about the mind–body unity, most physicians continue to treat physical symptoms rather than persons–– and why we must understand the mind–body link in order to take an active role in our overall health. When the Body Says No promotes learning and healing. It offers the kind of transformative insight that promotes physical and emotional self–awareness–– the lack of which, Dr. Maté asserts, is at the root of much of the stress that chronically debilitates health and prepares the ground for disease.

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MARY WAS A NATIVE WOMAN in her early forties, slight of stature, gentle and deferential in manner. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing old views on health 28 Dec 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Since this book explains why we should change our old views on the causes of many diseases, it needs to be promoted far more. I think that the main problem is getting the message to the minds of younger people, many of whom are increasingly unwilling to read anything above a grade 8 level. Not that this is written at a university graduate level. I'm just trying to say that, thanks to text-messaging and passive TV watching, many will not read a book like this. And yet I would recommend it to everyone on this earth. It is a warning we should all heed. It goes deeper and further than the simple medical books that describe the functions of our body parts. And it all makes sense. The more we know about the interaction between our brain and body, the more we can try to avoid the stresses that help to sicken us. It's the difference between looking at an architect's blueprint of a bridge compared to reading about the physical properties of the bridge's components.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm.... 8 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I get the feeling that, whatever the subject, Gabor Mate is always writing about himself. Nothing much more to say.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
132 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book I've Seen on Mindbody Causes of Illness 3 Jan 2005
By David Spero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Life and society put an endless series of demands and requests on us. If we can't or won't say "no" to some of them, our bodies may say no for us, by getting sick or even dying. This is not a new idea. Many healers have taught it, and many books, including my own "Art of Getting Well" have described it.

But Gabor Mate explains it better than anyone, with powerful scientific evidence and moving stories to back it up. This Vancouver physician and health writer gives us the latest research on how emotions, thoughts, the nervous system, immune system and hormones work together to create health or illness. He interviewed more than 100 patients with various conditions, and he shows how always giving in to others and denying our own wants and needs makes us vulnerable to a wide variety of illness.

If you or someone you love is living with an autoimmune disease, an inflammatory condition, or cancer, you may find this book powerful and healing. If you are a health professional looking for better ways to help people with these "incurable" illnesses, you may find it here. If you just want to know more about body and mind and how they work, if you want to be entertained and moved, this book is for you. I wouldn't necessarily say buy it INSTEAD of Art of Getting Well, but they're complementary, and they're both great reading.

At times, I felt that Dr. Mate must have read my diary. The stories he tells of people with multiple sclerosis, ALS and other autoimmune diseases all sounded familiar. I'm pretty sure that my own inability to say no - to be open about my own fears and desires - contributed to my MS, although there were many other causes.

Gabor Mate sees the big picture-the combination of genes, physical and social environment, stresses and behaviors that lead to health problems. He doesn't blame us for not standing up for ourselves. He understands and explains the family dynamics and social forces that make it hard to say "No," even when our lives depend on it. He says, "Personality does not cause disease. Stress does. If we speak of a disease-prone personality, it is only in the sense that certain traits - in particular, the repression of anger - increase the amount of stress."

He knows, for example, that many of us feel guilty when we say no to others' demands, and he wants us get over it. He says, "For many people, guilt is a signal that they have chosen to do something for themselves. If you face a choice between feeling guilt and feeling resentful, choose the guilt every time. Resentment is soul suicide."

I had read a lot on PNI, or psychoneuroimmunology, the science of mindbody medicine. But I never understood exactly how these organs and cells all communicated and worked together until I read When The Body Says No. Mate has a gift for explaining difficult concepts in simple language. You will learn a lot, even if you don't completely buy the central idea.

A couple of criticisms - I wish he had written more about economic and political factors that make saying no difficult. The less power you have, the harder it is to protect yourself. Obviously, you can't say no if you're a slave. I write about the power aspects of disease in my new book, The Politics of Diabetes (out in 2006).

But a lot of people have lost their power not by being severely oppressed, but by things that happened to them in their childhood, even their infancy. There may be things we can do to reclaim some of our power and regain the freedom to say no. We may help ourselves heal in this way.

"When the Body Says No" is strong on these issues but doesn't give a lot of advice on what to do about them. The last chapter, the 7 A's of healing, provides some hints. The A's are Acceptance, Awareness, Anger, Autonomy, Attachment, Assertion, and Affirmation. Most of these get fairly short introductions, but I found the section on anger extremely valuable. Anger can be a life-giving force, or it can be a killer if suppressed or acted out as rage. We need to get in touch with the energy of anger and use it to empower ourselves and make needed changes. The other A's could have used some fleshing out, in my opinion.

As someone who has been immersed in mindbody medicine personally and professionally for 20 years, I recommend this book to all of you. It has meant more to me than anything I have read in this area for a long time.

David Spero RN. [...]
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not a self-help book 10 Mar 2008
By ms.tspoon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I agree with the many positive comments made by other reviewers. This is not a self-help book, it's a discussion of the ramifications of stress (as a physiological phenomenon with distinct patterns within the body) for the lay person. The author discusses his experiences and observations with his patients as well offering a highly readable survey of the current research in psychoneuroimmunology.

I think that one of the reasons the author does not offer solutions to the reader is that he's well aware that there are no easy solutions. To change unconscious patterning that's been in place since childhood requires a great deal of motivation and an excellent therapist, or perhaps powerful spiritual guidance. No one is going to be able to shift their own patterns of stress just by reading a book.

But it's a fascinating view of how our environment as children becomes a part of us. The more people who understand the true extent of a child's vulnerability, the better chance any individual child has of getting at least some of what they need to develop a strong, healthy psyche (and body).
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 4 Dec 2004
By Angela L. Dairou - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I disagree with the reviewer who said that this book does not offer solutions. Again and again the author reports that people need to be heard, and need to stop repressing emotions to get well. As a counselor working with battered women, I was amazed at the number of them who also had auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia. This book is a must read.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When your body says "no" 4 Mar 2008
By Megan E. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you think that your body might be trying to talk to you via physical symptoms, you will probably find this book very interesting. My body started saying "no" two years ago, in the form of a serious auto-immune disorder. After becoming ill, I began turning over every stone to find a pathway back to good health. The search turned up many helpful solutions, but I started to sense that the most important "medicine" I could take was recognizing when my body was saying "no" (by manifesting symptoms) to something I was doing and to stop doing whatever was causing the distress. I realized that my body had been saying "no" for years, but at a volume that I was able to ignore. This health crisis had turned the volume up enough to grab my attention -- and I knew that my ways were going to have to change. I was going to have to start putting self-care at the top of my to-do list.

Soon after having this insight, I found out about this book and immediately purchased it (for, as the saying goes, "when the student is ready the teacher will appear.") The book validates my intuition about what has been going on with my health, and suggests some areas that I can pursue to continue healing. To a point, I agree with some of the other reviewers that this book ought to provide more constructive solutions, though. Those of us who are dealing with life-limiting, and sometimes life-threatening, health problems are looking for concrete guidance, in addition to gaining the insights provided in the book. Nevertheless, I found it a worthwhile and helpful read.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! An aspect of healing that is grossly overlooked. 1 Jun 2003
By searcher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When the body says no is one of the most enlightening books I have read on the subject of living with cronic illness.
After re-reading this book a few times, I find myself looking at my own life very differently in a very positive and hopeful way.
Gabore makes some otherwise very complicated issues very readable for everyone.
If anyone suffers from any type of cronic illness or pain, this is definitely a must read.
Thank You Gabore.
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