When The Body Says No: The Cost Of Hidden Stress

Paperback | February 3, 2004

byGabor Mate

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In this accessible and groundbreaking book--filled with the moving stories of real people--medical doctor and bestselling author Gabor Maté shows that emotion and psychological stress play a powerful role in the onset of chronic illness, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis and many others, even Alzheimer''s disease.

When the Body Says No is an impressive contribution to research on the physiological connection between life''s stresses and emotions and the body systems governing nerves, immune apparatus and hormones. With great compassion and erudition, Gabor Maté demystifies medical science and, as he did in Scattered Minds, invites us all to be our own health advocates.

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From the Publisher

In this accessible and groundbreaking book--filled with the moving stories of real people--medical doctor and bestselling author Gabor Maté shows that emotion and psychological stress play a powerful role in the onset of chronic illness, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis and many others, even Alzheimer's disease.When the Body Says No is an impressive contribution to rese...

Gabor Maté, a Vancouver physician, is the author of the bestselling book about attention deficit disorder, Scattered Minds. He has been a family physician for over twenty years, a palliative care specialist and a psychotherapist; he is also staff physician at a facility for street people in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. He was a long-time columnist for The Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail.From the Hardcover edit...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:February 3, 2004Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676973124

ISBN - 13:9780676973129

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from When the body says no Hardest book I have ever read when you reflect, changes the way I want to talk to my kids and live my life. But also confirms removing all that is harmful in my life is the right choice.
Date published: 2014-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Body talk This may be the most important book you read for many years—even though it was originally published in 2003, before the current economic woes plunged many of us into anxiety about our ability to cope in an increasingly unpredictable world. And although we’re a few days out of “Stress Awareness Month” (April) for this year, the message the author conveys to us in the book’s pages remains timely, if not critical. Now more than ever we need to be reminded to attend to what our bodies are telling us as we respond to the stresses—including self-imposed stresses—inherent in our daily lives. Unfortunately, our personal, social, and cultural conditioning is such that this attentiveness can be very difficult for us to give. For many, even an unexpected and apparently untimely brush with serious illness fails to activate the optimal responses our bodies crave for healing and the commitment we need to foster in taking the steps necessary to regain wholeness. Whether or not you still harbour any doubts about the relationship between chronic stress and serious illness, the wisdom imparted in the pages of this engaging and compelling study will enable you to step back and take a more compassionate and objective look at your own life and the lives of those close to you. Illness, or dis-ease, is examined as being not only a whole-person (BodyMindSpirit) phenomenon, but also as a process deeply rooted in our intergenerational and psychosocial dimensions. Our bodies are exquisitely sensitive instruments, tuned to experiences and emotions we may not even be aware of. Biochemically (including hormonally), immunologically, at the deepest cellular level, they are constantly responding and adjusting to the stuff of our lives. But their “hidden reserves of adaptability” are not infinite: even as we struggle to “manage” our stress, these reservoirs become depleted. And this is when illness strikes. The author shares with us his patients’ stories and the insights he’s gleaned from them. He shows and reflects on how our “emotional competence, the capacity that enables us to stand in a responsible, non-victimized, and non-self-harming relationship with our environment” is a strong determinant of our susceptibility to disease and our capacity to heal. The book’s 19 chapters are organized around common chronic illnesses, including cancer. The “biologies” of relationships, loss, and of belief are considered. In the last chapter, “The Seven A's of Healing”, the author summarizes in a sensitive and constructive manner the sort of personal growth and transformation goals we need look towards in order to give our bodies the support they demand. Gabor Maté is a Vancouver physician and bestselling author. His IN THE REALM OF HUNGRY GHOSTS: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH ADDICTION (2008) won the Hubert Evans Prize for Non-fiction at last month’s 25th Annual BC Book Prize awards.
Date published: 2009-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant! This book is fantastic. Gabor Mate is brilliant! I had several 'A-ha' moments while reading this book. I highly recommend it. I will be giving a copy to all of my friends and family for Christmas. Everyone deserves to gain the knowledge that he has to share. His approach to medicine and how mind and body are linked would transform the world if everyone understood it.
Date published: 2006-08-20

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Read from the Book

A Note to the ReaderPeople have always understood intuitively that mind and body are not separable. Modernity has brought with it an unfortunate dissociation, a split between what we know with our whole being and what our thinking mind accepts as truth. Of these two kinds of knowledge the latter, narrower, kind most often wins out, to our loss.It is a pleasure and a privilege, therefore, to bring in front of the reader the findings of modern science that reaffirm the intuitions of age-old wisdom. That was my primary goal in writing this book. My other purpose was to hold up a mirror to our stress-driven society so that we may recognize how, in myriad unconscious ways, we help generate the illnesses that plague us.This is not a book of prescriptions, but I do hope it will serve its readers as a catalyst for personal transformation. Prescriptions come from the outside, transformation occurs within. There are many books of simple prescriptions of one sort or another -- physical, emotional, spiritual -- that appear each year. It was not my intention to write yet one more. Prescriptions assume that something needs to be fixed; transformation brings forth the healing -- the coming to integrity, to wholeness -- of what is already there. While advice and prescriptions may be useful, even more valuable to us is insight into ourselves and the workings of our minds and bodies. Insight, when inspired by the quest for truth, can promote transformation. For those seeking a healing message here, that message begins on page one with the very first case study. As the great physiologist Walter Cannon suggested, there is a wisdom in our bodies. I hope When the Body Says No will help people align with the inner wisdom we all possess.Some of the case examples in this book are derived from published biographies or autobiographies of well-known persons. The majority are taken from my clinical experience or from taped discussions with people who agreed to be interviewed and quoted regarding their medical and personal histories. For privacy reasons, names (and, in some instances, other circumstances) have been changed.To avoid making this work prohibitively academic for the lay reader, notes have been used only sparingly. References are provided for each chapter at the end of the book.Italics, unless otherwise noted, are mine.I welcome comments at my e-mail address: gmate@telus.net.1The Bermuda TriangleMary was a native woman in her early forties, slight of stature, gentle and deferential in manner. She had been my patient for eight years, along with her husband and three children. There was a shyness in her smile, a touch of self-deprecation. She laughed easily. When her ever-youthful face brightened, it was impossible not to respond in kind. My heart still warms -- and constricts with sorrow -- when I think of Mary.Mary and I had never talked much until the illness that was to take her life gave its first signals. The beginning seemed innocent enough: a sewing-needle puncture wound on a fingertip failed over several months to heal. The problem was traced to Raynaud’s phenomenon, in which the small arteries supplying the fingers are narrowed, depriving the tissues of oxygen. Gangrene can set in, and unfortunately this was the case for Mary. Despite several hospitalizations and surgical procedures, she was within a year begging for an amputation to rid her of the throbbing ache in her finger. By the time she got her wish the disease was rampant, and powerful narcotics were inadequate in the face of her constant pain.Raynaud’s can occur independently or in the wake of other disorders. Smokers are at greater risk, and Mary had been a heavy smoker since her teenage years. I hoped that if she quit, normal blood flow might return to her fingers. After many relapses she finally succeeded. Unfortunately, the Raynaud’s proved to be the harbinger of something far worse: Mary was diagnosed with scleroderma, one of the autoimmune diseases, which include rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and many other conditions that are not always recognized to be autoimmune in origin, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease. Common to them all is an attack by one’s own immune system against the body, causing damage to joints, connective tissue or to almost any organ, whether it be the eyes, the nerves, the skin, the intestines, the liver or the brain. In scleroderma (from the Greek word meaning “hardened skin” ), the immune system’s suicidal assault results in a stiffening of the skin, esophagus, heart and tissues in the lungs and elsewhere.What creates this civil war inside the body?Medical textbooks take an exclusively biological view. In a few isolated cases, toxins are mentioned as causative factors, but for the most part a genetic predisposition is assumed to be largely responsible. Medical practice reflects this narrowly physical mindset. Neither the specialists nor I as her family doctor had ever thought to consider what in Mary’s particular experiences might also have contributed to her illness. None of us expressed curiosity about her psychological state before the onset of the disease, or how this influenced its course and final outcome. We simply treated each of her physical symptoms as they presented themselves: medications for inflammation and pain, operations to remove gangrenous tissue and to improve blood supply, physiotherapy to restore mobility.One day, almost on a whim, in response to a whisper of intuition that she needed to be heard, I invited Mary to make an hour-long appointment so that she would have the opportunity to tell me something about herself and her life. When she began to talk, it was a revelation. Beneath her meek and diffident manner was a vast store of repressed emotion. Mary had been abused as a child, abandoned and shuttled from one foster home to another. She recalled huddling in the attic at the age of seven, cradling her younger sisters in her arms, while her drunken foster parents fought and yelled below. “I was so scared all the time,” she said, “but as a seven-year-old I had to protect my sisters. And no one protected me.” She had never revealed these traumas before, not even to her husband of twenty years. She had learned not to express her feelings about anything to anyone, including herself. To be self-expressive, vulnerable and questioning in her childhood would have put her at risk. Her security lay in considering other people’s feelings, never her own. She was trapped in the role forced on her as a child, unaware that she herself had the right to be taken care of, to be listened to, to be thought worthy of attention.From the Hardcover edition.