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When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection
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When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,945 ratings  ·  389 reviews

"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 experi
Kindle Edition, 332 pages
Published May 2nd 2008 by Wiley (first published 2003)
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 ·  2,945 ratings  ·  389 reviews

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Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
“When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.” - Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No

I think it’s common knowledge that stress takes its toll on the body and can cause chronic illness. Gabor Maté goes a step further in his analysis on stress’ impact on the body and looks in more depth into autoimmune diseases and how our reactions to life, as well as our upbringings, and our relationships with loved ones, might affect how our body reacts, for be
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I'm new to this site. I'm currently reading another of this author's books, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, about addiction. So I was reminded of the important role this book has played in my life. I read When the Body Says No shortly after being diagnosed with a life threatening autoimmune disease. It's scleroderma, one of the illnesses he talks about. Doctors encouraged me to make peace with life, as well as to stop working immediately. I didn't have long, they said. I had a highly stress ...more
Feb 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my concerns when I started reading this book was whether he would adequately address the idea of personal blame. I was pleasantly surprised on his clear distinction between blaming someone for their illness versus looking at larger dynamics that can add an increased risk to autoimmune disorders. He is fully in the latter category, not at all the former. In other words, he's not simplistic in his approach and does not say just "If this, then that." I appreciated how he walks the reader thr ...more
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally, a book by a conventional Western doctor wholeheartedly supporting the concept of the body as a holistic organism. It's about time.

Dr. Mate describes, in layman's terms, the newly combined medical discipline called psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology -- the inextricably interconnected systems of psychology, neurology, immunology and endocrinology -- and describes how underlying, ongoing, unconscious stress is directly linked with specific disease.

This book is a wake up call for anyone facing
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an incredibly difficult book to read, page for page. I imagine it would be moreso if you are dealing with one of the many illnesses Maté discusses (cancer, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.). But it was a great choice to end the year with, to contemplate during a week off from my (emotionally heavy and increasingly draining) work.

Maté makes connections between physical health and emotional patterns of behaviour that should be obvious, but are overlooked by our curren
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 52-books-in-2011
This is the third book by Gabor Mate I've read. The idea is that many common illnesses -- cancer and auto-immune diseases, to name a couple of wide categories -- are related to specific kinds of stress. In other words, while there may be an environmental or genetic component, the physical causes are not the most important. He thinks there is reason to believe that people from certain types of family backgrounds, living certain types of lives, will be more likely to acquire certain types of healt ...more
A real eye-opening book about how stress and anxiety wear down the immune system and contribute to a host of illnesses. I didn't need to be sold on the connection, because it makes perfect sense to me, but I was glad to read the whys and wherefores. In the last chapter the author gives some advice as to how to confront the stress patterns that plague many people. This is well worth a read if you are interested in the mind/body connection and the medical research that backs it up.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another keeper from one of my favourite authors. Dr. Mate has many examples to make clear the connection between repressed emotions and disease. A reminder that you cannot fool Mother Nature by living in denial.
Repression-stress-lowered immunity as a trigger for disease, make sense and has been discussed before. A person only has to live through one major, stressful episode in his/her life to attest that the link between these is real. The author states repeatedly that it is only one of several contributing factors, however, like the majority of traditionally trained medical doctors, he ignores some very important ones: parasitic activity in our bodies, solvents and other toxins that have become omnipr ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Fine, call me a narrow-minded medic.

What irked me particularly about this book is the fact that every chapter starts with a sad tale of loss, grief, abuse and emotional repression that simply 'happens' to happen in somebody suffering from ALS/MS/various cancers. And from this Mate draws the conclusion (kinda) that denying your feelings will give you scleroderma.

Don't get me wrong here - I know fully well about the proper evidence (like, you know, academic papers and the likes) discussing the ev
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I totally buy the mind/body connection explored here and grew up in a home where my doctor father and mystic mother always talked about it so this book and his theories felt right and familiar. The book was a sequence of cases that were illuminating and interesting.
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
After reading this book, I want to buy it for about a dozen people I know. While it covered a lot I knew or assumed about the stress & diseases connection, Mate does a good job of pushing the idea about ten steps further and makes a lot of connections and points in the argument that stress and disease should be considered 1) by viewing the body as a system of systems (hormones, autoimmune, nervous, etc.) and 2) by viewing the disease not solely as a physical manifestation, but within the who ...more
Annie Donovan-Aitken
I enjoyed reading this book - he is a GP/Psychotherapist and for this book he's interviewed people so you get their stories but also reprots back from studies. His view is that current medicine splits treatment to purely 'body' whereas health can only accurately be thought of in terms of mind-&-body. Coming from a science background I enjoyed all the descriptions of killer t cells, endocrine systems, cortisol etc etc. I think anyone would as it's written very clearly and simply. Plus it's ab ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gabor contributes his intelligence and insight to the realm of mind-body connectedness. He weaves together the latest advances in neuroscience, endocrinology and developmental science and leavens these with personal insight and a firm grasp of the humanities and philosophy. The end result is a truly powerful commentary and critique of western medicine and the approach we take to illness in our society. I was deeply moved and inspired by this work.
Amazing! So enlightening! I wish I could give a copy of this to everyone in my family (I won’t). This and The Body Keeps The Score are my pillars of healing.
Laurel Bradshaw
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, non-fiction
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.
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the best books I've ever read, and I can't wait to read more of Gabor Mate's books. Mate looks at the emotional components of various diseases and how stress (an environmental factor) affects the onset of cancer, MS, arthritis, alzheimer's, you name it. Each disease tends to have a particular personality profile that corresponds to it. With lung cancer, for example, Mate observes that we tend to think that smoking causes lung cancer. However, if that were true, then all smokers wo ...more
The idea in this book is so important. When our body is under attack (from stress), it fights back with illnesses. I was already a strong believer in this idea and many of Gabor Maté’s stories support my thinking.
However, if I wasn’t already a strong believer, I’m not sure Maté’s book would convince me. For a person who is new to the idea of stress hurting your body, they might find this book to have too many similar stories and might end in tuning out.
I would recommend this book to someone who
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book — for everyone.
Beth Haynes
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I first became interested in studying medicine at the end of college, primarily intrigued by the interplay between mind and body. In the following 40+ years, this interest never went away, although I gave other matters and subjects greater priority. My recent discovery of functional and integrative medicine has drawn me back.

For those new to the idea that your mind has profound affects on your body - down to the cellular and even genetic level - "When the Body Says No" is a good introduction. Fo
Nisha D
I had a hard time getting through this book. I know many people who loved it, I found it to be really dry.
Kevin Orth
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never read books twice. I've started reading this for the second time!
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very insightful book on how our perception of the world and our emotions can greatly affect our body. We all need to pay more attention to the relationship between stress and illness.
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very important book. It is mindbody disease 101 - this content should be covered in schools and conveyed to all parents. I admire how he takes an intimate look at what goes on in our mindbody - and then takes it to the family, and then systemic/social level. He's so good at conveying the minute biological details in an accessible format, while maintaining insight and perspective at broader levels. I teared up at various chapters that reminded me of people I know and sometimes myself - ...more
Anita George
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding and fascinating look at how stress creates illness! Mate introduces and explains the research on what personality types get what illness. Essentially, the book discusses the idea that emotional repression results in stress that creates certain kinds of illness. While Mate mentions that inappropriate (i.e. extreme) expressions of rage also creates illness (heart disease), he does not discuss this in depth. I would have liked to know more about that aspect, but I suspect Mate chose ins ...more
Sarah Evan
A really important examination from an MD about the stress-disease connection that is not nearly enough identified and explored by physicians and their patients. Maté is careful to clarify two things: (1) even though people's stress response may be contributing to their illness, they are not responsible for their illness and (2) while parents' actions may have caused an unhelpful stress-response in their children, parents are not to "blame" as they were doing the best they could due to their own ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Every human being should probably read this book. This one was and is really difficult one to review. Maté delivers some pretty interesting theories that really make sense but are difficult ones to "prove" to be truth, but at the same time if they are true, they would and will change the whole perspective of how we understand or should understand different sicknesses. My was that a complicated sentence. On the other hand it annoyed me throughout the book how Maté does not explain his thoughts be ...more
Bod Adegboyega
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and different book focused on how and to what degree stress and psycho emotional factors contribute to disease.

Mate went into biology, relationships (especially focusing on quality/type of upbringing and its implications) and lifestyle and interviewed survivors/sufferers of a variety of diseases to piece together the main argument - that emotional stress is understated as a contributing factor in a variety of common diseases and health issues.

As interesting as this concept is, I thou
This is a stunning book! The single best one I've read that not only describes but provides data to explain how repressing emotions can lead to disease (dis-ease). The stories and scientific studies paint a very vivid path from childhood incidents and trauma to repression of emotions and the stress brought on by them... to chronic and often fatal diseases. He includes and thoroughly covers various types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, asthma, ALS, Alzheimer's, and ...more
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Gabor Maté is a Hungarian-born Canadian physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and is also widely recognized for his unique perspective on Attention Deficit Disorder and his firmly held belief in the connection between mind and body health.

Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, he is a survivor of the Nazi genocide. His maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz when he
“Emotional competence requires the capacity to feel our emotions, so that we are aware when we are experiencing stress; the ability to express our emotions effectively and thereby to assert our needs and to maintain the integrity of our emotional boundaries; the facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent residue from the past.

What we want and demand from the world needs to conform to our present needs, not to unconscious, unsatisfied needs from childhood. If distinctions between past and present blur, we will perceive loss or the threat of loss where none exists; and the awareness of those genuine needs that do require satisfaction, rather than their repression for the sake of gaining the acceptance or approval of others. Stress occurs in the absence of these criteria, and it leads to the disruption of homeostasis. Chronic disruption results in ill health.

In each of the individual histories of illness in this book, one or more aspect of emotional competence was significantly compromised, usually in ways entirely unknown to the person involved. Emotional competence is what we need to develop if we are to protect ourselves from the hidden stresses that create a risk to health, and it is what we need to regain if we are to heal. We need to foster emotional competence in our children, as the best preventive medicine.”
“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control.” 12 likes
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