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When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  5,775 ratings  ·  679 reviews
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 impres
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Vintage Canada (first published 2003)
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Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Jun 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
I recognise this book brings hope to people suffering with disease, but it is not reality based hope.
1. There is little evidence of personality types and disease, despite a lot of desperate believers in it. It's still possible such evidence will emerge (and I'd hope it does), but it has not appeared yet, despite much effort. Spiritual healing should be part of any recovery from illness agreed. And chronic stress definitely correlates to many types of illness. But this book is offering unfounded
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. ...more
Jan 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partially-read
This book is full of case studies and anecdotal evidence in support of the author’s hypothesis: Stressed out people get sick more (ground-breaking, I know).

I particularly hated this quote:

“Studies in psychology - an art trying desperately to dress itself up as a pure science - often find only what the particular researchers have the eyes to see.” p 42

Really? REALLY? Shitting on psychology while building an argument supported largely by case studies? Pot, meet kettle.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes hard to digest but full of examples and research supporting the main ideas. I find it a necessary read for anyone experiencing illness and not knowing where it comes from. I hope that the idea that our body pays a price for our emotional imbalances will become more like common sense and less like a trend. This way we would literally consider our emotional state whenever we feel sick and before we rush to the pharmacy.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 whole l ...more
Eve Dangerfield
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"We have seen in study after study that compulsive positive thinkers are more likely to develop disease and less likely to survive. Genuine positive thinking — or, more deeply, positive being — empowers us to know that we have nothing to fear from truth."
Mind blown.
I'm so glad I followed Dr. Nicole LePera AKA 'the Holistic Psychologist's recommendation and read this. I felt a million different things as I worked my way through. It's dense but so fucking interesting, it was easy to get to the end
Annie Donovan-Aitken
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 absoul ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Frankie Paige
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Worth a read for the last chapter alone.
Justin Hembree
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Just read the synopsis unless you want to find out about all the wonderful ways you gonna die.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Sandy Plants
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.
Beth Haynes
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Laurel Bradshaw
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, health
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
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
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
This was not an easy read, emotionally speaking. Gabor Maté is a writer, addiction expert and speaker with a background in child psychology, development and trauma, among others. So when it comes to emotional anguish, he knows his subjects.

The material in this book is so raw, honest and heartbreaking to the point where I needed to stop after a few pages to recharge, the emotions were strong.

Tackling the connection between stress and disease, treating the body and the mind as one and sharing his
This book finally ended. I found it tedious. So much anecdotal evidence and repetitive commentary upon it, I feel the book could have been halved. It's message was clear - stress plus habituation plus organic = illness. For me, my head kept hearing correlation is not causation, and whenever I stepped away from it, I thought of that analysis where more crimes occur in the summer, also more ice cream is eaten in the summer, therefore, ice cream causes crime.

I appreciate the effort. It is common s
Sezín Koehler
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Sezín by: @Kristen
Shelves: culture, health
This is easily one of the most important books I've ever read in my life.

Once I've read it a few more times and understand the science a bit better I'm writing an extensive article on why everyone needs to read this book. My life will never be the same, and I can mark the moment in which everything got better the day I finished reading Maté's work for the first time.

This is life-saving stuff. Illuminating. Painful. Marvelous research.

Read it.

Seriously. Just read it. You'll see.
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book — for everyone.
Heath Salzman
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have heard Maté’s name fairly often of late, so I thought I would check this out. I am so glad I did. This book resonates with so much of what I have been learning and thinking recently. Much like Atul Gawande, he is an M.D. who thoughtfully writes for the public on issues of extreme importance.

Maté’s work pushes against our inherited rationalistic predisposition as Westerners. We look at cancer, ALS, asthma, etc. and look for one medical diagnosis that can be treated. Maté argues against thi
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Dr Gabor Maté (CM) 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

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“A therapist once said to me, “If you face the choice between feeling guilt and resentment, choose the guilt every time.” It is wisdom I have passed on to many others since. If a refusal saddles you with guilt, while consent leaves resentment in its wake, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide. Negative thinking allows us to gaze unflinchingly on our own behalf at what does not work.

We have seen in study after study that compulsive positive thinkers are more likely to develop disease and less likely to survive. Genuine positive thinking — or, more deeply, positive being — empowers us to know that we have nothing to fear from truth. “Health is not just a matter of thinking happy thoughts,” writes the molecular researcher Candace Pert. “Sometimes the biggest impetus to healing can come from jump-starting the immune system with a burst of long-suppressed anger.” Anger, or the healthy experience of it, is one of the seven A’s of healing. Each of the seven A’s addresses one of the embedded visceral beliefs that predispose to illness and undermine healing.”
“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.”
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