Gabor Maté

“Interactions with the world program our physiological and psychological development. Emotional contact is as important as physical contact. The two are quite analogous, as we recognize when we speak of the emotional experience of feeling touched. Our sensory organs and brains provide the interface through which relationships shape our evolution from infancy to adulthood. Social-emotional interactions decisively influence the development of the
human brain. From the moment of birth, they regulate the tone, activity and development of the psychoneuroimmunoendocrine (PNI) super-system. Our characteristic modes of handling psychic and physical stress are set in our earliest years.

Neuroscientists at Harvard University studied the cortisol levels of orphans who were raised in the dreadfully neglected child-care institutions established in Romania during the Ceausescu regime. In these facilities the caregiver/child ratio was one to twenty. Except for the rudiments of care, the children were seldom physically picked up or touched. They displayed the self-hugging motions and depressed demeanour typical of abandoned young, human or primate. On saliva tests, their cortisol levels were abnormal, indicating that their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axes were already impaired.

As we have seen, disruptions of the HPA axis have been noted in autoimmune disease, cancer and other conditions. It is intuitively easy to understand why abuse, trauma or extreme neglect in childhood would have negative consequences. But why do many people develop stress-related illness without having been abused or traumatized? These persons suffer not because something negative was inflicted on them but because something positive was withheld.”


Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress
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When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Gabor Maté
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