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148 Reviews
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145 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, witty, helpful
This book has helped me understand the science of stress and some unpleasant results that I've been experiencing. I'm someone who always wants to know WHY certain things are happening, and finds that helpful when figuring out how to fix them. I really like the author's tone: He's a scientist, but one with a great sense of humor and also a lot of compassion. This book,...
Published on September 6, 2004 by Denver C.

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36 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of information...but where's the help?
A therapist suggested I get this book to better understand my anxiety. I could have strangled him! This book made me feel worse. I already know that stress is a killer. If you want to understand why stress is so bad for you then this book will be very helpful. The research is extensive and very informative. However, I was hoping for some suggestions on how to...
Published on July 25, 2012 by Beatles65


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145 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, witty, helpful, September 6, 2004
This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
This book has helped me understand the science of stress and some unpleasant results that I've been experiencing. I'm someone who always wants to know WHY certain things are happening, and finds that helpful when figuring out how to fix them. I really like the author's tone: He's a scientist, but one with a great sense of humor and also a lot of compassion. This book, while not exactly New Agey/touchy-feely, is also not cold and clinical as it explains the biology behind stress and how it affects body and mind. Once you reach the point where you say, "OK, now I understand how stress is affecting me ... Now what do I DO about it?," you'll probably need resources other than this book. But if, like me, you like to start out with a good understanding of what the problem is, then this book is a great place to find that foundation.
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating tour of how stress impacts the body, March 17, 2006
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
This new edition of why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers is extensively revised and exceeds earlier additions in terms of explaining the effects of stress on the body. This is a very detailed exploration, but well worth the sometimes difficult reading. If you don't have some sort of background in biology, you may find that you have to read it a bit more slowly.

Sapolsky as always explains his topics very clearly and uses humor and good examples to illustrate important points. I particularly liked his analogy of two elephants on a teeter totter for the ways in which the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system can become imbalanced under chronic stress from being activated to frequently and where each is trying to compensate for the massive activation of the other in a vicious cycle.

Sapolosky also develops the implications of long term stress and explains the mechanisms involved in a lot of detail. He also explores how mechanisms that evolved to save our lives in actual life and death struggles can hurt us by being activated over things like traffic jams or missed deadlines.

An example that he uses in the book is that if you are a zebra with your guts dragging on the ground while you are being stocked by a predator, then maybe it's useful not to experience pain under stress. If you may not be alive in an hour, then shutting down long term building processes and depressing short term immunity makes sense as does a narrowing of the attention.

The author goes on to further explain in the example above that the real problem comes when the flight or fight response is triggered chronically and long term repair and important building projects like bolstering immunity are depressed for long periods of time. This example helped me to understand the logic of why our stress reactions work the way they do. The way I explained it was paraphrased from memory, but Sapolsky tells a story that makes sense and helps you to remember important points.

While I was reading this book, I could viscerally sense the kinds of things stress was doing to my body. The information and evidence presented here is very compelling. Sapolsky also looks at how stress is linked to cancer and other controversial topics. He sensitively explores all sides of the arguments and why direct causal links are so difficult to prove for things like cancer. On the other hand, he doesn't back off from looking at the implications of stress with respect to cancer or other difficult areas to research.

Sapolosky is not only a good scientist with excellent credentials, he is a very fine writer. I recommend this book without reservation to anyone who wants an in-depth knowledge of how stress affects the body.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenominal, March 18, 2006
By 
D. Teasley (Richmond, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
From my background as a biologist, this book really covers the topic with strong support and detail. From my perspective as a reader, it's a true page-turner that doesn't just accomplish its point, but goes well beyond. Sapolsky brilliantly makes incredibly complex systems seem simple and mechanistic by breaking them into manageable pieces and using strong analogies, making a prior knowledge of neuroscience unecessary. Humorous, witty, and easy-to-understand, this book is a must for anyone remotely interested in the topic of stress!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sit back. Let yourself be entertained and informed., March 2, 2007
This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
Imagine yourself at your favorite watering hole in an African savannah. You spot a lion. Your body hops up. Your stress response shifts into high gear. And all just as it was designed to do. Now imagine yourself sitting in front of a new mortgage, worrying about if your boss likes you, or if you look too fat, or your hair is just not falling the way it did after its fresh new cut. Your body hops up, and your stress response shifts into high gear. Only difference, no lion. And this lionless stress, day after day after day will take its toll. Depression, ulcers, heart disease, colitis, irritable bowl syndrome, and more.

Sapolsky's hard-hitting and entertaining book will inform you exactly why too much stress will make you sick. He lives half of his life in a neuroendocrine lab in Stanford, the other half camped out with stressed out baboons in Africa. He draws both on personal experience and solid research to lead you through a detailed understanding of how stress affects our bodies as well as our psyches. You'll get no mantras, no workbook exercises, and no easy step-by-step guides to follow. Nor does he fool around with feel good proclamations. What you will get is a lot of scientifically based facts based on solid research.

Sapolsky is a scientist, and comes to the subject with a scientist's critical eyes. He is also a brilliant and entertaining writer, who knows how to give his message a personal touch. You'll sit through page after page feeling as though he's talking just to you. (Did you know that Type A personality was first discovered by an upholsterer? Or that graves used to be robbed by medical schools to provide it with fresh bodies, and how this is connected to why SIDS was erroneously thought to be caused by abnormally large thyroids?) His scathing attack on Bernie "all-you-need-is-love" Siegel's "Love, Medicine and Miracles" in itself is worth the price of admission. Sapolsky is to stress science, neuroendocrinology and primatology what Springsteen is to rock-n-roll. If you ever get a chance to hear him lecture, camp out to buy your tickets well ahead of time.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very clear and interesting, July 14, 2005
By 
Papagena (Cantabria, Spain) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
Suddenly I found out that my co-workers needed medicines to go on with their lives, a friend of mine is a workaholic and she has terrible stomachaches, another one took her life after a long depression following a very stressful time, ...

My life is great but sometimes I have to fight against anxiety that comes from I do not know where...

I read this book and now at least I have an explanation, a scientific model for certain behaviours.

The language is so clear that anyone can understand what stress is, how it affects our bodies, why some people develop ulcer and others do not. And it is funny, entertaining, telling little stories as well as technical data.

It is exactly what a scientific book for the masses must be. I highly recommend it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neuroscience on stress for all of us!, November 5, 2009
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
If I got to make a list of people on this planet I'd like to meet, Robert Sapolsky would be one of them. This guy is brilliant, hysterical, accessible, and informative in thousands of different ways. His writing can be extremely technical, explaining the details of hormones and neuroscience on every page --- but then goes on to give vivid, delightful illustrations of how those "invisible" forces in our bodies show up in the real world. In us. And in baboons. Other animals. And zebras (hence, the title.)

The purpose is to illustrate why we, as individuals, and a Western society, experience stress, and how it manifests as sickness in so many ways. Real sickness, with short term results and long term diseases. In our bodies, not "in our minds", not something we should just "get over". His words and proof is validating scientifically, and a call to action. Our behavior, and the structure of our society, is making us sick. It's not humane to do what we do to ourselves. And we can change this.

I'd like to see this book as mandatory reading for every policy-maker in health and human services. But I certainly wouldn't stop there. Managers, top to bottom, need it to understand the pressures on their employees and organizations. Scientists who work with people, or whose work affects people. Anyone who causes, or experiences, stress. Hmmm....does that leave anyone out?

Okay, not everyone will want to read this book, because it's pretty technical, not designed for an uneducated reader. But the lessons in it are for everyone. I understand Sapolsky is regarded as one of the top neuroscientists in the world, and that's no surprise. What I'm grateful for is that he shares his knowledge in something other than a scientific journal, and it's an amazing read. It will be on my reference shelf permanently, but unlike the others which I use for "reference" --- I will also read it often just because it's a great read. Imagine that.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good read for scientists, normal people, or zebras, May 6, 2007
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
Sapolsky is great at making the medical knowledge of stress physiology useful and palatable to normal people without dumbing it down. It had enough citations, references, and detailed explanations to satisfy the scientist in me, but was complete and accessible enough that my mother could get a lot out of it.

Also note that the 3rd edition is not just a new printing; it has major additions, updates and improvements over the 2nd.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Describes the problem, but Avoids the Solution, May 15, 2010
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
Dr Sapolsky seems to want to accurately and honestly report how stress works in our lives, and he does so. However, the implied question is what to do about it, and this question isn't faced as squarely. The 8000 pound zebra in the living room of this topic is that our style of life and culture produces stress and this is not just a challenging thing, it is a bad thing.

To decrease stress, the culture has to change, and/or the the individual has to insulate him or herself from the typical demands of culture--externally imposed demands and internalized demands from upbringing. This is the conclusion that seems logical but which Sapolsky in the end doesn't make. His advice is to live the same way but to 'get lucky' because stressors affect different people differing amounts for unknown reasons. A writer who addresses the same question more squarely (if less well edited) is Majid Ali--see What Do Lions Know About Stress
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relevancy and Humor Make This Science Book Palpable, July 5, 2005
By 
Edith Harvath (Buena Park, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
This is a great book which explains the causes of stress in western civilization--both physiologically and psychologically.
Comparing human civilized life with animal behavior on the savannah, Sapolsky makes the point that zebras need to run like the dickens to avoid being caught by lions, causing them to produce "glucocorticoids" like mad, but then, if the zebras do, in fact, get away, they can relax.
Not so with humans, who are under continual stress and have trouble "unwinding." Excess "glucocorticoids" lead to all sorts of diseases, which Sapolsky explains in great detail.
A biologist and neurologist at Standard University, he can get quite technical, but thanks to the relevant examples he uses and his great sense of humor, this is one science book that is made palpable to lay readers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was not really interested in stress, March 10, 2007
By 
Mr. C. Doyle (St. George's, Grenada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition (Paperback)
I was not really interested in stress, but I have so enjoyed Sapolsky's other books (and also his teaching company course on the biological basis of behavior), I bought this book for enjoyment. And he has got me fascinated by stress. But more than that, by the time you have finished this book you will also understand a lot more about the human condition, how we work, and where we came from. If you do do not have a biology background (I don't) you may need to read it more than once to remember most of it. But it is so entertaining and full of fun, this is no hardship. This book is a wonderful example of why science is so much more fun than woo.
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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition by Robert M. Sapolsky (Paperback - September 15, 2004)
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