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When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection Hardcover – April 11, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

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.

Provocative and beautifully written, When the Body Says No provides fresh information regarding these and other important issues concerning the effects of stress on health. In lucid, easy-to-follow language, Dr. Gabor Maté summarizes the latest scientific findings about the role that stress and individual emotional makeup play in an array of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cancer, and ALS, among others.

Emotions like anger share with our immune system the role of defending our boundaries. When we repress emotions, we may also suppress our immune defenses. In some people, these defenses may go awry, destroying the body rather than protecting it. Dr. Maté explores the reason why, despite a rapidly accumulating body of evidence about the mind-body unity, most physicians continue to treat physical symptoms rather than persons–– and why we must understand the mind-body link in order to take an active role in our overall health.

When the Body Says No promotes learning and healing. It offers the kind of transformative insight that promotes physical and emotional self-awareness–– the lack of which, Dr. Maté asserts, is at the root of much of the stress that chronically debilitates health and prepares the ground for disease.

From the Back Cover


"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 Maté, M.D., skillfully blends recent advances in biomedicine with the personal insights of his patients to provide empowering insight into how deeply developmental experiences shape our health, behavior, attitudes, and relationships. A must-read for health professionals and lay readers seeking awareness of how the mind controls health."
–– Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., cellular biologist

"The interviewees’ stories are often touching and haunting. . . . Maté carefully explains the biological mechanisms that are activated when stress and trauma exert a powerful influence on the body, and he backs up his claims with compelling evidence from the field. . . . Both the lay and specialist reader will be grateful for the final chapter, ‘The Seven A’s of Healing,’ in which Maté presents an open formula for healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stress."
–– Quill & Quire

"Medical science searches high and low for the causes of cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a host of other conditions. Yet it often ignores one of the most pervasive factors leading to illness: the hidden stresses embedded in our daily lives. In this important book, Dr. Gabor Maté combines a passionate examination of his patients’ life histories with lucid explanations of the science behind mind-body unity. He makes a compelling argument for the importance of understanding stress both in the causation of disease and in the restoration of health."
–– Richard Earle, Ph.D.
Director of the Canadian Institute of Stress/ Hans Selye Foundation


"One of the most comprehensive and accessible books about Attention Deficit Disorder."
–– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Utterly sensible and deeply moving."
–– The Vancouver Sun


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471219827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471219828
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Spero on January 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Life and society put an endless series of demands and requests on us. If we can't or won't say "no" to some of them, our bodies may say no for us, by getting sick or even dying. This is not a new idea. Many healers have taught it, and many books, including my own "Art of Getting Well" have described it.

But Gabor Mate explains it better than anyone, with powerful scientific evidence and moving stories to back it up. This Vancouver physician and health writer gives us the latest research on how emotions, thoughts, the nervous system, immune system and hormones work together to create health or illness. He interviewed more than 100 patients with various conditions, and he shows how always giving in to others and denying our own wants and needs makes us vulnerable to a wide variety of illness.

If you or someone you love is living with an autoimmune disease, an inflammatory condition, or cancer, you may find this book powerful and healing. If you are a health professional looking for better ways to help people with these "incurable" illnesses, you may find it here. If you just want to know more about body and mind and how they work, if you want to be entertained and moved, this book is for you. I wouldn't necessarily say buy it INSTEAD of Art of Getting Well, but they're complementary, and they're both great reading.

At times, I felt that Dr. Mate must have read my diary. The stories he tells of people with multiple sclerosis, ALS and other autoimmune diseases all sounded familiar. I'm pretty sure that my own inability to say no - to be open about my own fears and desires - contributed to my MS, although there were many other causes.
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Format: Paperback
For me this brilliant book has been one small, though crucial, part of a 14-year process of trying to understand ulcerative colitis and the impact it's had on my life. Repeatedly, I've read that stress does not cause this condition, and I would agree with that assessment when I think only of the stresses we encounter in everyday life. But "When the Body Says No" is based on the premise that CHRONIC stress causes auto-immune diseases and that in order to promote physical healing, one must go back to the causes of that long-term stress. My life's experiences, my own intuition and my body have been teaching me that those causes are rooted in childhood, and mine was terribly traumatic, so much so that, after reading Mate's theory, I understand the meaning and process of repressed emotions.

"When the Body Says No" does not delve into solutions. It does not suggest any concrete tools to promote healing save this: the understanding that chronic stress arising from childhood can and does cause auto-immune illness. This book beautifully explains how this happens. If you're looking for solutions, you won't find them externally. Just as our emotions and bodies alert us to danger and imbalance, they also lead us to healing. We have the answers inside and with a little, or a lot, of help (like reading this book) we can access them!

I've tried all sorts of alternative health care and have found the most effective results toward healing myself - my WHOLE self - with the Ayurvedic system of healing. In my very first Ayurvedic consultation, I was told that the colitis in and of itself wasn't as important as the imbalances in my Self that led to its manifestation in my body. I was then asked about my past.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with the many positive comments made by other reviewers. This is not a self-help book, it's a discussion of the ramifications of stress (as a physiological phenomenon with distinct patterns within the body) for the lay person. The author discusses his experiences and observations with his patients as well offering a highly readable survey of the current research in psychoneuroimmunology.

I think that one of the reasons the author does not offer solutions to the reader is that he's well aware that there are no easy solutions. To change unconscious patterning that's been in place since childhood requires a great deal of motivation and an excellent therapist, or perhaps powerful spiritual guidance. No one is going to be able to shift their own patterns of stress just by reading a book.

But it's a fascinating view of how our environment as children becomes a part of us. The more people who understand the true extent of a child's vulnerability, the better chance any individual child has of getting at least some of what they need to develop a strong, healthy psyche (and body).
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Format: Hardcover
I disagree with the reviewer who said that this book does not offer solutions. Again and again the author reports that people need to be heard, and need to stop repressing emotions to get well. As a counselor working with battered women, I was amazed at the number of them who also had auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia. This book is a must read.
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Format: Hardcover
If you think that your body might be trying to talk to you via physical symptoms, you will probably find this book very interesting. My body started saying "no" two years ago, in the form of a serious auto-immune disorder. After becoming ill, I began turning over every stone to find a pathway back to good health. The search turned up many helpful solutions, but I started to sense that the most important "medicine" I could take was recognizing when my body was saying "no" (by manifesting symptoms) to something I was doing and to stop doing whatever was causing the distress. I realized that my body had been saying "no" for years, but at a volume that I was able to ignore. This health crisis had turned the volume up enough to grab my attention -- and I knew that my ways were going to have to change. I was going to have to start putting self-care at the top of my to-do list.

Soon after having this insight, I found out about this book and immediately purchased it (for, as the saying goes, "when the student is ready the teacher will appear.") The book validates my intuition about what has been going on with my health, and suggests some areas that I can pursue to continue healing. To a point, I agree with some of the other reviewers that this book ought to provide more constructive solutions, though. Those of us who are dealing with life-limiting, and sometimes life-threatening, health problems are looking for concrete guidance, in addition to gaining the insights provided in the book. Nevertheless, I found it a worthwhile and helpful read.
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