It is the subject of the documentary When the Body Says No (2003), which looks at the hidden links between mental health and physical disease. Modern medical research often attempts to reassure us that our brains and bodies are completely distinct — when, in fact, they are intricately intertwined and interdependent. Physiological illnesses, disorders, and chronic ailments are often manifested in the body as a result of psychological stress, putting our physical health and well-being at risk.
Who is the target audience for the book When the Body Says No?
- People who suffer from chronic health problems or who are acquainted with others who do
- The person who is always worried
- Those who are interested in the connections that exist between the mind and the body
Who is Gabor Maté, M.D., and what is his background?
Gabor Maté is a family physician with more than twenty years of expertise in both primary care and palliative medicine. As the co-inventor of the psychotherapy technique known as compassionate inquiry, which explores a patient's underlying behavioral motivations, he is considered a pioneer in his field. Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 2009 for his work In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which examines the fundamental roots of addiction and was published in 2009.
What exactly is in it for me? Acknowledge the reasons why stress is so harmful to your health.
What would you do if a friend phoned to inform you that she was in terrible agony and was unable to walk because of the discomfort? Would you describe her as "weak" and advise her to "simply shrug her shoulders"? Alternatively, would you demand that she go to the hospital — and maybe even accompany her there on your own initiative? Most likely, you'll choose to take the latter course of action. But what if the tables were reversed, and you were the one who was suffering from the same excruciating discomfort? It is common for many of us to believe that we are powerful, if not indestructible. It is possible for us to persuade ourselves that we can manage any amount of bodily or mental suffering, either by suppressing it, ignoring it, or becoming preoccupied with other people's issues.
However, this method is just ineffective. It is hazardous to our health and serves to conceal our underlying flaws. We avoid dealing with our issues by denying that they exist. No, our bodies keep telling us no, but we refuse to listen - at least not until it's too late. It is past time for us to face the fundamental causes of our diseases and reclaim responsibility over our own health and wellbeing. Among the topics covered in these notes are how trauma may alter your "gut emotions," why individuals suffering from ALS are so kind, and why it's beneficial to be pessimistic on sometimes.
Psychoneuroimmunology is a branch of medicine that investigates the relationships between physical and mental health.
Heart disease is one of the most prevalent medical diseases that affects people all over the globe. What do you believe is the root cause of the condition? If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoke, you are most likely thinking about a combination of factors. And it is true that they do have a role in the development of heart disease. However, work stress is by far the most dangerous risk factor of all - it outweighs all of the other factors combined. Work-related stress, on the other hand, is a significant factor in increasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Mind-body dualism has long been the dominant medical doctrine, and it continues to be so today. According to this view, the inner workings of the mind have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the body. Doctors are compelled to examine the two independently and to declare that our bodies operate in isolation from their surroundings as a result of dualism. However, it fails to recognize the profound and well-documented link between the body and the mind. The most important lesson to take away from this is: Psychoneuroimmunology is a branch of medicine that investigates the relationships between physical and mental health. Despite the widespread acceptance of dualism, there is strong evidence that it does not explain the whole picture. Psychoneuroimmunology, a new area of medicine that examines the mechanisms through which emotions influence physiology, is a good example of how this may be accomplished.
Numerous studies have shown how our everyday events and stressors have an effect on our immune systems. One study, for example, discovered that medical students' immune systems were reduced as a result of the stress of approaching final examinations. The pupils who were the most lonely also had the largest detrimental effect on their immunological systems, according to this study. What is the cause of this? It all begins with emotional stimulation, as you would expect. Electrical, chemical, and hormonal outputs from the human nerve system are classified as emotions. These have an impact on, and are affected by, the functioning of our main organs as well as our immune system. Stress, in particular, has been shown to act against our immune systems. This is going to have significant consequences – and it has the potential to create chronic diseases.
Mary, one of the author's patients, serves as an excellent illustration. Stiffening of the skin, esophagus, heart, lungs and other tissues is a symptom of scleroderma, an autoimmune illness that Mary is suffering from. Mary disclosed her entire history of severe emotional suppression to the author at a meeting with him one day. The author was shocked. She had been mistreated as a kid, and she had had to continually defend her sisters from their foster parents because of it. While she was growing up and into adulthood, she was obsessively concerned with the emotions of others, even as her scleroderma progressed and her life became more difficult. In Mary's case, it is possible that her frequent emotional suppression weakened her body's immunological system, leaving her more susceptible to the effects of scleroderma.
Stress is a physiological reaction to a perceived danger that affects every system in the body.
Consider for a moment the things that cause you the greatest stress in your life. Regardless of whatever stresses come to mind, they are likely to be very different from those experienced by others. The reason for this is because the specific processing system that is responsible for interpreting any given stressor is an important component of feeling stress. There is no difference between us when it comes to our fundamental processing mechanism, which is the brain and nerve system. However, the concept of a stressor is often influenced by the one who is tasked with giving meaning to it. For example, losing one's work would be much more stressful for someone who lives paycheck to paycheck than it would be for a high-level executive who had a substantial amount of money. At the end of the day, all kinds of stress originate from the same sensation - that what you consider to be essential to your existence is in danger of being compromised.
The most important message is as follows: Stress is a physiological reaction to a perceived danger that affects every system in the body. The effects of stress may be felt in a variety of different areas of the body. However, it has the greatest impact on three systems: the hormonal, immunological, and digestive systems. As soon as you are made aware of a danger, your hypothalamus, which is located in the brain stem, produces a hormone known as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). This hormone goes to the pituitary gland, located near the base of your skull, where it is converted into another hormone known as ACTH.
The adrenal glands, which are situated in the fatty tissue on top of your kidneys, receive ACTH from the bloodstream. Cortisol is then secreted by the adrenal glands, which has an effect on virtually every tissue and organ in the body. It reduces the activity of the immune system, redirects blood away from your organs and into your muscles, and accelerates the rate at which your heart beats. Your brain's aim is to become hyper-aware of the danger at hand so that you are better equipped to respond to it. Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps us survive in acute, short-term situations. However, when stress becomes chronic and lasts for an extended length of time, excessive amounts of cortisol may cause tissue damage, elevated blood pressure, and heart disease.
Research has looked at the impact of chronic stress on the activity of a kind of immune cell known as natural killers, or NK cells, which are responsible for killing bacteria and viruses. These have the capacity to kill malignant cells, such as those seen in tumors and cancer cells. Researchers discovered that NK cell activity was substantially reduced in carers of individuals with Alzheimer's disease who were under chronic stress for an extended period of time. On top of that, any wounds that the carers sustained took an average of nine days longer to heal than those that occurred among the control participants. In addition, caregivers were less sensitive to influenza vaccinations than the general population.As a result, stress may begin to manifest itself in the body.
Stress causes the body to become confused, leading it to fight itself.
In Rachel's childhood, she was in a continuous battle with her elder brother, whom she believed to be the favorite of her father. Rachel is now a young lady who has grown up in a constant struggle with her older brother. For much of her childhood, Rachel was the model of a well-behaved young girl. She worked very hard to maintain this appearance as an adult. One year, on Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year festival – she was at her mother's house, assisting her mother in the preparation of supper for her family. Rachel, on the other hand, had no intention of staying and eating with everyone else. Instead, she planned to depart at 4:00 p.m. so that her brother, sister-in-law, and niece could all spend the holiday with one another and enjoy themselves. Despite the fact that she had done all of the cooking and preparation, she did not allow herself to partake in the meal - all because she was aware that her brother did not want her there.
Rachel, on the other hand, started to suffer severe pain in one of her legs, where she had rheumatoid arthritis, before she could leave. Rachel is not one to show pain vocally, but this time she couldn't keep her screams to herself. At the end of the day, she had to visit the emergency department. The stress had clearly triggered a flare-up of her illness, and she had no doubt about it. The most important message is as follows: Stress causes the body to become confused, leading it to fight itself. Our immunological systems must be carefully maintained in a state of equilibrium. Otherwise, they may wind up causing damage to the same tissues that they are supposed to protect. A variety of autoimmune illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be identified in certain cases as a result of these events. Autoimmune disorders are conditions in which the immune system attacks the body, causing damage to joints, connective tissue, and organs as a result of the assault.
Despite the fact that autoimmune illnesses may be caused by a wide range of causes, many individuals who suffer from them have difficulty setting and maintaining limits. Because of their misunderstanding between self and non-self, they are always placing the needs of others above their own – while suppressing their own desires in the process. The stress caused by their emotional suppression manifests itself in their immune systems, which are unable to distinguish between which cells to assault and which to let alone.
Research conducted in 1965 may serve as an example of this. It looked at the families of women who had rheumatoid arthritis who were in good health. Fourteen of the 36 patients in this research tested positive for one of the disease's hallmarks, an antibody known as rheumatoid factor, or RF, which is produced by the immune system. When it came to psychological measures measuring anger restraint and worry about the social acceptability of their actions, this group outperformed RF-negative individuals by a considerable margin. The presence of RF indicated that emotional suppression, as well as the stress that resulted from it, had already triggered an immunological response in the bodies of these women. It's conceivable that these ladies might have acquired rheumatoid arthritis later in life if they had gone through more stressful situations in their lives.
Environmental variables, as well as negative coping mechanisms, have a role in the development of illness.
It's difficult to imagine that anybody would chose helplessness in the face of a catastrophe on their own initiative. In reality, though, learned helplessness is a typical coping mechanism. People become inactive as a result of their learned helplessness. Even when given the chance to do so, individuals fail to remove themselves from stressful circumstances when given the opportunity. Anything from a suffocating, boring work to a bad relationship might qualify as one of them. Unfortunately, over time, this unhealthy coping strategy will eventually result in increasing amounts of stress. The most important lesson to take away from this is: Environmental variables, as well as negative coping mechanisms, have a role in the development of illness.
Natalie, one of the author's patients, had acquired learned helplessness as a result of her inability to deal with different stresses in her life. Throughout the spring and summer of 1996, her stress levels reached dangerously high levels. Her 16-year-old son was released from a drug rehabilitation facility in March. Then, in July, her husband, Bill, had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his abdomen. After some time had passed, they discovered that Bill's cancer had progressed to his liver. Meanwhile, Natalie had been feeling tiredness, dizziness, and ringing in her ears on and off throughout the day. When she suffered from dizziness in May, a CT scan revealed that there were no abnormalities in her brain. Multiple sclerosis, often known as MS, is a neurological disease that affects the functioning of the cells in the central nervous system. In July, an MRI revealed that the patient had the disease.
The exact etiology of multiple sclerosis remains a mystery. It is possible to pass on a genetic susceptibility to the illness, but it is not feasible to pass on the actual sickness itself. Furthermore, even individuals who have all of the essential genes for MS are not certain to get the disease. In order for it to manifest itself, scientists think it must be activated by environmental variables, such as stress. As a result, according to research, 85 percent of MS patients said that their symptoms began to manifest after undergoing a highly stressful incident. In a similar vein, MS patients who experience severe stress, such as marital problems or financial instability, are almost four times more likely to have an aggravation of their symptoms than those who do not.
The fundamental issue, on the other hand, is not the occurrence of stressful situations. Instead, it is a state of powerlessness conditioned by the environment in the face of such difficulties. Natalie worked hard to care for her husband, despite the fact that he was having an affair, was a heavy drinker, and often humiliated her in public. Despite her MS, Natalie dedicated her time to caring for her spouse. Because of her husband's indiscretions, Natalie, regrettably, had acquired learned helplessness as a means of coping with them. This, without a doubt, led to her getting multiple sclerosis. Natalie's emotions were suppressed as a result of her refusal to say no. The stressors in her life were no longer a source of active tension for her. However, although she may have seemed to be in good health, her immune system had been left vulnerable to assault.
People's sense of physiological pain may be altered as a result of traumatic situations.
When was the last time someone advised you to "trust your instincts?" Generally speaking, this is good advice — and it's accurate. This is due to the fact that your brain and intestines, often known as the gut, are constantly communicating with one another. Sensory organs such as the skin, eyes, and hearing provide information to the brain, which then transmits it to the stomach. But first, the emotional regions of the brain must process the information. Then, the physiological processes in the stomach serve to support the interpretation made by the brain. This results in "gut sensations" that we are consciously aware of having.
We may become oversensitive to the brain communications channel if we encounter too many "gut-wrenching" events, such as trauma or chronic stress, in a short period of time. This may result in nerves being triggered by even the smallest of stimuli. In other words, an individual who has become oversensitive will feel more pain than someone who has not become oversensitive under the same conditions. The most important message is as follows: People's sense of physiological pain may be altered as a result of traumatic situations. Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, often known as IBS, have gut malfunction as a consequence of neurological causes that are especially noticeable. IBS is thought to be a functional disease because, despite interfering with the body's functioning, its symptoms cannot be explained by an infection or other abnormalities.
Patients with IBS and other functional disorders are more likely than the general population to experience sexual and physical abuse. This may be one reason that changes their usual nervous system reactions, causing them to be more susceptible to stressful stimuli than they would otherwise have been. In order to shed light on this feature, one research inflated a kind of balloon within the subjects' colons in order to cause them to become bloated. People suffering from functional problems showed hypersensitivity to distension, resulting in much higher discomfort than the control groups experienced.
However, higher levels of discomfort were not the only factor that distinguished individuals suffering from functional problems from the general population. While the balloon was being inflated, brain scans revealed activity of the prefrontal cortex in the participants, which was not seen in the control group. This shows that the brains of individuals with functional problems perceive physiological cues as more severe than those of the general population. Affective memories are stored in the prefrontal cortex, which is also responsible for helping us understand current events in the context of previous experiences. This region of the brain is engaged when something emotionally significant occurs, which indicates that something important is taking place. However, activating it is not the product of a conscious choice; rather, it is the consequence of neural pathways being activated.
Consequently, since psychological injury is at the core, it stands to reason that psychological intervention may be helpful in the treatment of functional problems. The results of the research showed that a brief series of two-hour group therapy sessions helped IBS patients develop more effective behavioral coping mechanisms. A decrease in stomach complaints resulted as a result, and the reduction was still evident at a follow-up exam two years later.
It is believed that some diseases are linked with certain personality types.
In 1998, at the ninth International ALS Symposium, two neurologists delivered a presentation titled "Why Are Patients with ALS So Nice?" They were asked to explain why patients with ALS are so pleasant. ALS is a disease that affects the nerve cells that govern muscular movement, and one of the authors made an intriguing assertion regarding the technicians who perform tests to identify whether patients have the illness. As a consequence, the technicians often followed their findings with remarks such as "This guy can not have ALS because he's not polite enough." Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of these forecasts turned out to be accurate. Now, being kind does not seem to be a very scientific measurement. Nonetheless, according to the findings of the research, pleasantness is regarded to be a significant component of the "ALS personality." The most important message is as follows: It is believed that some diseases are linked with certain personality types.
People who have ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frequently had similar childhoods, with emotional deprivation or loss as a result of their condition. These, in turn, often result in emotional suppression and excessive diligence in maturity, which may give the impression that someone is always "nice." In the case of Lou Gehrig, the renowned New York Yankees baseball player, he served as an example of an ALS personality. Gehrig grew up in a difficult environment; all of his younger siblings perished within a year of his birth, and his father suffered from alcoholism and epilepsy, among other things.
For years before being diagnosed with ALS, Gehrig was known for his great kindness and generosity. Once, a fellow Yankee became so ill with a cold that Gehrig had to take him home to be cared for by Gehrig's mother, who was herself sick at the time. During the night, a comrade slept in Gehrig's bed, while Gehrig slept on the sofa. His kindness, on the other hand, did not extend to the way he treated himself. It was also said that the "iron horse" Gehrig refused to miss any games because of sickness or injury – even when his fingers were shattered in the process – earned him the nickname. In a similar vein, many cancer patients seem to share some characteristics with one another. The physiological reactions to stress in individuals with melanoma, heart disease patients, and a healthy control group were studied in an experiment carried out in 1984. The participants were given slides that included comments such as "You're unattractive" and "You're solely responsible for your actions."
The physiological reactions were the same in all of the study groups. Melanoma patients, on the other hand, were the most likely to claim that they did not feel disturbed or worried after seeing the messages. Their answers showed that they were repressing their emotions – and that they were trying to create a strong façade. Despite these strange parallels, it's essential to remember that no personality characteristic may lead to ALS, cancer, or any other illness in the first place. However, when these characteristics are coupled with a genetic predisposition, someone may be more susceptible to disease.
During the first few years of life, humans learn how to interact with the outside environment.
The human brain is a one-of-a-kind creation. A newborn baby's brain is tiny and undeveloped when it first emerges from its mother's womb after being born. That brain, on the other hand, develops at a fast pace. According to scientific research, about 90 percent of brain development happens after birth. The first few months of life are particularly important because our brains develop millions of new connections. As a result, it is not difficult to think that our environment has a significant impact on our knowledge of the world when we are infants. We all inherit a certain amount of genetic potential, but in order for that potential to be fulfilled, it has to be nurtured and developed further. It is necessary for human brain growth to have positive, caring emotional connections that excite nerve cells and educate us on how to function in the outside environment.
The most important lesson to take away from this is: During the first few years of life, humans learn how to interact with the outside environment. Children's understanding of the world is formed via their interactions with their parents. A kid learns very early on whether she is living in a world of neglect, antagonism, and indifference – or if she is living in a world of love and acceptance. Physical contact is very essential throughout the early years of a child's life. Growing and developing as a result of our parents' touch is very beneficial. However, this isn't sufficient in and of itself. It is also necessary to have a high level of attunement, which shows that a parent is "tuned in" to his or her child's emotional needs. Parents who are not sensitive to their children's needs may attempt to play with a sleeping or resting kid, completely disregarding the fact that the child may be in need of a break.
The absence of attentiveness and physical contact has long-term consequences for a child's development.The "Strange Situation," a well-known psychological experiment, is a good illustration of this point. A year was spent monitoring interactions between mother-infant pairs in the home as part of this project. Following that, the couples were taken to a laboratory. Infants spend three minutes alone with their mother, three minutes with their mother and a stranger, three minutes with a stranger, and three minutes alone with their mother.
The findings of the experiment were eye-opening. Babies who got attentive care at home showed symptoms of missing their mothers when they were separated – but were quickly comforted once the mother was returned to the home environment. They featured attachment techniques that were secure. Other infants, on the other hand, displayed a variety of insecure behaviors. Avoidant babies, for example, did not exhibit symptoms of discomfort when removed from their mothers, but they did show signals of stress when reunited with them. Comparing individuals who had a secure attachment style as babies to their insecurely attached counterparts, those who had a secure attachment style as infants scored higher on measures of emotional maturity, peer interactions, and academic achievement as adolescents. Without a doubt, our earliest years of existence influence how we interact with the rest of the world as adults - even if we are not consciously aware of it.
Accept the power of negative thought as a means of overcoming stress.
When talking about the impact of emotions, stress, personality, and relationships on diseases, it's easy to feel as if you're being blamed for your health problems – or as if you're blaming others for your health problems. This, however, is far from the reality in practice. Instead, identifying and addressing the underlying reasons for your disease may assist you in accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions. It is less likely that you will be a passive victim of your disease, the more knowledge you get about yourself. And the more you exert control over your situation, the better your prospects of ultimately conquering your disease are. The most important message is as follows: Accept the power of negative thought as a means of overcoming stress.
The author saw numerous patients who were perplexed as to why they had acquired cancer during his time working in palliative care. One guy said that he had always been an optimistic thinker and that he had never succumbed to gloomy ideas in his life. So what might have caused him to get cancer? It's not quite that easy, to be honest. While happy feelings can contribute to well-being, continuous optimistic thinking can also serve as a harmful coping strategy in some situations. Avoiding unpleasant things results in repressing negative feelings, raising stress levels and eventually predisposing oneself to illness. Instead, it's preferable to participate in certain negative thought patterns. That does not imply that one should live as though the glass is half-empty. Instead, it entails accepting and embracing all aspects of reality - even the negative aspects. After that, you can figure out how to correct the situation.
The study on the influence of negative thinking confirms what many people already know. According to the findings of a research conducted in San Francisco, emotional suppression in melanoma patients was positively associated with recurrence and mortality. However, according to another research, those who were less accepting and resigned to their disease – and who had a harder time dealing with their diagnosis – were actually less likely to experience cancer-related relapses than those who were more accepting and resigned.
As a result, it should come as no surprise that psychological support may have a significant impact on the healing process of cancer. Research performed at UCLA looked at 34 individuals with stage 1 melanoma — half of the participants were in a control group, while the other half participated in six group therapy sessions over the course of six weeks. Over the next six years, ten people in the control group died and three had relapses of the disease. In comparison, just three people in the treatment group died, and four people experienced recurrences of their cancer. When individuals are sick, many of them respond by denying or downplaying their symptoms. However, this is not what our bodies need. Instead, we must learn to recognize and comprehend the underlying reasons for our own stress – and, eventually, our own stress.
The overarching theme of these notes is that health is a complex balancing act, and prolonged stress has the potential to upset that equilibrium by causing damage to our immunological and neurological systems. Chronic stress may, in the worst instances, lead to the development and aggravation of diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, and Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). It is only by acknowledging and dealing with our harmful coping strategies, damaging personality characteristics, and suppressed emotions that we can effectively combat stress and recover our well-being. Actionable advice: Improve your ability to communicate your rage effectively. When it comes to rage, there is a curious paradox: suppressing it may create physiological issues, yet expressing it via yelling, shouting, and striking objects can also produce physiological problems. Instead, these traditional, childish methods of expressing anger serve to distract people from the real feeling of rage. The trick is to allow oneself to feel angry without retaliating by acting violently in reaction. Instead, take a deep breath and let the anger to wash over you.
Written by BrookPad Team based on When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté M.D.