When the Body Says No Book Summary - When the Body Says No Book explained in key points
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When the Body Says No summary

Gabor Maté

The Cost of Hidden Stress

4.6 (633 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté explores the link between stress and disease,
examining how early emotional experiences impact the body's immune system and ultimately lead to illness.

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    When the Body Says No
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    The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies the connections between physical and mental health.

    One of the most common health conditions in the world is heart disease. What do you think the condition is caused by?

    You’re probably thinking it’s some combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. And it’s true that these do contribute to heart disease. But the greatest risk factor of all – more than any of the others combined – is actually job strain. What’s more, work-related stress is a major contributor to elevated blood pressure and cholesterol.

    For years, the prevailing theory in medicine has been one of mind-body dualism. This theory states that the mind’s inner workings have nothing to do with the rest of the body. Dualism pushes doctors to study the two separately, to proclaim that our bodies function in isolation from their environments. But it ignores the deep and proven connection between body and mind.

    The key message here is: The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies the connections between physical and mental health. 

    Despite dualism’s prevalence, there’s compelling evidence that it doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s where a new field of medicine comes in – psychoneuroimmunology, which studies the processes through which emotions affect physiology. 

    Countless studies show how our daily experiences and stresses impact our immune systems. One, for instance, found that medical students’ immune systems were suppressed under the pressure of looming final exams. Additionally, the loneliest of these students suffered the greatest negative impact on their immune defenses. 

    How can this happen? Well, it all starts with emotional stimuli. Emotions are electrical, chemical, and hormonal discharges from the human nervous system. These influence, and are influenced by, the functioning of our major organs and immune defenses. Stress, in particular, works to disarm our immune systems. This is bound to have major effects – and it can even cause chronic illness. 

    One of the author’s patients, Mary, provides a good example. Mary has scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes her skin, esophagus, heart, lungs, and other tissues to stiffen.

    One day, in an appointment with the author, Mary revealed her life history of extreme emotional repression. She had been abused as a child, and had constantly had to protect her sisters from their foster parents. In youth and in adulthood, she rarely considered her own feelings, compulsively taking responsibility for others instead, even as her scleroderma worsened. Mary’s repeated emotional repression could have disarmed her body’s immune defenses, making her vulnerable to the ravages of scleroderma.

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    What is When the Body Says No about?

    When the Body Says No (2003) probes the hidden connections between mental health and physical illness. Modern medical science often tries to reassure us that our minds and bodies are totally separate – when, in reality, they’re deeply interconnected. Mental stresses often play out in the body as physiological diseases, disorders, and chronic conditions that endanger our health and well-being.

    When the Body Says No Review

    When the Body Says No (2003) delves into the intricate connection between our emotional state and our physical health. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a compelling exploration of the relationship between repressed emotions and chronic diseases, presenting a fresh perspective on the mind-body connection.
    • With real-life case studies and extensive scientific research, it provides readers with a deep understanding of the impact our emotions have on our well-being.
    • Gabor Maté's insightful analysis and compassionate storytelling make this book not just informative, but also a thought-provoking and engaging read.

    Who should read When the Body Says No?

    • People who have chronic health conditions or who know others who have them
    • The eternally stressed
    • Those interested in the connections between mind and body

    About the Author

    Gabor Maté is a physician with twenty years of experience in family medicine and palliative care. He is the cocreator of a psychotherapeutic approach known as compassionate inquiry, which is used to explore a patient’s unconscious behavioral drives. His book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, on the underlying causes of addiction, won the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 2009.

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    When the Body Says No FAQs 

    What is the main message of When the Body Says No?

    When the Body Says No shows how emotional stress can contribute to the development of illness.

    How long does it take to read When the Body Says No?

    The reading time for When the Body Says No varies, but it typically takes a few hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is When the Body Says No a good book? Is it worth reading?

    When the Body Says No is worth reading as it provides insights into the mind-body connection and how it impacts our health.

    Who is the author of When the Body Says No?

    The author of When the Body Says No is Gabor Maté.

    What to read after When the Body Says No?

    If you're wondering what to read next after When the Body Says No, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Myth of Normal by Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté
    • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
    • It Didn't Start With You by Mark Wolynn
    • In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté
    • Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté
    • Chatter by Ethan Kross
    • The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo
    • The Stress Code by Richard Sutton
    • Time Smart by Ashley Whillans
    • Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön