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Gabor Mate on Chronic Illness

Is there really a cancer personality? Can we hasten death through stress and ill-defined personal boundaries? Is there a relationship between unexpressed emotions and Alzheimer’s? If so, what can we do about it? In When The Body Says No, Dr Gabor Mate reveals clear links between serious, often terminal illnesses, and the psychological state of sufferers.

‘In over two decades of family medicine, including seven years of palliative care work, I was struck by how consistently the lives of people with chronic illness are characterised by emotional shut-down - like one of Woody Allen characters we no longer get angry, we ‘grow a tumour’. Those suffering from chronic illness are incapable of considering their own emotional needs and driven by a compulsive sense of responsibility for the needs of others.’ Put simply these individuals all had difficulty saying no.

According to Dr Mate patterns of repression tend to start early. Many children respond to abusive or challenging backgrounds by reconstructing their childhoods and idealising less than ideal parents. They also tend to over-identify with parental needs. Dr Mate has no doubt that the resulting stress and unresolved emotions compromise the immune system, cause tissue damage and high blood pressure, and impair the heart.

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