Extraordinary People

How emotional stress causes physical illness and why we need to stop judging people

How tapping into empathy rather than judgement can help others reach their full potential.

Ever looked at someone and made a snap judgement? It’s safe to say we’re all guilty.

However, a leading doctor says that our tendency to look at people’s behaviour instead of asking what is behind that behaviour, means we fall short of much-needed empathy.

Dr Gabor Maté, who explores how emotional stress is a major cause of physical illness, recently spoke out on the rise of drug use and how society’s judgement of addicts is detrimental to helping them recover and find their place in the world.

Urging members of the public to tap into their inner empath, Dr Maté said: “I’ve never met a single person who ever chose to be a drug addict.

“Kids are considered to be bad or good, but nobody’s asking what is making the child behave a certain way.”


Maté spoke out after Canadian politician John Horgan said people choose to take drugs following a significant number of overdose deaths in Vancouver reached a record high.

Speaking to a local radio station, Maté explained that humans often focus on how someone is different to them rather than recognise what we share.

He said: “That tendency is magnified when the person doesn’t resemble you. We see them as something other than ourselves, it’s hard to recognise our common humanity.”

Maté added that the cliché portrayal of drug addicts in film and media means they are constantly depicted as “low-lives” or “bad people”.

The addiction expert also pointed out that “virtually everybody has some kind of an addiction that gives them relief” – whether food, video games, sex, work or shopping – and therefore we can understand that need to silence the noise of life.

Dr Maté has a background in family practice with a special interest in child development and trauma, and their potential lifelong impacts on physical and mental health.

The Hungarian-born Canadian physician studies the brain and body systems that process emotions to explore how intimately connected they are with the hormonal apparatus, the nervous system, and the immune system.

He now works as a speaker and author to help people understand the relationship between mind and body; while continuing on his mission to shine a light on addiction and how it stems from past trauma while looking to address this in a patient’s recovery.


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