May 28, 2023

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW. Dr. Gabor Mate on the tough winter ahead: Stay close and support each other emotionally!

The author of the book “When the body says no”, Dr. Gabor Mate, a psychologist specialized in the study of trauma, came to Romania to launch his newest volume, “The Myth of Normality”.

In his books, international bestsellers, Mate talks about the close connection between emotional health and illness, and says that doctors are not all prepared to recognize the traumas that can lead to ailments. They should therefore also discover the possible causes of an emotional nature that trigger the diseases.

In an interview with PRO TV News, the famous psychologist talked about the problems that more and more people are facing lately. Gabor Mate had some advice for Romanians.

Georgiana Pocol, PRO TV correspondent: In Romania, we have a hard winter ahead of us. With war on our borders, energy shortages, huge inflation, huge rates and ever-increasing expenses. Stress and panic are more common. How can we get through this winter?

Dr. Gabor Mate: First of all, stress has a strong impact on human health. We know from past experiences, for example, when Greece was going through an economic crisis in 2010, people suffered. Unfortunately, these things happen. How can we get out of this? It’s very difficult. Only if people stay very close and support each other emotionally so they don’t feel so alone, because the worst part of stress is feeling isolated and alone. So people go through hard times. What I can tell you is that if people have a sense of solidarity, belonging and connection, if they talk about what they feel, it’s the best thing.

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Georgiana Pocol, PRO TV correspondent: In this context of the war on Romania’s borders. We sometimes feel that war is knocking at our door, because of our geographical positioning, we live in constant anxiety and anguish, threats come towards us from great powers of the world. What can we do to keep our anxiety under control in this context?

Dr. Gabor Mate: What you describe does not only happen in your country, in Romania. I was born in Hungary, I know something about Romania and I know that these small countries have always been invaded, countries like Hungary or Romania, by the Turks, the Austrians, they have always faced big empires, big powers. All I can tell you is that the more people stand together and don’t stay silent, but talk about what they feel, it’s very difficult for these countries not to be traumatized. The history of the world repeats itself over and over and it’s hard.

Georgiana Pocol, PRO TV correspondent: If we talk about children, they hear things, they hear the word war and they panic. How do you think this topic should be approached with a child?

Dr. Gabor Mate: If we look at the evidence, what gives children the best sense of security is being with parents who love and understand them. It is not only about the events that happen in the world, but also about how the child lives and experiences what is happening. They need to stay close to their parents, and their parents should give them a sense of security. It’s the best thing! Even in the face of great catastrophes and threats, if parents stay close to their children, children can get through it better.

Georgiana Pocol, PRO TV correspondent: You talk about depression and anxiety in your books. How it affects 20% of young people. In Romania, we still do not have the necessary education in this regard. We lived for several decades in a political regime where these sensitive issues could not be discussed. How could we get over this shame? To go to a psychologist without feeling judged or stigmatized?

Dr. Gabor Mate: In communism there was this idea that there were no problems. No one needs therapy. Even in the west, it is still quite difficult to admit that you have a mental health problem. People feel ashamed, stigmatized. I can tell anyone that will listen. I am 78 years old, I am a successful doctor, I sell books in different countries, but sometimes I need to go to therapy. I went, two years ago, maybe for a month. I went because I had a problem. Admitting you have a problem is an act of courage. We were born this way, when you were a child, you didn’t hide your problems, when you felt uncomfortable, hungry or needed help, you started crying. We have to go back in time and become babies again. Not in the sense of being helpless, but in being open about our problems. The more people talk about them, the more other people will feel encouraged and it is something that is starting to happen here in Romania. I know my books are a big hit here. Why? Because people are interested in understanding mental health issues. It’s a good start, we just need to talk more until no one feels ashamed anymore. A psychologist must know something about trauma, because trauma is at the root of all mental health problems. And when you go to a psychologist, you need to feel safe there. If you don’t feel safe, therapy won’t help you.

Georgiana Pocol, PRO TV correspondent: I would like to talk about the connection between trauma, emotional disorders and other diseases.

Dr. Gabor Mate: Think of a disease like multiple sclerosis. The first doctor to describe it was a French neurologist in the 19th century. He said it was a stress related illness, there were many studies that proved it, but he didn’t have it, he just had intuition. But since then, there have been many studies concretely showing the relationship between trauma and multiple sclerosis. Why? Because stress causes inflammation in the body, emotional stress causes inflammation. For example, a Canadian study shows that people who were stressed in childhood were three times more likely to develop a serious illness. Because trauma causes inflammation in the body, but stress also increases stress hormones, such as cortisone or adrenaline, in the long term, cortisone makes you sick, affects your immune system, causes depression, thins your bones, increases your risk of heart disease. So there is a real link between emotional stress and physical illness. The problem is that even though this is studied and documented, doctors don’t hear about it. A medical student from Romania, Canada, Hungary, England or even the USA never gets to hear about the link between stress and disease, even if scientifically it is not even a controversy, it is very clear. If doctors knew more about it, more people could be helped. When someone gets multiple sclerosis, for example, or skin diseases, stress is always at the root of them.

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