The Mind-Body Connection
The last several decades have seen a stark increase in ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and auto-immune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and asthma, among other conditions. Anxiety is the fastest-growing diagnosis in North America amongst young people. Doctors tend to rely on genetic explanations for these diseases, but as Gabor explains, this fails to address the full picture.
One of Gabor’s most foundational messages is this: The primary cause for the recent increased rates of disease is societal stress, not genetics. This explanation extends to addiction rates as well, which he will discuss at length in future lessons.
To elaborate a bit, Gabor’s findings indicate an inseparable link between the mind and the body (this phenomenon is aptly named the mind-body connection). Put simply, when we are stressed for long periods of time, our body is at much higher risk for disease; not just mental conditions, but physical ones as well.
Diseases and conditions are often not a separate entity invading the body. They are instead, a cluster of symptoms that we describe as a disease or condition. It’s helpful to think of disease as a process rather than a fixed condition. When we consider the characteristics of a process, we can better understand the potential causes, contributing factors, and methods or practices that can help heal / reverse the process.
Evidence for the Mind-Body Connection
- Multiple sclerosis, an auto-immune disease, was diagnosed equally for men and women in the 1930s. Now the gender ratio for multiple sclerosis is about 3.5 women for every 1 man. If genetics or dietary changes were the sole explanation for disease, then why would the rates of this disease increase so much more drastically for women than for men? What actually happened is that women have absorbed more stress than men in recent decades, because they still bear the responsibility of having and raising children, being caretakers, and homemaking, but are now also expected, in many cases, to be wage-earners as well.
- A 2018 U.S. study found that the more episodes of racism an African-American woman experiences, the greater her risk for asthma, regardless of how accessible quality medical treatment is for her. Additionally, doctors have known for a long time that the more stressed parents are, the more at-risk their child is of having asthma.
- Rates of ADHD have drastically increased in just the last decade. Genes do not change in a population over 10 years. So, this indicates that there is something in the culture which is manifesting as dissociative disorders.
Why All the Stress?
The mind-body connection accounts for the increased rates of many diseases, because chronic stress levels throughout our society at large have been steadily increasing, and with them, mental and physical maladies as well.
What has caused our society to become increasingly stressed? There are numerous factors, so many in fact that they border on innumerable. Here are a few examples of factors that could be causing an increase in societal stress:
- Technological advancement at an unprecedented rate
- Ease of access to harmful substances
- Increasing income disparity in many parts of society
- Doctors over-prescribing certain drugs
- Steadily worsening environmental impact from humans
- Social isolation due to technology replacing in-person interaction
The most impactful of these factors by far, Gabor explains, is decrease in meaningful interpersonal connection. Humans are wired for a certain type of connection, a type of connection that is being denied to more and more people as the years go on. Many people acknowledge this lack of connection, but few people realize just how detrimental it is to our society and the individuals in it.
Love and connection is not only beneficial for us, but necessary for our survival. Without a drive to connect with others, the human race could not have survived. With human infants being completely defenseless on their own, babies would have surely starved or been killed by predators if not for their inherent drive to connect with other people, and other people’s inherent drive to connect with them. Long before automobiles, space exploration, social media, or even spoken language, the human race spent millions of years evolving and adapting to a specific set of conditions. To put it simply, humans evolved to have certain needs, but because our world has changed so rapidly in so many ways, our society is now failing to meet those needs. Some people’s needs are met more than others’ of course, but in general, people are now forced to adapt to a society that they were not wired to live in, and that adaptation is causing inherent stress and illness.
Gabor deeply believes that society is no longer meeting the inherent needs of humans, and genuine interpersonal connection is the most important unmet need for most people.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti, philosopher