This weekend I had an amazing time attending my first EMDRIA conference, which is a gathering of EMDR therapists that happens once a year. This year one of the guest speakers was Gabor Maté. He is a Hungarian born Canadian doctor who has done a lot of work with addiction, which led to an interest in childhood trauma and how that impacts health. He is an amazing speaker and his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts has been on my reading list for years. And in his mind, addiction is an attachment disorder.
In his presentation on the Biology of Loss and his other talk on Illness and Health in a Toxic Society he shares much of the research on the link between physical and mental health. In particular he focused on two things. One was that the repression of healthy anger suppresses the immune system. In fact, he shared research with smokers that showed that those who repressed anger had an increased chance of developing lung cancer. Those who did not repress their anger actually had no more risk of cancer than the non-smokers!
In addition, he talked about how those who compulsively ignore their own emotional needs in favor of focusing on others are also at increased risk of negative health consequences. You can imagine the impact of that statement on a group of therapists focused on trauma work!
I can’t say enough good things about the work this man has done to humanize those with addiction and understand the role of trauma in the development of addiction. If you ever have the chance to see him in person, do it!