Book Review – In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate

As a mental health clinician working in the addiction recovery field, I highly recommend Gabor Mate’s exceptionally well-written book on addiction, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.  Mate, a psychiatrist, has worked for 12 years with severely addicted people on skid row in Vancouver.  In the first half of the book, he weaves together stories of his patients with the story of his own “high status” addiction of purchasing expensive classical music recordings.  Common threads he sees in his patients and his own background are a history of trauma and various “ACEs” (adverse childhood experiences), a multigenerational family history of trauma and addiction, ADHD and other mental health issues.  In the second half, the book integrates Mate’s clinical experience with cutting edge theory and research to create a multidimensional theory of addiction and recovery.  I found that reading the book gave me a sense of hope and direction as a clinician, as well as more compassion for those in the recovery process.

I highly recommend reading this book or listening to the audiobook.  Addiction is far more widespread than you might think, especially if you include less deadly addictions like technology, sweets, work, and perfectionism, which share many of the same mechanisms as addiction to drugs and alcohol.  Addictive processes are at work in all of us – it’s worth your while to understand them more deeply.

Check out the book on Amazon:  Gabor Mate, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

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