Meet Dr. Abraham Low: Long Dead, He Can Still Save Your Life

Meet Dr. Abraham Low: Long Dead, He Can Still Save Your Life
You Can Always Go to this Doctor

Feeling stressed?  Does your heart race?  Stomach ache?  Have unexplained muscle stiffness?  Bad back?  Fibromyalgia?  Chronic Fatigue?  Restless legs?  Migraines?

Abraham Low, MD,  could save a lot of people, if only more people kept an open mind.

Though Dr. Low, a native of Poland, was born in 1891 and died in 1954, his work goes on in quiet and unassuming ways.

Abraham Low came to Chicago in 1925, when he was appointed as an instructor in neurology at the University of Illinois Medical School and became a professor of psychiatry.  In 1931, he was appointed Assistant Director and then, in 1940, Acting Director of the University's Neuropsychiatric Institute.

From 1931 to 1941, he supervised the Illinois State Hospitals and the staffs that had charge of some of the most severe mental patients in the wards.

Low's work is important for the way it is mostly ignored today.  Most doctors, who are specialists in one field or another, have a lesser understanding of the body as a whole, and, when seeing patients, they are seeing, for the most part, strangers.  They feel compelled to find a cause for the problem, and this often leads to incorrect findings and the waste of millions of dollars in treating symptoms but not the cause.

Low believed that many of the maladies that afflicted all but the seriously mentally ill were curable.  Why?  Because so many of the hospital beds -- even back then-- were filled with patients with "nervous" illnesses. They had ulcers, paralysis, back pain, chest pain, rib pain,  leg pain, shoulder pain, vertigo, ringing in the ears, racing heart -- you name it.  Yet, when examined, there was no real pathogen for their diseases.  These people were chronically stressed and anxious.

Low established Recovery International, which became an independent organization, to help these people resume life to its fullest.   The original purpose of Recovery International was to have other people help each other with illness caused by emotional upset, early support groups, if you will.

Low believed that people who were in pain or suffering in various ways needed to accept the doctor's diagnosis that nothing was wrong with them physically and that they had to only return to normal living and find the will to overcome their fear.  When you met with your group at Recovery International, which was supervised by medical personnel, you would receive your "booster" to help to rid the fear.  Low can be considered the father of Cognitive Behavioral Training.

Low wrote a number of books.  The one that can be considered the most "self-help" like is Mental Health Through Will Training, which takes the person suffering from various problems and explains what the brain does to the body and what to do about it.

Low  did not totally  believe in Freud's theory that every malady was the result of hysteria brought on by repressed emotions.  He recognized that people got caught in a vicious circle of fear-anxiety-fear, which kept many physical maladies going.

Break the fear; break the pain or the vertigo or the sore back or racing thoughts or racing heart or the anxiety.

Today, allopathic medicine is committed to the idea that emotions do not cause physical problems.  Some will allow that emotions and anxiety contribute to problems, but are not the cause.  Slowly, science is proving that emotions can and do cause a wide number of physical problems, from the sore back to fibromyalgia to migraines.

However, unless the right diagnosis is found --i.e., chronic stress-- the people suffering will never get better. If the patient believes that some unknown pathogen is causing the problem, they will go from doctor to doctor and live in despair.

The effects of chronic stress and what it does to a body should be required in every health class in high school, because chronic stress resulting in anxiety effects the same nerves and muscles and same bodily organs,  always.  Once these people were looked at and found to have no organic problems, then they could work to deal with the stress and resultant anxiety.

If medicine today continues along the path it has been on for the last 80 years or so, there will be more and more unexplained "syndromes" that come along that seemingly have no cure.

Ever notice how many physical therapy locations have sprung up over the last fifteen years or so?  The same with chiropractor offices?  It as is if the American body has somehow just fallen apart, that somehow two million or so years of evolution has somehow failed in the early 21 Century.

Learn more about an original Chicago institution, Recovery International,   and the rare contribution it has made to better mental health.



Leave a comment
  • Thanks for the teachable moment.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you for reading.

  • Dr. Lows hypothesis is interesting and is believed by many, but there is no scientific evidence that conclusively backs it up as stated.

    There is just as much scientific evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome (a neurological disease), migraines, fibromyalgia (a rheumatological condition), and low back pain are not caused by emotions.

    If you are unclear about what the scientific evidence actually is, the US National Library of Medicine has a publicly available searchable database. Will you find some research studies that link the above to emotions? Sure. Will you find others that do not? Yes.

    If you do not understand the scientific methodology of causation look up Bradford Hill not Dr. Low.

  • In reply to KALA:

    Kala thank you for your comment, but I do have to differ with you.

    No organic cause has ever been found for Fibromyalgia; it is a "disease" of elimination. The same with CFS. Low back pain is now as common an ailment as ulcers used to be in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's. Where are all the ulcers today? Gone, because it is a well known fact now that most ulcers can be cured by antibiotics. MRIs of the lower back will show normal wear and tear and no organic reason for the pain.

    Emotions do not cause every illness, but certainly do cause many. This has been recognized since the early Greeks, and before. Especially those maladies where no pathogen is ever found and where no cure is, either. Science cannot always attach a cause to an illness, because science is often looking for a simple cause vs effect.

    The real question is, what is a person to do when they have had every test known to science and yet still have symptoms that seem to have no organic cause? They can give up in despair and drug themselves into a stupor and exist, or they can look inside and try to determine if anxiety and chronic stress have caused the problem. These people have nothing to lose, and science is not helping them too much at the moment.

  • In reply to KALA:

    So you're saying that we should look up Hill rather than Low?

  • fb_avatar

    I'm sorry Richard, but you are wrong. Its called, Epstein Barr Virus. It is now being called the major link to CFS, MS, certain cancers, FM, and other related diseases. Please research. I deal with this everyday, I speak with hundreds of people with the same ailments as I. It is not "all in my head" and my many doctors agree with me.

  • In reply to Jessica Britton:

    Jessica, I am sorry you are now well; however, I have researched, for very personal reasons, and there is NO conclusive link for EBV and CFS or MS.

    I speak from a very personal experience with this. Very personal, meaning me.

    This is the difference: your ailments are REAL. There are real physiological changes in a body, which cause all types of symptoms. You are not "imagining" them; the symptoms are "not in you head".

    However, the resultant effects of chronic anxiety and stress can CAUSE many debilitating things. The symptoms are treated for these mystery "maladies" but the definite cause is never found. ( I am putting MS outside of this discussion.) People never get better because only the symptoms are treated. No one virus, not even the HIV, virus, causes so many varied symptoms in anyone.

    It is part of being human, especially in this disconnected social age, that stress that we used to be able to run from or fight against are not with us, but those that we cannot run from, or change in many cases, effect ALL of us daily. There is no tribe to retreat into and very little sympathy for something that may have an emotional cause vs a physical cause, so hence the greater acceptance of CFS and Fibro and chronic pain and chronic back problems and restless legs, etc.. And... the growth of chiropractors, physical therapy and pain clinics -- growth that puts Starbucks to shame.

    Examine when your illness started. What was going on in your life. How had you life gone? Reactions to anxiety and stress occur on the unconscious level. People who think they are great copers, often caregivers, find themselves ill, because of anger, stress and anxiety.

    Read Doctors Abraham Low, or Claire Weekes or John Sarno, or Thomas Hanna. If you have been suffering for years and your many doctors cannot cure you, what have you to lose?

  • fb_avatar

    So, you are saying that "stress" is the trigger to all the problems of CFS and FM sufferers but a virus isnt??? I have had problems with my health since birth. I deal with more health conditions then you can count on your fingers and toes.

    I dont need some doctor to "cure" me. I know a cure is far out of reach right now. If you had really done some research you would have seen the hundreds of studies being performed on EBV. You would have seen that they are attempting to develop a vaccine for EBV. You would have seen the huge amount of research reporting EBV to cause "Flu" like symptoms similar to CFS and there for a link to CFS and EBV is being searched. You would have seen the research showing CFS patients central nervous systems are abnormal compared to those of their healthy counterparts.

    I can go on for days. You obviously are not researching in the proper places or you would have seen these things. I take great defense in this because it is my life, my friends life, and the lives of others that have to deal with such ignorance and carelessness. We get stressed, angry, and have anxiety because of situations like these. From being told it is not real, it is not significant, it is triggered by your own self, etc. I was told these things when my WBC count was in the millions, yeah I was somehow making my WBC count high and there for causing all of my symptoms. I saw a therapist just to prove them wrong. She told me I wasting my time and money coming to see her, that I was not depressed.

    Thats why I get angry at things like this. They make no sense. They dont add up to all the research that has been coming out over the past few years. Its as though your post wants us to go backwards instead of looking to future treatments, vaccines, and possibly cures.

  • In reply to Jessica Britton:

    Jessica, again, there has been no virus proven to cause Fibro or CFS. Period. Not EBV or anything else.

    I'm not going to argue with you, only suggest something that is different. You are attaching a stigma to the idea that the mind can cause bodily problems, when it is human nature and effects us all.

    Had I not been where you were, I would not have put this up. Dr. Low is a pioneer in mind-body medicine. LISTEN TO ME: far from being insignificant, the problems I had -- and others I know-- were debilitating. The doctor chase was on and no cures were ever found. My life was LOST, until I considered alternatives. Medicine is an ART, and those who practice it mean well and will often attach the wrong cause to a symptoms.

    You have not been cured, because the right diagnosis has not been made. As I tried to point out, the problems that people have are "not in their head", but real problems activated by the central nervous system. The pain, the fatigue, the other symptoms -- all real, all painful, all depressing.

    As far as a step backward, science today is now starting to recognize that emotions and chronic stress and anxiety DO cause ailments. Neo-peptides course through your body, not just reside in the brain.

    The backward thinkers are those who will search and search and search for a causation when there is none to be found. Again, HIV is very real, and how long did it take to isolate the virus? Not long. Think about that.

    Have an open mind. Or don't. As I said, I'm not here to argue, but I've felt your pain -- really and truly. You've tried everything else, right?

    I wish you wellness and peace.

  • I’m a member of Recovery, International, and I was pleased to see Richard Davis’s blog. Many of us feel that there are a lot of people who could benefit from Recovery meetings but never find out that they exist. I’d like to talk to Richard about whether he has any suggestions how we can get more publicity. Our meetings are led by lay people who have had nervous or mental illness in the past, and have gotten well with the help of the Recovery Method. Both our experience and research indicate that if a person has a nervous condition they can often benefit dramatically from attending Recovery meetings. On the other hand, we can’t say whether any particular condition is nervous. That would be a diagnosis and outside of our competence. For example Recovery doesn’t take a position as to whether cfs is a nervous condition or has a physical basis. That’s a matter for research to settle. If anyone wants to know about the research on Recovery, International or other questions, my email is

  • fb_avatar

    I have been introduced to Recovery International and the works of Dr. Abraham Low a few months ago. I asked some psychiatrists and phd cadidates about Dr. Abraham Low and his work and all I got as a response was, WHO?????

    The last time I got such a response was when I asked the about Wilhelm Reich.

    Are you working for the c.i.a? (cause) This is the best kept secret.

    How about entering the 21st Century and utilizing all the available technology to bring Dr. Low and R.I. to the masses.

    (WE) The people need this. I have not read anything like this since Eckhart Tolle.

  • In reply to Oncebitten Twiceshy:

    Oncebitten, I was emailing with a person involved with Recovery after all this, and I believe he has put up a page and is associating with other web sites that recognize that many illnesses do have a psychogenic origin.

    The 21 Century is starting out as another lost century when it comes to Mindbody ideas and practice. I am not surprised that the professionals you talked with do not know Dr. Low. To them, he would be in the same camp with witch doctors.

    The best you will get from the psychological world is that anxiety or "nervousness" will make an illness worse. This is not the right diagnosis and will never bring a cure.

    I did apply to the CIA once, but during the phone interview I did not recall the name of the CIA director at the time. I was not asked to have a second interview.

    PS, Dale Carnegie, in "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living", covered some of Dr. Low's ideas as a layman back in the 1940's.

    I hope you are doing well.

Leave a comment