It’s All in Your Head – True Stories of Imaginary Illnesses

Mental health issues affect far more people than just those seen by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. And such issues manifest themselves in a wide variety of ways beyond the standard diagnostic symptoms beloved of psychiatrists … ways that include psychosomatic illness.

Concerning this latter, as many as a third of men and women visiting their General Practitioner (GP) have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most cases an emotional root is suspected, but the vast majority of GPs – trained almost entirely within the biomedical model – are ill-equipped to deal with these situations.

Hence the relevance of It’s All in Your Head – True Stories of Imaginary Illnesses, by neurologist Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan (consultant at the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery in London), an account of her experience over 20 years of the many conditions that exist in the no man’s land between psychological and physical illness.

The publishers abstract says:

“Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.”

“Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

… She [Dr. O’Sullivan] takes us from the extreme – from paralysis, seizures and blindness – to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.”

You can read the abstract in full here. And you can read a review of this book here.

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