It’s All In Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan

 Source: Library

Shortlisted for 2016 Wellcome Book Prize

Five words from the blurb: disease, psychosomatic, real, doctors, emotions

Stress affects us all. We are aware that we might have a racing heart during an important meeting, but few of us know that it can cause our bodies to react in more extreme ways. Some people can become completely disabled – unable to move a limb, or become overwhelmed by seizures.

Up to a third of all GP consultations are taken by people who are found to have no physical explanation for their symptoms. In this book Suzanne O’Sullivan, a consultant neurologist, investigates the root cause of some of the more serious cases she has encountered; explaining how emotional issues can escalate to produce real and terrifying physical problems.

It’s All In Your Head was fascinating throughout. Each chapter dealt with a different patient and the difficulties of giving a psychosomatic diagnosis were sensitively explained; showing the impact they had on both doctor and patient. The structure of the book was particularly accomplished and I admired the way technical information was included without it becoming overwhelming.

The prevalence of psychosomatic illness around the globe was surprising and I was shocked by some of the statistics:

In 2005 a study carried out in Boston revealed that people with a tendency to develop psychosomatic complaints cost the health care system twice as much as those who do not. These results were extrapolated to estimate the yearly cost of psychosomatic disorders in the USA – $256 billion. To put this in perspective, in 2002 diabetes, a common disease with multiple life threatening complications, had a yearly cost of $132 billion.

I also loved the way this book included some historical detail, showing that psychosomatic symptoms are not a new phenomena.

This is a ground-breaking book that investigates a completely new area. It enabled me to see aspects of my own health which may have been exacerbated by emotional problems and its message will be useful to a wide range of people.

It’s All In Your Head highlights the need for increased mental health funding. I hope it helps to break down the stigma of mental illness and lead more people into recovery.

Highly recommended.

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6 Comments

  1. Mystica says:

    Sadly the stigma remains to this day. Very much so in my part of the world.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mystica, I think the stigma of mental illness is present all over in world. I’ve not heard of a place where it doesn’t exist, but I’d love to know if this isn’t the case. Hopefully things will improve over the coming years.

  2. Wow, this sounds amazing! And just really fascinating, particularly with the case studies she highlights. I hope they’re going to publish it in the US!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I didn’t realise it wasn’t published in the US. I think it would transfer across well. Fingers crossed it is published soon!

  3. Annabel says:

    Next on my non-fic pile. Lovely to meet her yesterday.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, She’s such an interesting woman – I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

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