'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. Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline's tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever. Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained.
In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say. In It's All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O'Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She 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.
A neurologist explores the very real world of psychosomatic illness
"Doctors' tales of their patients' weirder afflictions have been popular since Oliver Sacks... Few of them, however, are as bizarre or unsettling, as those described in this extraordinary and extraordinarily compassionate book" -- James McConnachie Sunday Times "An important study of psychosomatic illness, which shows it to be a serious disease of modern society: misunderstood, misdiagnosed and surrounded by fear" -- Louise Carpenter Telegraph "An extraordinary book... an important one too" -- Kathryn Hughes, 5 stars Mail on Sunday "Honest, fascinating and necessary" -- David Aaronovitch The Times "This vital, engaging book... holds its own with recent bestsellers Do No Harm, the memoir of a neurosurgeon, and The Examined Life, by psychiatrist Stephen Grosz" -- Hermione Eyre Newsweek "It's All in Your Head sits companionably beside Stephen Grosz's The Examined Life... it casts sympathetic light on debilitating conditions that are often medically and socially vilified" -- Kate Colquhoun Sunday Express "A fascinating glimpse into the human condition... a forceful call for society to be more open about such suffering" -- Ian Birrell Daily Mail "A doctor's intriguing look at the puzzling world of psychosomatic illness" Sunday Times "I don't read much fiction but I made an exception for this... Stress and sadness are motors of the subconscious, the mind is writer of medical fictions" -- Linda Grant Metro "Like Oliver Sacks, Sullivan, a consultant neurologist, has a rich vein of experience to share" -- Lucasta Miller Independent "A revealing book on the subject [of psychosomatic illness] " Psychologies Magazine "sharp and intriuging" Big Issue "She tackles more detailed medical and neurological aspects of the subject in an easily understandable, organic style, adding to the narrative rather than disrupting it" -- 4 stars BBC Focus "Rising stars of 2015: one to watch" Guardian "Thought provoking" -- Robbie Millen The Times
Dr Suzanne O'Sullivan has been a consultant in neurology since 2004, first working at The Royal London Hospital and now as a consultant in clinical neurophysiology and neurology at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and for a specialist unit based at the Epilepsy Society. In that role she has developed an expertise in working with patients with psychogenic disorders alongside her work with those suffering with physical diseases such as epilepsy. This is her first book.