Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness

Suzanne O’Sullivan. Other Press, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59051-795-6
By altering the conventional discussion surrounding psychosomatic illnesses, O’Sullivan helps laypeople recognize the reality of a problem that is often treated dismissively, in and outside of the medical field. A consultant in neurology, she is most interested in diseases that occupy the unconscious, their symptoms unmeasurable and their causes unknown—conditions that might be revealed by technologies like MRI but remain essentially mysterious. Each chapter of this book presents a case study, lending vivid life to patients with psychosomatic disorders, along with extensive context for everything including the bygone diagnosis of “hysteria” and the dawn of neurology as a medical profession. Seizures, still difficult to account for and treat, receive extensive attention. And this study is not just about the patients, but the intricacies, the inevitable challenges, of the doctor-patient encounter. Given repeated emphasis is the stigma of diagnosis—a stigma that O’Sullivan combats through her dedication to the individual stories she tells. If empathy is bolstered by understanding, then this book will bring such sentiments to a rarely understood condition. It will engage readers’ heads, but also quite possibly enter their hearts. Agent: Kirsty McLachlan, David Godwin Associates. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2016
Release date: 01/17/2017
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