Is It All in Your Head?: True Stories of Imaginary Illness
English neurologist and epilepsy specialist Suzanne O’Sullivan chronicles encounters with her many patients who display severe physical impairments for which there appears to be no organic foundation. Epileptic seizures, convulsions, blindness, paralysis, panic attacks, cancer, hypochondriacal anxiety, and other apparently psychosomatic complaints that severely compromise existence are medically shown to be manifestations of the mind’s influence over physical function. Frequently, the recourse prescribed is psychiatric intervention in an attempt to expose underlying mental conflicts that may have triggered the disability. Earlier psychologists such as Charcot, Janet, Breuer, Munchhausen, and of course Freud are threaded into the story along with discussions of hysteria, conversion disorder, dissociation, and more timely terms. Unfortunately, most of these stories of apparent psychosomatic afflictions do not have happy endings, and in the few instances when resolution occurs, the reader is left wondering how the therapy was administered. Unfortunately, there is no index allowing cross-referencing, there is much repetition of similar information, and too many additional partial case histories are crammed into the nine chapters. Some readers may be offended that chronic fatigue syndrome is categorized here as a mental rather than a physical disability. The book reinforces the view that the mind powerfully controls the body.