Have you ever reviewed a patient with unexplained symptoms? It’s All in Your Head by Consultant Neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan is a non-fiction book about patients with psychosomatic disorders.
In each of the nine book chapters, she presents an anonymised case story of a patient she encountered during her career as a neurologist which spanned over 20 years. These case stories are detailed and well-written. They are depicted with the patient at the centre, as emphasis is placed on describing the patient’s symptoms and presentation, the patient’s journey through laborious investigations and multiple specialist opinions, and the impact of these experiences on the patient and their loved ones. This allows the reader to understand the patients’ experiences. Of particular interest to eyecare professionals, some of the patients in the book presented with eye symptoms.
In addition to describing these patient encounters, Dr O’Sullivan includes factual information about the history of medicine and how patients with psychosomatic illnesses were managed in the past, which contextualises the patient encounters. She also shares reflections and insights on her own experiences of managing patients with psychosomatic illnesses. This includes situations that she feels could have been approached in a different way and may serve as learning points for other healthcare professionals.
It’s All in Your Head challenges common stereotypes held about patients with medically unexplained symptoms and is a thought-provoking book. It is a worthwhile read for any healthcare professional. Personally, I was inspired to read this book after hearing a consultant speak about how it changed his perception of patients with unexplained symptoms and I hope it will influence others.