It’s All in Your Head is an excellent and easy-to-read essay on psychogenic symptoms and illness. It’s a great read if you already understand something about psychogenic/psychosomatic illness. May be too in-your-face for people who resist this diagnosis.
O’Sullivan has impeccable medical and scientific credentials, as a consultant in clinical neurophysiology and neurology, but she’s also a good writer, making a potentially complex topic accessible and interesting, even to lay readers.
The resistance to any suggestion that an illness is psychologically induced seems to me to be futile and out-dated. Why can’t we just accept what is glaringly obvious to many: our minds do strange things to our bodies. We can accept that anxiety can give us ulcers or that embarrassment can make us blush, but somehow the notion that repressed emotion can cause physical symptoms is a step too far for most people. My parents’ generation were deeply embarrassed or ashamed at the suggestion that they might be ‘depressed’ and refused to accept it as a diagnosis. We’ve moved on from that but somehow still get stuck on psychosomatic illness. The sooner we stop fighting the very idea of an illness being induced by our own mind, the sooner we’ll start understanding more about illness in general (not to mention psychology).
Many reviewers of this book have objected to the title, saying that “It’s all in your head” perpetuates the notion that psychosomatic illnesses are ‘imagined’. I don’t agree. It’s time that we all realized that it IS all in your head, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
There’s one thing I disagree with in this book: the author continually suggests that doctors understand that many symptoms are psychogenic, but patients won’t accept that. In my own life, I find the opposite. Many ordinary people accept that possibility, but doctors don’t, and keep pushing you to do tests to find physical causes, no matter how many normal test results you’ve already had.
If you’re a TMSer (you know who you are!), this book is a great reminder that, yes, really, it’s all in your head.
Find It’s All In Your Head on Amazon and at other bookstores.
You might also like: The Great Pain Deception.
What’s this TMS you keep mentioning?
TMS stands for ‘Tension Myositis Syndrome‘ or ‘The Mind-body Syndrome”. The term was coined by Doctor John E. Sarno, a giant in the field of psychogenic medicine. His books include The Mindbody Prescription, The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders and others. O’Sullivan’s notions on psychosomatic illness are not nearly as advanced as Sarno’s and certainly Sarno has much more depth in his analyses. But if you’re already interested in the topic, and have read Sarno’s books and those of his students, O’Sullivans’ book is an interesting adjunct.