It’s All In Your Head

A book published in 2015 by Suzanne O’Sullivan, a medic who now specialises in treating patients with epilepsy, focuses on psychosomatic illness which she says is more common than is diagnosed.

She considers that where there is no physical disease but symptoms are suffered, then the illness must be psychosomatic; she estimates that 70% of people suffering with such an illness are women.

The problem is that very few medics are aware of this and as such effective treatment may not always be given.

There is a huge cost implication on the NHS with one study of three GP practices estimating that 1% of patients had a psychosomatic illness and could cost up to half a million pound in a year. In addition, patients are subjected to unnecessary investigations and procedures which only serve to exacerbate their illness.

But what happens when an illness does have a physical cause but doctors do not properly spot the signs? There are certain red flags a GP should spot but for one reason or another with constant pressures and short appointment slots these can sometimes be missed resulting in a patient’s diagnosis being missed. Further, we see a number of cases where a diagnosis is illusive and investigations have come back negative or equivocal and a patient’s symptoms are put down to a psychosomatic cause delaying a diagnosis significantly.

Delayed diagnosis of any illness can cause the patient to have to endure symptoms for longer than necessary without treatment. It may also mean that the effects of the illness are more severe. In the saddest of cases a delay in diagnosis, and as such treatment, can mean that the patient’s prognosis is worsened.

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