an amazing experience – suzanne o’sullivan
Most people accept that when they are unwell a positive mental attitude will help them recover. What is less widely known is the frequency with which we can think ourselves ill where no physical disease of any sort exists. To a neurologist, this sort of illness comes in the form of headache and dizziness when it is mild, but when it is in its more severe form it may take the shape of seizures, paralysis, blindness, loss of memory or any sort of symptoms that you can imagine.
I have worked as a neurologist specialising in epilepsy since 2004. In that role I have encountered thousands of patients suffering with seizures caused by emotional distress – what were once known as hysterical seizures or hysteria. Every week I am in the position of telling people that their disability has an emotional rather than organic cause. Yet despite how common this disorder is, the diagnosis seems always to come as a surprise to the sufferers.
It has been an amazing experience to be asked to speak at Hay to publicise the serious nature of this sort of illness. The audience was wonderfully receptive to the idea that psychological illness is as serious as any other sort of illness and therefore just as deserving of our respect, resources and sympathy. I hope they will spread the word.