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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of Lori Gottlieb and Henry Marsh, a distinguished psychiatrist examines his own practice.

Alastair Santhouse knew something was wrong the night he was on call during his medical training and got the news that a woman on the way to the ER had died in the ambulance. That meant he could go back to sleep! But he couldn't. He was overtaken with the sense that his joyful reaction was terrible failure. That night began his long journey away from the ER and into psychiatry.

Head First chronicles Santhouse's many years treating patients and his exploration of the ways in which our minds exert a huge and underappreciated influence over our health. They shape our responses to symptoms that we develop, dictate the treatments we receive, and influence whether they work. They even influence whether we develop symptoms at all.

Written with brutal honesty, deep compassion, and a wry sense of humor, Head First examines difficult cases that illuminate some of our most puzzling and controversial medical issues - from the tragedy of suicide, to the stigma surrounding obesity, to the mysteries of self-induced illness. Ultimately he finds that our medical model has failed us by promoting specialization and overlooking perhaps the single most important component of our health: our state of mind.

©2021 Alastair Santhouse (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Alastair Santhouse brilliantly illuminates the extraordinary and mysterious ways that our personal stories affect both our mental and our physical health. Compassionate, insightful, and riveting.” (Lori Gottlieb, author of the New York Times best seller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed)

“A wonderful and humane look inside and outside the head of an experienced psychiatrist. Santhouse’s deep dive into how the mind shapes an individual’s perception of their body and illness is a welcome retreat, particularly in the age of ‘self.’ The chapter titles themselves express an original perspective on how people suffer: for example, Altruism, Exhaustion, Weight, Culture, and Belief. Well worth reading by anyone interested in a medical perspective on the modern mind.” (Allan H. Ropper, MD, author of How the Brain Lost Its Mind and Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole)

“Beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable. This is a moving rallying call against the division of physical and psychological causes of disease, the stigma of ill health, and the medicalization of the normal. An important read for anyone with symptoms, anyone treating symptoms, and indeed anyone at all.” (Guy Leschziner, professor of neurology, King’s College London and author of The Nocturnal Brain)

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