We cannot know how to fix a problem until we understand its causes. But even for some of the most common mental health problems, specialists argue over whether the answers lie in the person’s biology, their psychology or their circumstances.
As a cognitive neuropsychiatrist, Anthony David brings together many fields of enquiry, from social and cognitive psychology to neurology. The key for each patient might be anything from a traumatic memory to a chemical imbalance, an unhealthy way of thinking or a hidden tumour.
Patrick believes he is dead. Jennifer's schizophrenia medication helped with her voices but did it cause Parkinson’s? Emma is in a coma – or is she just refusing to respond?
Drawing from Professor David’s career as a clinician and academic, these fascinating case studies reveal the unique complexity of the human mind, stretching the limits of our understanding.
About the Author
Anthony David is Director of the UCL Institute of Mental Health and honorary consultant neuropsychiatrist at the National Hospital, Queen Square. For twenty-eight years he was a consultant psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital, London, the country’s leading psychiatric institution. A Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Sciences, he has published over 600 peer-reviewed articles and is co-editor of the journal Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and the book Lishman’s Organic Psychiatry. He also wrote the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self.
'David's stories are fascinating, and he does something quite remarkable with his tone. Here the obvious comparison is to the neurologist and prolific writer Oliver Sacks... Rarely have I read a book whose title is so true. Reading it was like standing on the edge of a great chasm and seeing how easily an unforeseen mishap could send any one of us tumbling in.' — New York Times
‘The first thing that comes across from the stories is David’s obvious compassion for his patients. This is typified not just by his thoughtful medical interventions and the doctor-patient conversations he recounts in vivid detail, but also by his willingness to raise hell with the relevant bureaucrats when pointless rules get in the way… David’s case studies are illuminating and benefit considerably from his warm, self-deprecating style.’ — Sunday Times
'A deeply moving book' — BBC Science
‘A highly eloquent, fascinating and deeply compassionate book about the continuing mystery of mental illness and the cruel fallacy of seeing it as somehow less real and deserving than so-called physical illness.’ — Henry Marsh CBE, neurosurgeon and author of Do No Harm
'I was expecting this to make my brain hurt, but I was immediately hooked on it...A witty, humane and fascinating book.' — Jo Brand
‘The book leads the reader through each individual case with literary ease and clarity of explanation, generating understanding and a familiarity, as the reader becomes acquainted with each patient through his gentle, observant, often witty and always engaging narrative.’ — Fortean Times
‘Few are better suited to tell the story of our mental lives than Anthony David. He has written a beautiful, intimate book of the stories he's seen, one that probes at the nexus of the biological and societal...In his shoes, we get to step into the private realm of the psychiatrist's office, and often into the lingering questions left in the psychiatrist's mind.’ — Dr David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford University and author of Incognito and The Brain
‘David writes interestingly and in detail (with the patients' permission) about the disorders which his seven patients suffer and the way these affect their lives. He tells of his own actions, the questions he asks, the responses of the patients to his investigations and treatments, and his difficulties in finding the causes of their disorders. He is honest, too, about his successes and failures […] David's interactions with his patients bring this book to life. He is interested in his patients as individuals and wants to work with them to find the cause of the problem and the most effective treatment […] In the end, looking at the functioning of the brain may be like looking into the abyss, but with this book David hopes to 'demystify psychiatry' and 'help us to change things for the better'.’ — Midwest Book Review
‘An illuminating, thoughtful and humane encounter with the human mind.’ — Nathan Filer, author of This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health
‘Some years ago I told the BMJ that the three biggest influences on me were Anthony Clare, Anthony Soprano and Anthony David. The first sadly is no longer with us, the second never existed, but I am delighted to say that the third has just produced the book we knew he alone could. It’s a classic – warm, erudite, and endlessly fascinating. It reminds me of Oliver Sacks in his prime, and there is no higher praise.’ — Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine, King's College London
‘What an insightful and heartfelt book. Professor David's seven in-depth cases expose both the rifts and junctures of the brain and the disordered mind. By emphasizing the subjective inner life of his patients, he provides a welcome antidote to the reductionist thinking of modern medicine while still adhering to sound principles of neuroscience.’ — Dr Alan Ropper, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School and author of Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain
'Anthony David brings alive the specialist language of neuropsychiatry – the medical domain where the brain meets the mind – in a series of erudite, insightful and sympathetic accounts of individual patients and their families. This book is written on the basis of a lifetime’s clinical experience but readable by anyone who wants to know more about some of the most challenging and perplexing disorders of consciousness, thought and emotion.' — Dr Edward Bullmore, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
‘This powerful book can help everyone understand our minds better.’ — Dr Rahul Jandial, author of Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon
'[R]eaders will be captivated... Fascinating stories from the practice of a skilled neuropsychiatrist.' — Kirkus (Starred reviews)
'Displaying intellectual curiosity and pragmatic compassion, David focuses on cases in which the physiological and the psychological converge… Readers will come away from this thoughtful work feeling a sense of connection to both the patients profiled and the practitioners who aim to understand them.' — Publishers Weekly
'Readers seeking a realistic approach to understanding the potential causes of mental illness will appreciate David’s thought-provoking reflections, as will mental health professionals and fans of Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.' — Library Journal