UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Suzanne O'Sullivan wins Wellcome Book Prize

28 April 2016

Congratulations to Suzanne O'Sullivan, consultant neurologist, UCLH and the Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy, UCL Institute of Neurology, who has won the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 for her book about psychosomatic illness. Dr O'Sullivan's debut book, It's All in Your Head, explores a range of debilitating illnesses that are medically unexplained.

“I am absolutely thrilled that my book has been awarded this prize. I think it is a great mark of respect for my patients. For a long time functional neurological disorders have been neglected despite their high prevalence. I hope this award will draw attention to the subject and stimulate research and the development of better treatment services." Dr Suzanne O'Sullivan

We all exhibit physical responses to emotion such as blushing and stomach aches for example, but sometimes these responses can be much more debilitating, causing seizures, paralysis, and even blindness. As many as a third of people visiting their GP with such symptoms do not appear to have an obvious medical cause and the stigmatisation associated with this can be quite profound. Dr O’Sullivan’s book uses case studies from her clinical experience to explore these issues in more detail.

"We are absolutely delighted that Suzanne O’Sullivan from UCLH/NHNN and the Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy has won this very prestigious award for her excellent book on functional neurological disorders. The book emphasises the impact such disorders have on peoples’ lives and how important appropriate management is of such disorders" Professor Matthew Walker, Head of Department of Clinical and Experimental Epilepsy

Chair of this year's judges, Joan Bakewell DBE, said: “It is a truly impressive book, chosen for its many virtues.”

She said Dr O'Sullivan's first-hand accounts of diagnosing her patients offered new insights into the relationship between the body and the mind.

“The fact that society divides them into two medical disciplines - the physical and the mental - is being increasingly challenged. O’Sullivan’s book brings to light important examples of how the two inter-relate,” Baroness Bakewell added.

The £30,000 Wellcome Book Prize 2016 celebrates the best books published from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015, which engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness.

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