Psychology of Physical Illness

Review of Psychology of Physical Illness: Psychiatry Applied to Medicine, Surgery and the Specialties. Edited by Leopold Bellak, M.D. (Pp. 243. £1 17s. 6d.) New York: Grune and Stratton. London: J. and A. Churchill. 1952.

British Mediacal Journal, 14 November 1953, p. 1089

Apart from the introduction by the editor, this book contains articles on the psychological aspects of general practice, internal medicine, malignancy, general surgery, plastic surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, genito-urinary diseases, orthopaedics, the ear, nose, and throat, neurology, paediatrics, dermatology, dentistry, and the personality of the physician. Of the authors, some well known in their own fields, nine graduated from American schools, the rest from Vienna, Leyden, Prague, Lausanne, Edinburgh, and Groningen. Of the sixteen co-authors nine are psychoanalysts, and most of the remainder have received psychoanalytic training.

    These arid details are provided so that the prospective reader may realize how broad are the fields of subject-matter covered, how widely different the backgrounds of the authors, how monotonously uniform their approach. By far the best are the articles written not by psychiatrists and psycho-analysts but by practical workers in the specialty concerned who have merely turned their attention to its psychological aspects. Thus the article by Dr. Haas on psychiatric implications in gynaecology and obstetrics is outstandingly good, and will certainly interest the general medical reader. In much of the rest of the book there is a deficiency of practical clinical knowledge, an excess of theoretical commonplace. Particularly disappointing is the discussion on the psychiatric aspects of neurologic diseases, which is mainly confined to the emotional meaning of illness to the patient. One might have hoped for some discussion of the varieties of psychological experience associated with lesions of particular parts of the brain-for example, the temporal lobe-or with particular types of disturbance of brain function.