Working as a poetry therapist, I often hear people's narratives about their illnesses, whether physical, psychological, emotional or existential. Darian Leader and David Corfield's excellent book, reminds us that these stories always have elements of all those categories and that every illness is `psychosomatic' in that there is always meaning in an illness. One of the most compelling ideas I have taken from reading Why Do People Get Ill is the idea that one cause of illness is often the failure to make a link with life events and the body's reaction.
The authors make the case very strongly for more `story' in treatment, especially when someone's condition may be serving an important function, for example, a young woman's diabetes, never mentioned by her mother, had a close association with her absent father, also never mentioned by the mother. The diabetes keeps her in relationship with him. There are many fascinating accounts of how the timing of illness has significance and I have heard similar stories many times, of parents dying on the birthday of deceased child, someone becoming severely depressed every January and so on.
Another revelation was how relatively recent our compartmentalising of medical treatment is. In the 30s and 40s, apparently, opthamologists and dentists routinely referred patients to psychotherapy, something unheard of today. And yet there is plenty of empirical evidence that, for example, tooth decay speeds up in students during exam times.
There is so much more of interest - that having borrowed this from the local library, I'm now buying my own copy so that I can annotate and highlight it freely - it's a book I'll go back to again and again, not least for the excellent Endnotes, which direct the reader to more primary sources.