Into the Abyss

A neuropsychiatrist's notes on troubled minds

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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.

‘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, Dr Stuart Ritchie

'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

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

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