Books & Literature

Book Review: Into the Abyss, by Anthony David

NON-FICTION: Cognitive neuropsychiatrist, Anthony David, examines 7 unusual psychiatric cases, including a man who thinks he’s dead.

Engaging, confronting and fascinating, these case studies are exquisite short stories in themselves.

Human behaviour never fails to fascinate, whether it be through crime shows, lurid details of the sex lives of celebrities, or serious studies of psychiatric conditions.

Anthony David is a neuropsychiatrist with many decades’ experience, and the author of countless articles and academic works in his field. He has finally moved into more popularist writing with Into the Abyss.

Following in the footsteps of such writers as Oliver Sacks (also a neuropsychiatrist), David pulls together a collection of stories based on actual cases he has treated. Each of these cases has unusual presenting behaviour and symptoms, and a complex pathology sitting behind it. Although identifying features are changed, and some cases are an amalgam of more than one, David still writes with humanity and intimacy, ensuring that these cases remain real.

Within the pages of this book are the outlier psychiatric syndrome, the undiagnosable condition, the sadly untreatable, and the miraculous recovery. Patrick suffers with Capras delusion (the people around you are imposters) and Cotard’s delusion (you are convinced you are dead). Caitlin is terribly thin and hardly eats yet doesn’t appear to be suffering from classic anorexia. Emma presents as almost completely paralysed, yet all tests show her body and brain working as expected. Is this extreme depressive catatonia?

This is a fairly short book, with only seven brief case studies; yet each one provides a platform for the discussion of various psychiatric, psychological, and physiological phenomena. David’s consistent theme is the complex interrelationship between mind and body: after all, the brain is just another part of the body.

Highly readable and engaging, Into the Abyss should appeal to both the aficionado of psychology, and the reader who has perhaps not plunged into this genre yet. At their heart, these case studies are exquisite short stories in themselves.

And who knows what we may learn about ourselves…

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Simon and Schuster
Released: February 2020
RRP: $18.99

[adrotate banner="159"]
To Top