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Dr Alastair Santhouse

Alastair Santhouse is a consultant psychiatrist at both The Maudsley Hospital and Guy’s Hospital in London. He was Vice Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry between 2013 and 2017, and in 2016 served as President of the Psychiatry Section of the Royal Society of Medicine. His clinical work focusses on the intersection of physical and mental health.


Books by Dr Alastair Santhouse

Head First: A Psychiatrist's Stories of Mind and Body

Rights : Atlantic Books (UKCexC), Avery, PRH US (NA), Guomai (Chinese simplified), Lumiere (Chinese complex) Pronsoop (Korean)

“A medical memoir with elegance and integrity […] Santhouse’s wonderful descriptions of his patients focus on the minutiae, the tiny details of appearance, speech and demeanour, details that often go unnoticed, but which are far more telling than anything you might find in a thick folder of patient medical notes. […] With increasing certainty the inexorable link between mind and body is demonstrated. […] Head First is a wise, timely and eloquent book. Santhouse’s writing is persuasive, but at the same time a joy to read, and it offers a valuable insight for everyone, because even though we might believe we walk with eyes wide open, we can all stumble from time to time on our own misconceptions.”
Joanna Cannon, ‘Book of the Day’ review, The Guardian

“A wonderful and humane look inside and outside the head of an experienced psychiatrist. Santhouse’s deep dive into how the mind shapes an individual’s perception of their body and illness is a welcome retreat, particularly in the age of “self.” The chapter titles themselves express an original perspective on how people suffer: for example, Altruism, Exhaustion, Weight, Culture, and Belief. Well worth reading by anyone interested in a medical perspective on the modern mind.”
Allan H. Ropper, M.D., Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and author of How the Brain Lost its Mind

“Beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable. This is a moving rallying call against the division of physical and psychological causes of disease, the stigma of ill health, and the medicalisation of the normal. An important read for anyone with symptoms, anyone treating symptoms, and indeed anyone at all.”
Guy Leschziner, Professor of Neurology, King’s College, London

“Alastair Santhouse brilliantly illuminates the extraordinary and mysterious ways that our personal stories affect both our mental and our physical health. Compassionate, insightful, and riveting.”
Lori Gottlieb, Author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

“Dr. Santhouse takes us on his deeply personal journey of understanding the mind through the experience of his patients to ‘ask not what disease the person has, but rather what person has the disease’. Powerful, poignant, and insightful.”
James R. Doty, MD, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University, and author of Into the Magic Shop

“A fascinating deep-dive into the mind of a seasoned psychiatrist and his remarkable patients. Head First examines why modern medicine so often fails us and reveals how it will ultimately succeed.”
Matt McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Cornell University, and author of Superbugs


What does it mean to be well? Is it something in our body? Or, is it rather something subjective – something of the mind? In this profound collection of clinical stories, eminent psychiatrist Dr Alastair Santhouse draws on his experience of treating thousands of hospital patients to show how our emotions are inextricably linked to our physical wellbeing.

Our minds shape the way we understand and react to symptoms that we develop, dictate the treatments we receive, and influence whether they work. They even influence whether we develop symptoms at all. Written with brutal honesty, deep compassion, and a wry sense of humour, Head First examines difficult cases that illuminate some of our most puzzling and controversial medical issues-from the tragedy of suicide, to the stigma surrounding obesity, to the ongoing misery of chronic fatigue. Ultimately he finds that our medical model has failed us by promoting specialization and overlooking perhaps the single most important component of our health: our state of mind.