Excerpt from All In My Head by Paula Kamen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

All In My Head

An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache

By Paula Kamen

All In My Head
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Feb 2005,
    351 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    320 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt



Drugs Are Inadequate for the Problem (chapters 1, 21)
Chronic daily headache, like the more chronic types of pain, is deceptively complex to treat. A result is that patients often feel guilty, that they are personally "unresponsive" to drugs, not realizing how inadequate present treatment really is for this problem. (This is true despite some breakthroughs in the past decade to treat those with episodic migraine, which happens once in a while. Many of these patients have been helped with the new group of "triptan" medications, such as Imitrex and Relpax—which have limited use and cannot treat someone with constant pain.) Many pain medications, when taken too frequently, can result in addiction or "rebound" or worse headache, as the body becomes sensitized to them over time. This is true with aspirin, anti-inflammatories, decongestants (that reduce swelling), and even the triptans. Other medications given daily as "preventives" for head pain commonly have severe side effects of lethargy and can help only a minority of the CDH population. This book reveals typical problems taking the drugs most commonly given "off-label" for pain (without FDA approval for that use), including antidepressants and anticonvulsants, which address common brain chemistry.


Society In Denial

  • From American culture (preface): One reason why the media has barely covered chronic daily headache is because of overall cultural denial of chronic pain. According to American culture and alternative medicine, it's just a matter of "mind over matter" or thinking positively. While a positive attitude can obviously help, this standard is often unrealistic, leaving the patient feeling guilty that he or she can't cure the problem on their own.
  • As an "invisible illness" (chapters 7 and 8): In addition, because chronic pain has been considered an "invisible" illness, psychologists have been central in the past 100 years in explaining it as primarily psychosomatic in nature. Freudians have influentially framed chronic pain a subconscious expression of the psyche, with results of "blaming the victim" and not providing adequate medical care. For example, for decades, migraines have been considered to be the result of "repressed anger," not neurological disease. And those with more chronic head pain (CDH) have been the most stigmatized as "using" their more disabling pain to avoid life.
  • Women's movement's historical lack of response (chapter 13): Unfortunately, the women's health movement, a separate branch of the women's movement, has been very slow to respond to issues of pain and fatigue in women. Feminist activists have feared validating the enemy's accusation of "hysteria," which has justified centuries of discrimination against women and denied them access to jobs and education. In fact, in the late 19th century, women's "hysteria" was used as a major argument against women's colleges and allowing women into traditionally male universities.
  • The media's narrow focus (preface, throughout book): The more well-known popular self-help gurus often also compound the blame and guilt. While academic textbooks on pain often give a more nuanced perspective, most popular health books, including those on headache, are of the self-help variety, by a doctor or New Ager with a single limited agenda or practice to promote. They often sell a one-size-fits-all perspective of pain relief, a variation of "Ten EZ Steps to Total Health and Enlightenment." Many of the health stories that do exist from a patient's perspective, like in articles in women's magazines, follow a pre-ordained formula to recount the valor, and ultimate triumph, of rich and famous celebrities. And those with more invisible, yet still often disabling, chronic illnesses that characteristically hit young women, from fibromyalgia to rheumatoid arthritis, hardly see their problems even covered at all. Popular media reports on pain are often devoted to over-praising the latest so-called "wonder drug" (read: it's so new that we don't know its side effects yet) as pain patients' savior of the day. Testimonials are provided by a carefully selected group of patients, very often given to journalists by pharmaceutical companies and the doctors interviewed.


From the preface to All In My Head, pages ix - xvi. Copyright Paula Kamen 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Da Capo Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...
  • Book Jacket: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    I feel like Gabrielle Zevin wrote this wonderful book, about a lonely New England bookstore owner ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin
  2.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois

All Discussions

Who Said...

To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.