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What About The Placebo or Nocebo Effects?

By February 20, 2009 - 12:03am
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In recent decades reports have confirmed the efficacy of various sham treatments in nearly all areas of medicine. Placebos have helped alleviate pain, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory disorders and even cancer.

Placebo effects can arise not only from a conscious belief in a drug but also from subconscious associations between recovery and the experience of being treated—from the pinch of a shot to a doctor’s white coat. Such subliminal conditioning can control bodily processes of which we are unaware, such as immune responses and the release of hormones.

Researchers have decoded some of the biology of placebo responses, demonstrating that they stem from active processes in the brain. But how about the nocebo effect? Is there such a thing? Can the brain really accept a terminal diagnosis to the point of convincing someone that the dying is inevitable?

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Many have heard about the "sugar pill" given to patients with terminal illnesses or other conditions during clinical trials. There have been cases where a group of participants had better outcomes when taking the sugar pills (unbeknown to them) than those taking the "real drug". Many patients also managed to reverse cancer diagnosis with spontaneous healings or responding to chemo faster when they believe they would heal. There is more medical evidence now that shows in the direction of mind-body connection and disease/treatment outcomes.

February 22, 2009 - 1:56pm
HERWriter Guide

Fascinating! Thanks for the ASK!

I think many have believed (if ill) that dying is inevitable but what is so interesting is the notion that one might be perfectly healthy and an incorrect diagnosis could actually cause them to get sick and die - their brain having been convinced that the diagnosis is real.

One reason that causes me that there is credible evidence that the nocebo effect is real is the reality of spouses dying one after the other. I know it's not the same thing as a person being told they themselves are dying but the net result is the same.

Having been married for many years, it's not unheard of for a seemingly healthy spouse to die within months of a sick spouses demise. Commonly referred to as "dying of a broken heart" - there seems to be an unconscious connection between the sick and well spouse that they are one. And that the death of one signals the imminent death of the other. Somehow, the well spouse sees the terminal diagnosis as their own, and acts accordingly. Therefore once the sick spouse dies, the well spouse does too. The medical term is Stress Cardiomyopathy, otherwise referred to as Broken Heart Syndrome.

I wrote about it here, about a year ago on Empowher:


I think the nocebo effect may well be a contributing factor to Stress Cardiomyopathy.

I love to hear others thoughts on this!

February 21, 2009 - 12:47pm
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