Further to: Neuroscience: Illness is not all in your mind—but a lot of it is (and that’s good) …
Your mind is real – and therefore so is that bad stuff. But there is help.
From Discover, on the “nocebo effect”:
“First, do no harm,” the saying goes, but that might be close to impossible. Just as our expectations can make us feel better, they can also make us feel much worse. This means that how doctors phrase their instructions or introduce new drugs may have a real impact on our health. But some doctors are trying to figure out how they can do less harm by harnessing the surprising power of their words.
“In the classical view that is still taught at medical school and in textbooks, drug actions are purely determined by the drug,” says Ulrike Bingel, a neurologist at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. “But that is not true.” She’s a member of the Placebo Competence Team, the steering committee of a placebo research group funded by the German Research Foundation.
It’s refreshing to see a popular science mag covering this topi straightforwardly.
The nocebo effect can kill. If people honestly believe they are going to die, their chances of survival drop. Doubtless that is due to physiological changes, but what was the cause of those physiological changes? The information (true, false, or merely imagined) that they are likely to die.
Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School has noted that
Surgeons are wary of people who are convinced that they will die. There are examples of studies done on people undergoing surgery who almost want to die to re-contact a loved one. Close to 100 percent of people under those circumstances die. – Brian Reid, “The Nocebo Effect: Placebo’s Evil Twin” The Washington Post (April 30, 2002)
Surprised? No real need to be.
The nocebo effect is getting more attention now because much patient failure to follow through on medical treatments has been traced to it. The patient who doubts the value of a treatment may experience many apparent side-effects that are more closely related to the doubt than the drug.
Physicians must consider the mind as well as the body, to achieve the best effects.
– O’Leary for News Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.