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Neuroscience: Illness is partly in your mind, so now the bad news …

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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.

5 Replies to “Neuroscience: Illness is partly in your mind, so now the bad news …

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    The bible says a cheerful heart is like a good medicine.
    So god is saying our thoughts can be as good as a good medicine.
    so proof about thought power. hower i think the thoughts simply affect the memory machine in us wjich controls our bodies greatly.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Horizon: The Power of the Placebo, BBC – video
    http://www.dailymotion.com/vid.....shortfilms

    The remarkable power of the placebo: Patients who had FAKE surgery for a broken back recovered just as well, documentary reveals – 2014
    Excerpt: New BBC Horizon documentary investigates the healing power of the mind
    Focuses on a commonly performed back operation called vertebroplasty
    Here, medical cement is injected to help heal a fractured vertebra
    But one leading U.S. surgeon has found fake surgery to be just as effective
    This may be because the mind believes the pain to have gone – allowing time for the vertebra to heal naturally
    Programme also looks at why some ‘fake pills’ help us more than others – depending on their colour and size
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/hea.....veals.html

  3. 3
    Acartia_bogart says:

    The placebo effect is well known. It is the main reason that drug trials use double blind studies, where neither the doctor nor the patient knows whether the patient is receiving the drug or the placebo.

    It is also well known that the brain (emotion, stress, etc.) can have a negative affect on the body.

  4. 4
    Jon Garvey says:

    When I practised nedicine I was always very conscious that the interaction with the patient was as critical as any medication.

    Acartia-bogart is right that the placebo effect has been well-known for decades, but nearly always as something to screen out in drug trials, rather than something to train medics to use therapeutically. There was always that vibe that the “real” treatment was the chemical, and that the placebo effect was some kind of fraud.

    Strangely, after 30 years in the business and looking at the way new drugs seemed to lose their efectivenss when research was repeated, I sometimes began to feel that the placebo effect was the most relable tool in the box, and any fraud was in the pharmaceuticals.

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    Fake surgerty is not as good as real surgery.
    In the case here it was the memory, not the mind, that was tricked and so perhaps healing moved better. I do think pain is connected to our memory.

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