How Nocebo Effect Affects Your Health

At some point in our lives, we’ve heard about the placebo effect. In medical studies, it is when a control group is given a placebo pill (also known as the sugar pill) in order to provide a comparison for the effectiveness of a new medicine or substance. The control group is told that the pills are real and they perceive to experience an improvement in their symptoms, not knowing that they were given a fake pill. Thus, the placebo effect, making them believe that the medicine will cure them or make them feel better.

While there is placebo effect wherein positive thinking affects the health of the person, we overlook its counterpart called the nocebo effect. In nocebo effect, when a person is told about the side effects that a medicine can cause, they start to feel like they’re experiencing the side effects. In one study by the Technical University of Munich in Germany, they analyzed 50 people who suffered from chronic back pain and were given flexibility tests. Half of the control group were told that there might be a side effect of feeling pain while the rest were not informed. The control group that was reported to have experienced the higher amount of pain were those who were told that there would be side effects of feeling pain, despite the other group enduring the same procedure.

Nocebo Effect

Nocebo effect is very common among people who think negatively about their current condition or if they are on a certain medication. They can perceive experiencing side effects that probably aren’t real, just because they were told by their doctors about the side effects. Medical studies show that the way you think affects your condition overall. It can either be a placebo effect or a nocebo. However, it’s not safe to assume that by making your illness a mind over matter, it can cure you just by thinking in a positive light. Positive thinking could only help you to an extent by reducing the stress levels your body goes through. It may sound like a small thing, but it actually does wonders.

Nocebo Effect

Traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect your health and overall well-being, just like placebo and nocebo effect. Positive thinking is a part of stress management and stress management entails a lot of health benefits. Again, it doesn’t mean that you have to ignore the symptoms you are feeling. Being positive about it just means that you are approaching the situation in a positive and productive way that can help you improve your health, but not entirely. When you start taking medications, you have to assume that you are going to recover, regardless of how many doctors or medicines you already took and even if none of it may have worked. Don’t expect the worst all the time, because you might be feeding your brain the wrong information until it truly manifests.

Nocebo Effect

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10 Comments

  • This is a very interesting study. It’s very true that negative thoughts really affect health. Stress is already a proof of that. It can even lower the immunity levels of the body.

  • People just get really paranoid with “side-effects”. Although side-effects are true, some overthink them!

  • When there are patients who have terminal sickness or incurable diseases, they are usually told to stay positive or for the people around them to cause less stress as much as possible. It’s because the way they feel affects their overall health. I do agree that this nocebo effect is overlooked. We just think it’s the usual “negative thinking”.

  • Always be positive. Even if it’s just a cough or a cold, it’s good to always know that you’re going to recover and you’ll be able to go back working normally after feeling better.

  • I’m not surprised that this really affects your health. But it’s good to know that articles like this serve as a reminder!

  • I’ve met someone years ago that had cancer. That person was always smiling and laughing. She found joy in almost anything and saw everything as a blessing. She recovered after a couple of chemo sessions like it was a miracle. I think this played a big role in her health.

    • That’s very inspiring and true. Sometimes, it’s those who are to the point of dying who exhibit all the right ways on how each one of us should live.

  • It’s worrying when you’ve gone to a lot of doctors for more than a “second-opinion”. But don’t let your hope die. At some point you’ll be given a medicine that can finally cure you and you have to stay positive to get there.

  • If you’re someone who’s experiencing the nocebo effect, always know that the placebo is better.😊

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