The placebo effect is well-known in the research world, and I believe it shows how tremendously powerful our thoughts can be. A placebo is anything that looks like real medicine treatment, but is not. A placebo is used in research to test if medicine treatment has any effect at all, or if it is the person who is showing promising effects without the use of that medicine. A person participating in this research knows that they could be getting a placebo, and usually after the study they are told.
So let’s say that a person is provided with a pill and is told that it has beneficial effects. This person might experience these effects and start to recover and get healthier. Afterwards they might be told that they weren’t receiving medicine treatment, but they were receiving a sugar pill (placebo). This is called the placebo effect.
‘The placebo effect is one of the most fascinating things in the whole of medicine. It’s not just about taking a pill, and your performance and your pain getting better. It’s about our beliefs and expectations. It’s about the cultural meaning of a treatment.’
– Ben Goldacre
Researchers belief this effect has to do with the expectations of that person. If a person expects a pill to do something, then it’s possible that the body’s own chemistry can cause effects similar to what a medication might have caused. That means that because the person believes he/she is going to recover and get better, this believe alone is enough to heal.
A similar effect is the nocebo effect and this actually challenges ethical procedures in the medicine world. I will explain why. The nocebo effect occurs when a person is given an ineffective medical treatment (a placebo) and they are told that this treatment has negative side effects. The person unknowingly receiving the placebo can physically start feeling the side effects, without anything causing them except for their own mind, their expectations.
This means that when medicine treatment could cause side effects, these could also be caused by the expectations of the person receiving the treatment, or a combination of both. Is it then ethical for a medical practitioner to explain the possible side effects of medicine if this could actually increase the chance of experiencing these side effects? This is an interesting and difficult matter to discuss.
‘I find placebos uplifting and exhilarating. It means that taking action – no matter what the action is – might help you feel better.’
– A. J. Jacobs
For the sake of this blogpost, I will continue on subject, and that is the importance of having the right mindset. Your thoughts are enough to influence the way you will truly feel. And this works both ways. You can expect yourself to feel great during the day, which then can help you enhance your mood to really feel great. You can also think about how going to the city is going to give you a headache, and this actually increases the chances of you getting a headache.
Your expectations, or believes, about a treatment can influence the outcome. Not just in treatment, but in life. Of course it is not only your thoughts that influence how you feel, and there are more factors that play a role. It still remains an important factor, and I do believe that we forget it occasionally. So instead of going through life expecting the worst, and thinking negative thoughts, try to have constructive thoughts. I am not suggesting that we should all be bluntly naïve and go around as if everything is made of rainbows and butterflies. What I am saying though, is that we should embrace the power of our mind and body, the power to heal itself, and expect and believe that we are capable of doing so.
‘Change your thoughts and you change your world.’
– Norman Vincent Peale
If you would like to share your story and/or insights, or if you know someone who would want to, please let me know! You can send me a message or an e-mail. More contact information can be found here. Let’s grow together.