placebo nocebo effectWe have all heard of the miraculous placebo effect: you take a simple aspirin strongly believing that it will reduce your cholesterol and it does! While the positive effects of placebo pills or treatments are widely known, very little is told about nocebo. The nocebo effect is the negative reaction experienced by a patient who takes a harmless substance.

Positive vs. negative thinking

Human body responds positively or negatively depending on cultural norms, superstitions, suspicions or schemas, models transmitted from early childhood. The tendency to experience pleasure or the reluctance of facing life events, come from both our education and genetic heritage.

Is education to blame?

If you have been raised in a family where discipline is the defining word, the experience of pleasure for you translates into rigour and maxim strictness. On the contrary, if you have been brought up in a family with very permissive rules, openness to novelty will be central for your personality. In other words, our upbringing has a lot to do with our later experience of satisfaction with life and positive views.

Placebo personality

The placebo and nocebo effects are both characterised by intense reactions and emotions, but have very different outcomes. A cheerful optimistic person, able to truly believe in the benefits of a treatment, has the psychological resources to alleviate stress and view things in a positive manner. At the other end of the continuum, an individual guided by negative thoughts and pessimistic views can reduce if not annihilate the beneficial effects of a treatment, using the power of his thinking.

Nocebo personality

Unfortunately individuals who have a nocebo personality are also more resistant to positive thinking, having lower levels of self-esteem. These individuals are reluctant to other’s people good intentions and have a failure oriented mindset. For nocebos, dark expectations breen dark realities.

Beliefs that heal or sicken

Very few people understand that their minds governs their bodies. The will to live and a strong faith that one can surmount the problem with health sustaining drugs do play a role in maintaining a healthy life. Every time an individual will obsessively think of sickness and diseases, the consequences will shortly appear. In the same way, individuals guided by positive thinking will miraculously recover from the most irrecuperabile conditions.

Valerie Soleil, B.A., LL.B.

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