Nocebo Effect: How Your Fear Comes To Life


Nocebo effect is a phenomenon which is a polar opposite of placebo effect. The Placebo effect is a phenomenon in which mind has a large possibility of having a powerful influence on the body of the patient. There have been cases in which it has helped the body to get healed.  The mind is tricked into believing that the fake treatment is having therapeutic results on the body. In this, a substance with zilch medical effects is it sugar pill, water, or saline solution is given to the patient telling them that what they are having is medicine, and it works like a medicine.

Unfortunately, the psychology works both ways. It makes a perfectly normal and harmless competent hurt your body in various ways. Just a pill of sugar can make you nauseatic, in case you are lactose intolerant Nocebo effect can have your stomach turned upside down with a fake dose of lactose.

This is the peculiar truth about brains and medicine that they work up with you in a strange and unpredictable manner. Having said this, nocebo effect is the just the perfect example of it.

Nocebo effect is majorly overlooked in the healthcare industry and by the research community, it is a phenomenon in which while intaking substances a plain suggestion of it being negative, can cause the similar effect on the patient. For people, being aware of the side-effects of pills increases the chances of being affected by it.

Just like the placebo effect, nocebo is poorly interpreted, to understand it better here are few experiments that were conducted and their result on bodies of the patients –

In one study, 50 participants were asked to take a flexibility test. Like many of the previous experiments that were analyzed, in results (,) the expectation of experiencing, or suggestion of it drastically increased the negative effects. Of 50 participants, half were told about the side effects whereas half were not. Towards the end, bigger number of people in the group which knew about the side-effects experienced a higher amount of pain. The procedure endured by both the group was exactly the same.

In another experiment, to relieve prostate disease’s symptoms half of the participant were told that the medicine could cause erectile dysfunction, whereas the remaining here kept unaware. More than 40% of the people of the first group experienced ED and compared to the other group which just felt 15%.

Nocebo effect can prove to fatal in some cases. An individual attempted to kill himself by consuming 26 sugar pills which he thought were sleeping pills. His blood pressure dropped down dangerously, he was later injected with fluids in order to stabilize it. Once he was told they were nothing but sugar pills, all his symptoms quickly went away.

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