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The Nocebo Effect

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posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 06:52 AM
This is a really interesting effect which I recently learnt about. I did a search and found a few threads related to the Placebo Effect, but I couldn't really find anything about the Nocebo Effect, so I thought I should make one. Some of these articles are a few years old now but still very interesting to read. Science still fails to understand how the Placebo or the Nocebo Effect work.

When western anthropologists first heard reports of witch doctors who could issue deadly curses, they quickly found rational explanations. The families of the cursed often felt there was no point wasting food on the "walking dead", for example. That's why many of the cursed would die: simple starvation.

However, other case histories have come to light that defy attempts to explain them. In the 1970s, for example, doctors diagnosed a man with end-stage liver cancer, and told him he had just a few months to live. Though the patient died in the predicted time, an autopsy showed the doctors had been mistaken. There was a tiny tumour, but it had not spread. It seemed the doctors' prognosis had been a death curse.

Though the mechanism remains a mystery, but at least now this kind of phenomenon has a name. The "nocebo effect" is the lesser-known opposite number of the placebo effect, and describes any case where putting someone in a negative frame of mind has an adverse effect on their health or well-being. Tell people a medical procedure will be extremely painful, for example, and they will experience more pain than if you had kept the bad news to yourself. Similarly, experiences of side effects within the placebo groups of drug trials have shown that a doctor's warning about the possible side effects of a medicine makes it much more likely that the patient will report experiencing those effects.

13 more things: The nocebo effect

It's possible that the nocebo response is easily explained: in the antidepressant trials, maybe some patients — given that they already tended toward depression and anxiety — worried so much about the doctor's cautions that their stomach released enough acids to cause pain. That would make sense except that the range of possible nocebo responses stretches far beyond stomachache (in extreme cases, ailing patients who are mistakenly informed that they have only a few months to live will die within their given time frame, even though postmortem investigations show that there was no physiological explanation for early death). In a new paper published in the journal Pain, researchers found that clinical-trial participants have reported a wide variety of nocebo-fueled medical complaints, including burning sensations outside the stomach, sleepiness, fatigue, vomiting, weakness and even taste disturbances, tinnitus and upper-respiratory-tract infection. What's more, these nocebo complaints aren't random; they tend to be specific to the type of drug that patients believe they may be taking. (Read "The Year in Medicine 2008: From A to Z.")

The Pain study, which was led by Italian neuroscientist Martina Amanzio, reviewed 73 clinical trials conducted between 1988 and 2007. All the previously published trials pitted potential antimigraine medications against sugar pills. The medications included nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil); triptans, which include Imitrex; and anticonvulsant drugs like Topamax. Those three categories of drugs carry different adverse effects: NSAIDs, for instance, often cause stomach problems; anticonvulsants can cause paresthesia (tingling) and memory impairment. Interestingly, patients who took sugar pills tended to report nocebo problems consistent with whatever drug they thought they might have swallowed. No one who thought they could be taking an NSAID or triptan reported memory problems or tingling, but some who thought they might have taken anticonvulsants did. Likewise, only placebo groups in the NSAID trials reported side effects like stomach upset and dry mouth.

The Flip Side of Placebos: The Nocebo Effect

The subject-expectancy effect, is a form of reactivity that occurs in scientific experiments or medical treatments when a research subject or patient expects a given result and therefore unconsciously affects the outcome, or reports the expected result. Because this effect can significantly bias the results of experiments (especially on human subjects), double-blind methodology is used to eliminate the effect.

Like the observer-expectancy effect, it is often a cause of "odd" results in many experiments. The subject-expectancy effect is most commonly found in medicine, where it can result in the subject experiencing the placebo effect or nocebo effect, depending on how the influence pans out.

An example of a scenario involving these various effects is as follows: A woman goes to her doctor with an issue. The doctor diagnoses with certainty, and then clearly explains the diagnosis and the expected route towards recovery. If he does this convincingly, calming her, removing fear and instilling hope, she will likely, through the positive expectancy, experience the placebo effect, aiding in her recovery. On the other hand, if her doctor had had little time for her, was uncertain about the diagnosis, and had given her a prescription, combined with a message along the lines of, "this may help sometimes," and added a message about possible horrible side effects (combined, say, with the patient having talked to a neighbor who also speaks along the same lines about the horrible side effects), then the chance of negative subject-expectancy, or nocebo, becomes quite large.

Subject-expectancy effect - Wikipedia

This is extremely interesting stuff imo. It really shows the true power of the human mind. If you ask me, us conscious observers play a much larger part in determine our own reality then we are willing to give ourselves credit for. I think it's a shame that hardcore orthodox science shuns these types of ideas simply because they fail to understand them properly. Science may give us many break through, but in this way it also holds back many breakthroughs.

Science should be about unbiased exploration and discovery. Although scientists will acknowledge that the Placebo and Nocebo Effects are real, they will never truly be able to provide us with a complete explanation of the mechanisms behind these affects if they keep referring to the mainstream scientific knowledge base to provide so called "rational answers". They need to think out of the box and search for answers in places they haven't looked before.

We will never truly understand these types of phenomena until we are willing to step out of our comfort zones and embrace the exploration of the unknown, what science should really be about. However, science has developed into a state where it fears that which is contradictory to their establishment. They ignore, ridicule and reject any theory which sounds even remotely "fantastical". The Universe is so much more complex and mysterious than they can fathom.

The truth is stranger than fiction.

posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 01:55 PM
Makes me think about psychosomatic illnesses. Dancing plagues and morgellons, amongst others. The human mind has a magnificent ability to manifest exactly what we expect. Often real symptoms from imaginary ailments. damn near miraculous, in a craptastic kind of way.

I don't really buy any of the modern "scientific" explanations for why things like that happen, why you can hear about something like morgellons and then bammo you start getting sores and feel like crap for the rest of time. When supposedly, according to that same science, we cannot cause the cells in our bodies to do anything beyond their programmed nature, consciously or unconsciously; and their explanations for why it happens are quite poor indeed.

Not that I have any explanations. Just idly pointing at the problem.


posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 02:51 PM
Hi, ***cebo fans ! B-)

And, to add to the conversation, we all know about the person(s)
trapped in a big meat refrigerator, that died? form cold?

AND the frig WAS NOT WORKING ! !
It was ROOM temperature, inside. . .

Blue skies.

posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 03:39 PM
reply to post by nithaiah

Not that I have any explanations. Just idly pointing at the problem.

I actually have some theories myself. If you've seen doco's like 'What the Bleep do we Know' you'll be aware of the theories regarding quantum mechanics. I believe that's one possible answer to this question but there also another possible answer (which probably also ties in with the QM theories) regarding something called the "information field". I first heard the term "information field" when I watched a Project Camelot interview with Pete Peterson (videos below).

It really is one of the most fascinating interviews I've ever watched. I want to watch through it again to really soak up some of the things he talks about but it's just so long. He talks about medical issues, advanced technology and UFO's, and even the economic issues. At one point he even mentions something about people in Asian countries trying to cash in Federal Reserve bonds but not being allowed. Keep in mind that the interview was filmed in 2009 before any of this bond stuff started. He really seems to know his stuff.

But back on topic, he also talks a fair bit about the "information field". He describes a medical device which he created, and if I understand his description properly (I can't remember exactly what he said), the device can some how inject information or alter the information field of any person. So basically, instead of giving a patient a chemical, the device will alter the information field of a person and make their body believe they took the chemical. Instead of working on a physical level it works on the informational level.

On a practical level there's no discernable difference between an informational alteration and a physical alteration, because our physcial biological functions are administered by our informational component. So what I'm thinking, is that our state of mind basically affects our informational field. If you believe something absolutely then it may as well be real. If our consciousness directly alters our information field and our information field directs our physical biology, then this sets up a direct link between mind and body.

NOETICS: Thought-Provoking Documentary on Self Healing
Electromagnetic theories of consciousness

The Conscious Electromagnetic Information (Cemi) Field Theory
Advances in Diagnosis and Monitoring of the human quantum informational field with GDV technique.
Informational Field and Superluminal Communication
edit on 21-4-2012 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 04:23 PM
I thought "placebo effect" included the negative definition as well, but I suppose having a "nocebo effect" splits the meaning into a more clearly defined positive and negative.

I remember reading about how a hypnotist induced welts and burns into a (test)patient. Nocebo'd.

posted on Apr, 21 2012 @ 11:11 PM
great topic indeed.I find this stuff mesmerising.There is no doubt positive thinking,plays a massive role in a persons existance~i have truly witnessed this first hand.I mean if when your born your brain is an info. sponge as its called & able to be moulded any which way due to all & every thing that it encounters surely as its custodian you retain that ability to "mould" it to scenarios well advanced from your long as you haven't fried it along lifes journey i guess.On ending my babble i will also add the oft quoted saying(Im sure tpb's can nearly all vouch for this one)"if YOU believe a lie is a truth wholeheartedly......then that LIE is the truth.

posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 12:03 AM
I don't have much to say - it's a topic I've been interested in for a long time - and it's one of the reasons I am very, very VERY against graphic warnings on cigarette packages.

posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 12:54 AM
reply to post by hadriana

and it's one of the reasons I am very, very VERY against graphic warnings on cigarette packages.

Very interesting observation. Even when it seems like they are trying to help us they're still actually trying to kill us!

You're right though imo.

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