Placebo or Nocebo?

A placebo effect is one that is caused by using something like a sugar pill to get people to believe they are receiving a remedy when actually they are not. It is used in research to test whether a medication really works or patients just believe it works. There is a lot of interest today in just what is going on when placebo effects actually do occur. What is the nature of the “believing” going on that causes the remission of a disease or problem?
We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the “belief” plays an important part in the cure. If you believe that a medication will work or that a doctor knows what he or she is doing, the treatment is much more likely to work.

There is an opposite affect, though, called “nocebo”. A nocebo is the belief that a remedy will not work or that a doctor cannot help or cannot be trusted. A nocebo can get significant results, or we should say a lack of results. If a patient does not believe that an intervention will work, it is much more likely that it won’t.

It’s a lot like that in life. What we believe will work- the more we believe it- especially in ourselves, the more it works. The greater our “nocebo” about ourselves, the more we don’t believe that we can make it work or that we can do anything, the much less likely we are to do it.

There is an even deeper level to all of this. Do you believe that things will usually work out? Or do you believe that they will not? Whichever it is, you are busy, by your beliefs, in creating that outcome.

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About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

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