Positive Social

 Understanding the Nocebo Effect

Many of you have heard the saying -‘ What you say is what you attract’. Now suppose it really works, which it does, then this proves you are responsible for what you go through whether it’s positive or negative because is your mind that’s somewhere manifesting all that and your body is absorbing your thoughts. In terms of psychology if a person is experiencing positive effects after getting treatment or medication, not because of the treatment itself, but because they expected it to happen. The term for it is the placebo effect. And like there exists an opponent for everything. Something called the nocebo effect is the exact opposite. It happens when you keep expecting or feeling that something negative is about to happen, so your body starts internalising that thought and that actually happens.

This expectation of harm may lead to real physical or psychological symptoms. What this concept tries to teach you is that you direct your future, so you better think well for yourself. You cannot expect somebody else to be good to you but you can be good to yourself by thinking of easy recovery, by thinking of good results, by signalling your body to have faith and content. The term “Nocebo” originates from Latin and literally means ‘I will harm’. Walter Kennedy used this term in the medical context in 1961. He tried to bring it to attention that it’s your beliefs that lead to the outcomes of the treatment.

Mechanism Behind the Nocebo Effect

Our brain and our nervous system play an important role in the Nocebo effect. When we expect that something is going to harm us or we are not going to recover with this treatment or medication, our brain internalizes and triggers the physiological responsive that manifests those negative effects and the treatment, no matter how advanced and revolutionary it has been, will harm us and we won’t be able to recover because we are attracting that result.

Read More: What is Nervous System Dysregulation?

Our brain activates stress response when we keep anticipating or staying anxious about the things related to our health our body corresponds with our mental beliefs and thoughts and it shows through our heart rate, blood pressure, and immune system activity. Leading to the effects that we actually were thinking about. Our mind-body coordination contributes to the Nocebo effect and shows the connection between our emotions, thoughts and physical health.

Individual Differences: Personality Traits and Mental Health

We have been studying that individual differences like personality traits and mental health, can often influence the extent to which an individual goes through the Nocebo effect. Your personality traits like neuroticism bring a tendency to have negative thoughts, beliefs and emotions like anxiety, tension, and worry, may push people to be more prone to the Nocebo effect.

Also, your mental health conditions like mood disorder, anxiety disorder or depression can also make you more vulnerable to the nocebo effect. A person tends to get hopeless, pessimist and hyper-sensitive making themselves more prone to manifesting bad results and poor recovery or harmful symptoms.

Read More: Mood Disorders in the Modern World

It’s essential to keep communicating with such people. Induce faith in them. Assure them that things will work. Giving them consistent feedback about their recovery to win their confidence. This will push their health performance.

Strategies to Mitigate the Nocebo Effect in Healthcare

Knowing that the Nocebo effect is real and influential we must do something to mitigate this effect in health care. Healthcare providers must be equipped with techniques and strategies to overcome or reduce these negative expectations and beliefs of such vulnerable patients to improve their outcomes or recovery rates.

Strategies that may help affirm positive results are
  • Mind-body techniques: Including techniques like relaxation, exercise, mindfulness or CBT often proves to be of great help to patients reducing the occurrence of the Nocebo effect.
  • Positive framing: Caregivers and healthcare professionals must use affirming, positive language and framing to discuss treatment and procedures with patients in order to build faith and confidence in them.
  • Educational intervention: Giving the patients clear and exact updates about treatment consistently including possible side effects and their chances of occurring, may help the patient manage expectations and improve emotional state.
  • Building trust: It’s the duty of healthcare professionals to build trust and support relationships with their patients in order to ease their hesitation and fear or uncertainty and doubts, making it less likely to get into the Nocebo effect.
  • Empathy and communication: Caregivers must always be mindful show empathy and listen to their patients, making them feel heard, and responding nicely. Effective communication may help the patient to feel involved in the entire process and this may alleviate anxiety and save them from having negative expectations.

In simple terms, our mindset plays a big role in our health. When we think positively, it can boost our well-being and even help us recover from illness faster. Conversely, negative thoughts can make us feel worse and slow down our healing process. This idea is often called the placebo effect for positive thinking and the nocebo effect for negative thinking. So, it’s important to try to stay positive, especially when we’re going through tough times with our health. One way to do this is by talking openly with our doctors and healthcare providers about our concerns and fears. They can help reassure us and provide information that might ease our worries.

Another helpful thing is to use relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or meditation, to calm our minds and reduce stress. Consequently, when we’re less stressed, it’s easier to think positively and focus on getting better. Overall, the message is simple: our thoughts can influence our health. Therefore, it’s worth trying to keep a positive attitude, even when things seem difficult. By believing in ourselves and staying hopeful, we can give ourselves the best chance at a healthier, happier life.

References +
  • Planès, S., Villier, C., & Mallaret, M. (2016). The nocebo effect of drugs. Pharmacology Research & Perspectives, 4(2), e00208. https://doi.org/10.1002/prp2.208
  • Nocebo Effect – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Www.sciencedirect.com. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/nocebo-effect
  • Raypole, C. (2019, February 25). Nocebo Effect: When Negative Thinking Impacts Health. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/nocebo-effect
  • How the Nocebo Effect Influences Your Response to Treatment. (n.d.). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/nocebo-effect-4796628
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