Once, when I was nine years old, I came down with a horrible case of tonsillitis. I remember going to the doctor, (something that was rare in my family; you only went if you were really sick) feeling miserable and scared, but also knowing that this man would have somehow fix me. As he declared his verdict regarding my illness, and took out his prescription pad, he asked my mother "Is your daughter allergic to any medications?" My mom allowed for a moment, and I looked at her questioningly. Was I allergic to anything? This seemed really important. What if I was? What would happen to me? My mother said no, the prescription was written and we were sent home.
That evening after taking my antibiotic, I began to shake uncontrollably. I complained of an immense headache and continued shaking as my mother held me. She did not seem very concerned, yet I KNEW I was allergic to this pill that I had taken. Before I fell sleep that night, I told my mom that the medicine had made me sick and I would not take it anymore. The next morning, my mother had me drink a tall glass of iced tea that tasted funny. Later that afternoon, my mom asked me how I felt. I told her I was doing much better, and that's when she dropped the bomb on me. She had laced my ice tea that morning with my medication. Guess what, no allergic reaction. I was never allergic to the pills, but my powerful subconscious mind, accepted a mere suggestion by the doctor that I might be, and my body acted accordingly.
Most of us have no idea how loudly awesome our minds are, and how incoming information continually reshapes our experience. When I took that antibiotic, it had a nocebo effect on me. A nocebo is the exact opposite of a placebo. A placebo offers health benefits without any medical reason to do so, while a nocebo hormones your health without any medical explanation. Researchers are finding more and more evidence that what we believe, or expect to happen medically, has a substantial effect on what actually does happen.
Currently, pharmaceutical companies are flummoxed by this placebo effect when they test new drugs. As much as 75% of relief from pain or depression, in some trials, can be attributed to the placebo effect. In essence, the person never took any medication, only a sugar pill, and their condition improved anyway. They simply believed that they would get better. Studies also find that people receive more 'relief' from red placebos than any other color, and the higher priced the place is, the more the patients report a reduction in symptoms. On the other side of the coin, people who believe they are going to die in surgery have a higher mortality rate while under the knife than people who do not. What the heck is going on here?
Again, we have to go back to the …