The nocebo effect

Here is a sneak preview of the material I’m going to cover in Friday’s webinar Labyrinth of the Mind: Influencing the Emotional and Mental Aspects of Health.

I recently talked about the power of placebo. Basically, the nocebo effect is the exact opposite of the placebo effect. In Latin, Placebo means “I shall please.” Nocebo means “I will harm.” Definitely its evil twin!

I said that if you really believe that a drug or supplement or a particular therapy IS going to help you…then it CAN. The flip side is that if you think something is NOT going to be good for you, then chances are it WON’T. And, more so, you will feel worse from it.

The nocebo phenomenon can be studied just like the placebo effect. In a double-blind placebo trial, many people who get the “sugar pill” report feeling worse. That’s a nocebo experience. Patients can even report nocebo problems that are consistent with the type of drug they “thought” they were given. If told they are getting a drug for their arthritis, they can complain of an upset stomach. Or if it’s an antidepressant, they can experience dry mouth or lack of libido.

How often do you catch yourself saying… “Nah, this will never work. Nah, I don’t believe the doctors will help me. Nah, I don’t trust this drug or supplement.

You put your negative spin on something and you talk yourself right into a nocebo corner. You argue day and night for your limitations. You limit your possibilities for being healthy yet gather mounds of evidence and reasons for staying unwell. You never even give yourself a chance. Some people say they are just being “realistic.” Or is it pessimistic? But where does that stark view of “reality” come from? So much so that it’s driving the nocebo effect…

Drug ads that constantly say you are sick if you have gas, bloating, sadness, shyness, headaches, PMS and restless legs undermines your confidence and makes you feel “less than” you really are.

TV news is just as bad. It’s almost entirely about stories that make you feel that you aren’t safe, your environment’s not safe, your money’s not safe and your kids are not safe.

German New Medicine, Total Biology and Recall Healing investigate the role of conflict in creating disease. They say that telling someone they have a fatal illness (or what the patient perceives as a fatal illness) is enough of a stressor to cause an illness. They argue that the brain can only take so much stress. When it reaches its limit, it will divert that stress into the body as a “solution” to the mental stress, while awaiting resolution of that mental stress.

So, what to do?

I recommend the book The Worst Is Over: What to Say When Every Moment Counts–Verbal First Aid to Calm, Relieve Pain, Promote Healing, and Save Lives. Your first reaction when you come upon an accident scene might be “Oh my goodness, this person is going to die.” Or you might tell the lie that “you’re going to be just fine.” But you don’t know if either is true, so instead you train yourself to say, “The worst is over, help is on the way.”

Somehow those simple words allow a person to calm down a few notches and stop panicking. You help negate the nocebo apprehension that the worst is yet to come and allow the placebo effect to kick in. It helps turn down the adrenal glands and the wired feeling of adrenaline surging. Less panic means the heart rate slows down and stops pumping blood that may be exiting from wounds. It means they breathe deeper and get more oxygen to injured areas.

That’s what you do in an emergency situation. Now let’s look at what you can do on a daily basis to negate the nocebo…

I’ve mentioned the phrase “not in my universe” many times. It may sound too simple a solution but it can be very powerful.

When you hear about the next hurricane that’s heading straight for you or the newest dread virus that’s sweeping the nation just say: “Not in my universe.”

By “universe” I mean your “reality” or your experiences. Use whatever word works for you or your situation. For example: “Not in my world.” “Not in my lifetime.” “Not in my family.”

Yes, horrible things happen on our planet. But they don’t happen to everybody. Even in the worst catastrophes and wars many people survive unscathed.

Look at all the major catastrophes that have fizzled: Chicken Little where the sky never fell (or maybe it just fell on him). Y2K when the world’s computers would not compute the year 2000. Or the next dire predictions of what awaits us. Just say: “Not in my universe.”

And, it is much easier to talk yourself into feeling great when your body is receiving all the nutrients that are no longer adequately supplied in food. So, make sure you are satisfying your body’s nutrient requirements with the Total Body ReSet formulas. I’ve broken it down into 5 simple formulas.

You can find them here:

Be sure to attend my private webinar on Labyrinth of the Mind: Influencing the Emotional and Mental Aspects of Health this Friday at 3pm ET (12pm PT) to hear the rest of what I have to say about the nocebo effect. I’ll send instructions on how to tune in on Friday.


Dr. Carolyn Dean

RnA ReSet

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