Recently, to quench my hunger for knowledge, I was randomly surfing about the human mind and how it can be easily deceived. That’s when I came across an experiment conducted to exhibit the power of the human mind. Of course, there is so much to know about the power of the mind. But this particular one goes like this…
Half of the cleaning staff in a hotel were told about how much exercise they were getting from all that cleaning and how healthy it was. The other half was not told anything. Weeks later it turned out that the people who were told about the benefits of cleaning actually had lost weight and improved their cholesterol levels. While simply becoming aware of the fact that they burnt calories in their job.

This is truly amazing! Just imagine the power we have over our bodies. The expectation on how the body reacts gets more powerful than what is “objectively” expected. This phenomenon is known as the ‘placebo effect’.  In other words, the placebo is called a ‘sugar pill’. This phenomenon is observed when one experiences a benefit after the administration of an inactive “look-alike” substance or treatment. A placebo may be in a pill or tablet form. Or it may also be an injection or a medical device.

Its all in the mind

Whatever the form, placebos often look like the real medical treatment that is being studied. Except that they do not contain the active medication. Your mental state such as your mindset, beliefs, and anticipation can all influence the placebo effect. And that influences not just your brain, but also the body and behavior. Placebo won’t lower cholesterol or reduce pain. Instead, placebo works on symptoms modulated by the brain.

It’s all in the mind

“The placebo effect is more than positive thinking. Believing a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together,”

– Professor Ted Kaptchuk.

Drugs do not always heal the patients. The inherent healing capacity in each of us will produce most of the healing. I’ve always wondered, are antidepressants doing all the heavy lifting? Or is there more to people’s improved moods?

After some research on Google, I learned, when people suffering from depression are given a placebo and made to believe that it is just a fast-acting antidepressant, they are more likely to report significant decreases in their depression. On the other hand, those who know they’re taking a placebo, have not recorded any improvement. While this finding in no way suggests antidepressants are less effective than previously thought.

Power of human mind
You live longer if you think you will. 

Meanwhile, How placebos work is still not quite understood. But it involves a complex neurobiological reaction playing tricks on the mind. It includes everything from increases in feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins and dopamine, to greater activity in certain brain regions linked to moods, emotional reactions, and self-awareness. All of it can have therapeutic benefits.

If the placebo effect teaches us anything, it’s that our perceptions matter a lot. We are given a false sense of control and order through a multitude of details of modern life. You can tell people they’re taking a sugar pill for their illness, and they’ll still feel better.

Experiencing placebo

“It’s at the precise interface of biology and psychology,” says Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher.

The family of placebo effects ranges from common sense to some head-scratchers. Let’s start off with the simplest.
(Source: Vox-Science and health)

Confirmation bias:
Patients may hope to get better when they’re in treatment. This changes their focus. They’ll pay closer attention to signs that they’re getting better. And ignore signs that they’re getting worse.

Regression to the mean:
When people first go to a doctor or start on a clinical trial, their symptoms might be particularly bad. But in the natural course of an illness, symptoms may get better all on their own. In depression clinical studies, researchers find around one-third of patients get better without drugs or a placebo. In other words, time itself is a kind of placebo that heals.

Expectations and learning:
The placebo response is something we learn via cause and effect. When we take an active drug, we often feel better. That’s a memory we revisit and recreate when on placebo.

Social learning:
When study participants see another patient get relief from a placebo treatment, they have a greater placebo response.

To brief it..

It’s not just about pills. It is about the environment a pill is consumed. It is also about the person who gave it to you. And the rituals and encounters associated with them.

The attention and emotional support you give yourself is not something you can easily measure. But it can help you feel more comfortable in the world, and that can go a long way when it comes to healing.

4 Comments

    1. Author

      Hi there! Happy to see you enjoying the read. Don’t hesitate to share it with your peers! 🙂

  1. Oh I have read some articles from my client about placebo years ago! It’s fun to learn about this. Thank you for sharing x

    1. Author

      Hey! I’m glad you enjoyed revisiting the topic again.

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