The Power of the Placebo in Human Health

I was chatting with a friend today who was commenting on the placebo effect and how most people only think about the positive effect of placebo, and turn a blind eye to how the placebo works just as powerful in a negative sense.

Anyone involved in the bio-tech industry, be they a scientist working in a pharmaceutical company or someone in the arena of drug approval at FDA, is aware that when executing trials on a new drug the placebo effect on average is a whopping 30%. This is true even when the effect is in relation to very real opioid-induced side effects, such as constipation. It is well known that opioids do have this rather annoying and uncomfortable side-effect. And yet when patients in a trial are studied as to the placebo effect of a new drug which is designed to prevent such constipation, a 30% placebo effect can still be seen.

Whilst many people expect a placebo effect in ailments which have a more mental aspect, such as anxiety or depression, fewer realize that the placebo effect can be observed just as powerfully in drug studies relating to almost all conditions. Thus the incredible power of one’s own mind is demonstrated in a very real and undeniable fashion. The placebo effect does not only work on the mind and mental “illness”; it works in a very physical sense. As I find myself repeatedly saying, the mind and body are intrinsically linked, and so it should come as no surprise that your attitude and expectations are reflected powerfully and unstoppably in your physical body.

Returning to my friend’s comment of earlier today, regarding people not thinking about placebo in its negative form, this powerful effect can also be very clearly observed in its effect upon human health. In an everyday sense you will notice in yourself that when you are feeling really happy, you stand taller, you walk with more of a bounce, and your mouth is likely to be upturned. Your body FEELS different when you are happy. By contrast, when you are feeling sad, your body actually FEELS heavier, and your mouth no longer curls upwards, your shoulders slump and your feet drag.

When you feel scared or fearful, your body reacts in a very dramatic manner, immediately switching into its “fight or flight” mode and we are all familiar with the feelings associated with this release of adrenalin throughout our physiology. We all know that this happens, we all accept it, and yet we do not tend to categorize it as a “placebo effect”. But this is what it is; it is the effect of your thoughts and expectations upon your body. We should all beware that every single negative thought we have will have an impact upon our physical health. The strength of the emotion attached to that negative thought will dictate the strength of the physical impact upon our health.

Negative thinking and negative expectancy doesn’t just impact upon day to day feelings. It doesn’t just pave the way to anxiety and depressive illness either. Each negative thought paves the way to very real physical disease.

For the sake of your health, you really cannot afford the luxury of allowing yourself to be negative in any way. The placebo effect can be easily observed in both its positive and its negative impact.

Roseanna Leaton, specialist in hypnosis downloads for health.