Placebos – fake treatment, real effect

The idea that the mind can be tricked with proper staging and a sugar pill is well known if not entirely understood.

The Placebo effect works for subjective assessments of illness – how much pain, tiredness and other symptoms that typically vary from person to person.

The Placebo effect does not work for illnesses or conditions that can be measured – the mind cannot trick the body that a sugar pill will shrink a tumor, mend a broken bone or any other symptom that can be measured.

Drug trials have to try to eliminate the placebo effect with blind studies – one group gets the medicine, one group gets a placebo and one control group gets nothing. For a drug to be approved, it must have results that are better than the placebo group.

While we don’t fully understand how the placebo effect works or really, why it works; I can’t help but wonder if it also works in reverse.

How many times have you phoned someone to get out of some event or work,  claiming vague ailments and within a short time span, begin to experience the very symptoms?

It is just guilt?

Or, did you have to psyche yourself for the phone call and by so doing, triggered a scenario that your brain has accepted as real and so perceives it as real? Maybe even manifests as real….

Placebo is not about actually feeling more or less of anything, but rather, what the person’s perception of what they are feeling is.

People who are left in a hospital room and have doctors and nurses coming in to check on them, tend to report less pain and discomfort because they perceive that they are being cared for.

People who are left in a hospital room and being delivered medicine through an IV but don’t have doctors or nurses coming in to check, do not report changes in their pain levels despite being the group actually on medication.

How we perceive a subjective condition like pain or pleasure appears to depend in large part to the context and scene setting. Sort of like the way that little children who fall down, don’t cry until an adult or other child freaks out.

So, in some aspect, how you set your mind to perceive and understand stimulus, events, interactions, appears to go a long way to shaping those events and interactions.