My interest and work is centred round the Mind Body connection, where I see great results in my clients when I help them develop the right mindset and emotional & mental wellbeing, as well as giving them the right advice, support and physical help. Hence loved this programme showing what the midn is capable of.
The Placebo Effect can actually change the chemicals that are produced in our bodies by tapping into our internal, natural, pharmacy (chemical systems) in our brain. In some cases it uses the opium pathways in the brain acting like natural, “homemade” morphine, helping us control our pain. This highlights the Power of the Mind!
For example one study replaced dopamine drugs in a Parkinsons patient with sugar pills, who was told by a doctor that these pills contained an active drug that would be very effective for their Parkinsons. Baring in mind that the patient who normally could not walk, without his normal drugs that provided dopamine, was up and walking around whilst taking the sugar (placebo) pills, just like he was with his dopamine drugs.
What was amazing was that they found his brain produced & released dopamine to a similar level as found in the dopamine drug! Basically due to the patient’s belief that it would work, the brain compensated for the lack of dopamine and made its own instead. How amazing is that?
Electric Shock Study
Another study used electric shocks on a person’s arm, but they used an anaesthetic cream on one point, a moisturising cream on another (control) and the same moisturising cream on another site but this time the subject was told this one was also a powerful anaesthetic.
The subject had to rate the pain for each point. The person found the Lidocaine anaesthetic cream helped reduce the pain, as expected, and the control cream hurt more but what was bizarre was that the patient perceived the pain of the pretend anaethetic cream to be the same as the Lidocaine cream! Just through their belief that it would help.
Need for Belief
So what we have seen is that the Placebo effect requires belief in the intervention for it to work successfully. Our expectations determine what happens in our bodies and controls what chemicals are produced in our brain. This emphasises the care we need to take with what and how we think. If we think stressful thoughts and beliefs our minds will release those chemicals related to those emotions, not only giving a psychological effect but also a physiological effect on our bodies too.
What’s interesting is that the placebo effect works better when someone is perceived to be an expert, especially if they look medical by dressing in a white coat. Additionally the type of medication effects the Placebo effectiveness. Capsules work better than tablets, and in the UK capsules work better than peccaries, whereas in France peccaries are more accepted than capsules so peccaries work better there. Furthermore, Big capsules tend to work better than small and the more expensive something is, the better the intervention works compared to the value option. For example Nurofen is perceived to work better than basic Ibuprofen, which is the same drug just with different, more expensive packaging! Colour also influences the placebo effect. With red pills working best for pain and blue best for anxiety.
So what we perceive can affect us hugely, firstly by changing our internal representation, which in turn effects our emotional state and subsequently our behaviour.
If we consider that ‘Perception is Projection’ that means what we perceive is what we project, then it’s important to ensure that what we project is what we want to perceive!! Making sense? So, for example, if you are an optimistic person, you are also likely to be projecting and perceiving the best of a situation, which will change your emotional state for the better and produce the associated good chemicals accordingly, having a better effect on your overall behaviour and health of your body and mind. Sound more preferable than the alternative?
Interestingly a study found that the placebo effect was able to alleviate a range of issues and problems including insomnia, nausea, pain & ADHD plus many more. However, a Harvard study showed although subjects had relief from placebo pills for 3 weeks but once pills were stopped symptoms returned.
Unfortunately the placebo effect generally relies on deception as we need to believe the intervention is really going to work. So the big question is how do we harness this effect ethically?
What’s interesting is that there is a strong overlap between hypnosis and placebo effect with the hypnotherapist being able to help guide the clients mind to tap into the latent power of their mind and the resultant mind body connection; a very powerful process, providing great results.
In fact many dentists are now using hypnotherapy to extract teeth effectively... even wisdom teeth, as a replacement for anaesthetic.
Relationship between doctor & patient is vital for health and recovery of patient tapping into the placebo effect.
Poor doctor-patient relationship can result in a “nocebo effect” i.e. the doctor actually undoes any good done by the drugs or surgery. A very worrying fact, what with stories from patients and my own personal experiences, of bad bed side manners, for instance on one occasion my surgeon stated “this procedure is unlikely to help” just before I went under for my procedure! Now, I understand their need to manage patients’ expectations, but stopping someone believing in the intervention is unhelpful , potentially derailing the effectiveness of the operation and therefore unacceptable.
One study into acupuncture found that 42% relief was found when a patient experienced no interaction from their doctor/therapist but 62% with good doctor-patient interaction. Giving a 20% Placebo effect of good contact with the patient/client!
So in summary, the Placebo effect is REAL and widely accepted by those who were sceptical 20 years earlier. Harvard continues to study and understand the placebo effect and how we can tap into it ethically in the future. But stop worrying, panic over, as hypnosis helps us tap into this fantastic power of the mind very effectively. If you would like help to enhance this effect in yourself please give me a call and I will help you to do so in whatever area of your life that you need help with.