The Nocebo Effect

We are all so busy today that we now “filter out” things that we consider distractions, intrusions to our privacy, meaningless or irrelevant.  I think this is the reason so many people do not return phone calls, emails, or even care about relationships.  Couple this with a texting generation who doesn’t call people but rather resorts to cryptic codes and short snippets and you can see the impacts in many dimensions of life today.  This propensity to disengage from the communities in which we live makes us prone to depression of course.  We increasingly dislike the world we live in and decide Star Trek’s Captain Kirk was right in asking Scotty to beam him up … there were no signs of intelligent life.

I try to resist the temptation because I find that I learn something new about myself and the world around me when I take a few minutes to consider the views of those I generally do not agree with.  I search for the nuggets of truth that hold their argument or point of view together and, hopefully, see a higher or deeper meaning to how our modern world can be made better if we could get beyond talking past each other.  So, I listen to atheists defend their beliefs about God and criminals about how they justify breaking our laws.

This may sound warped to you, but let me give you an example from an article I just read about how the wind industry dismisses claims from many about the ill effects of nearby wind turbines.

Read the Wind Watch article here. 

I paraphrase a key section here about a paper published in November 2014 in Frontiers in Public Health of what is called the “nocebo expectations hypothesis.” The nocebo effect is related to its better- known sibling, the placebo effect.  Or, if you expect to get sick, you just might.

Here’s how the paper explained the nocebo effect: “Research consistently indicates that the expectation of adverse health effects can itself produce negative health outcomes,” it said. “Negative expectations generating nocebo responses have been shown to have a powerful influence on health outcomes in clinical populations, and reported symptom experiences in community samples.”

The paper lists symptoms frequently associated with living near wind farms: sleep disturbance, headache, earache, tinnitus, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, vibrations within the body, aching joints, blurred vision, upset stomach, and short-term memory problems.

Becoming familiar with the list can have an effect. “Simply reading about symptoms of an illness can prompt self-detection of disease-specific symptoms, a phenomenon seen in medical student disease,” the paper noted. It has been noted that medical students learning about an illness start to experience symptoms of the disease.

Perhaps this explains why we can’t seem to move forward on any key issues in our country’s well-being.  Nocebo effects are everywhere and fueled by our media.

Hopefully I have not added to that in your lives.  Thanks for keeping me in your reading list.


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