Worrying Yourself Sick? Science Has a Cure
Doctors pinpoint the so-called 'nocebo' effect
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2011 5:00 PM CST
Scientists have uncovered the neurological roots of the so-called "nocebo effect"—the way our beliefs affect our physical health.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Worried that it's unhealthy to be glued to the Internet, surfing through stories? That anxiety alone could cause health problems—and doctors are now uncovering the neurological roots of this so-called "nocebo" effect, according to an award-winning essay by Penny Sarchet in the Guardian. The opposite of the "placebo" effect, the "nocebo" effect occurs when people believe that an illness or side-effect is real. Turns out it's all in the mind, and scientists can pinpoint it.

Recent studies have shown that "nocebo" pain shows up in MRI scans, and can be stopped by blocking the neurochemicals responsible for transmitting the expectation of pain into real pain. Now, a few interesting repercussions: Should doctors protect themselves from malpractice by listing possible side-effects, even though that may cause them? And should we trust or only half-trust our own doctors? "As scientists begin to determine how the nocebo effect works, we would do well to use their findings to manage that most 21st-century of all diseases—anxiety," Sarchet writes. (On the lighter side, check out a few weird ailments from the Hypochondriac's Handbook.)

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Showing 3 of 9 comments
Nov 14, 2011 1:00 PM CST
lemmie guess? they'll have a pill for it in 2012.
Nov 14, 2011 11:59 AM CST
What the scientists have discovered is that a trauma or illness can cause ongoing reactions in the limbic system of the brain, causing stress that never subsides. It's exciting because we can use our rational minds to stop that loop, and stop chronic stress, PTSD, OCD, MCS and many other disorders because of the neuroplasticity of the brain. Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries www.thechakras.org
Nov 13, 2011 10:16 PM CST
Just reading this has given me: tightness in the chest; swelling of the face, bizarre behavior; black or bloody stools, decreased bladder control, exaggerated reflexes; hallucinations, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being and persistent, painful erection. Can someone suggest a pill for this?