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Can You Think Yourself To Death?

In 1973 Sam Shoeman was diagnosed with cancer and given just months to live. After his death, however, his autopsy showed that the tumour was tiny and had not spread.
His intern Clifton Meador didn't believe he'd died of cancer but from believing he was dying of cancer.
  • If everyone treats you as if you are dying, you buy into it. Everything in your whole being becomes about dying
    Dr. Clifton Meader
This could well be an example of the nocebo effect. The opposite of it's better known cousin the placebo effect. While a sugar pill can make you feel better, any warnings of fictional side-effects could make you feel those too!
This is a well known issue in drug trials and a study in the 1980s out was noticed that heart patients were far more likely to suffer from any side effects of their blood thinning medication if they had been warned of the medication’s side effects in the first place.

"The nocebo effect shows the brain’s power," says Dr. Dimos Mitsikostas, of Athens Naval Hospital in Greece. "And we cannot fully explain it."

Although many of the nocebo's side effects are subjective, like nausea or pain, responses do also show up as rashes and skin complaints, and they are sometimes detectable on physiological tests too.

"It’s unbelievable" says Mitsikostas "They are taking sugar pills and when you measure liver enzymes, they are elevated."

It seems the mind doesn't just have the ability to have great healing power, it also can do great harm!

Velma Lyrae
Velma Lyrae has to spend 15 hours per day trapped in a Faraday cage because she claims she is intolerant to modern technology, such as WiFi and mobile phones.
Without the protection of the cage she experiences wracking headaches, nerve pain, memory loss, tinnitus, dizziness and joint pain.

Yet systematic reviews into what's going on with people claiming to suffer from this "electrosensitivity" struggle to find any difference when someone simply "believes" that the electromagnetic radiation is there.

And this allergy to technology isn't new. In the late 19th Century, early telephone users reported dizziness and agonising pain after using their new fangled phones.

Scandinavian workers in the 1980s developed peculiar rashes, seemingly from their computer monitors!

So, what can we do about it?

Well, knowledge is power. Studies have shown that simply acknowledging that the mind has this ability to affect us this way can make it easier to deal with the side effects.
Instead of giving in to the nocebo effect we can create our own placebo effect with a positive mental attitude and confident body language!

So instead of worrying ourselves sick, we maybe need to start smiling ourselves healthy.

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