Placebo effect. The fascinating reaction the mind has when it believes a stimulus is affecting behaviors, moods or physical well-being when in reality the stimulus is non-existent. For example, you could give someone a non-alcoholic beverage and tell them it’s loaded with alcohol. Some people, if they fully believe the drink is in fact alcoholic, will act tipsy after drinking it.
Just for kicks and intrigue, one of my favorite instances of the placebo effect is a rare condition called pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy. It can occur when a woman believes she is pregnant when she’s actually not, and then displays all the signs of pregnancy (baby bump, hormonal changes, mood swings, weight gain, etc.). Apparently, this can even affect men who think they’re pregnant or who are sympathizing with a pregnant woman.
Our minds are incredibly powerful and capable of way more than we think. (Ironic, right? Come on, brain, believe in yourself!)
So today I had my very first MRI, and it wasn’t even for anything cool. Just minor knee issues. Anyways, as I was changing into the attractive hospital-provided wardrobe before the procedure, I felt demoralized and sad. My mood shifted from feeling perfectly content with life to dreary and depressed, and it was all from putting on oversized hospital pajamas.
When the MRI was buzzing, whirring and emitting radioactive waves all around me, I couldn’t help but wonder if hospital settings kill the mind’s ability to overcome sickness. I’m sure it varies from person to person, but there are so many elements that go with being in a hospital that make people feel incapable and sicker than they actually are. No wonder some people end up stuck in a hospital bed for weeks on end. Their minds aren’t in the mood to recover because they think they can’t. There’ve even been patients who were capable of getting better but convinced themselves that they were gong to die. So they ended up dying. Some call that phenomenon the
There’ve even been cases when patients who could have recovered convinced themselves that they were going to die. So they ended up dying. Some call this phenomenon the nocebo effect.
I completely understand the need for standardization in hospitals. Regulated procedures maintain order and sanitation efforts. And I did appreciate the effort this particular hospital put into the aesthetic upgrades and improvements.
But there’s still pre-learned cues in minds that trigger a specific emotional or physical response when we’re in standardized settings like a hospital. Our minds have learned from TV shows, movies, and other media how we’re supposed to act and what we should feel like in that setting. So for people like me who’ve never been a patient at a hospital, my mind concocted a logical emotional response based on what I’ve read, watched and heard from other sources.
Keeping the placebo (and nocebo) effect and pre-learned cues in mind can be helpful when you find yourself in a new yet familiar situation. Your mind truly is powerful, but you need to understand how to harvest its strength. Practice makes perfect, even for seemingly simple, everyday processes like thinking.
You’re stronger than you think, so start thinking you’re strong.