Questioning the Logic of the “Nocebo effect”

If you aren’t familiar with the term, while a placebo is an inert source (such as a pill) that causes a positive health outcome, the term “nocebo” is often used to describe an “inert” source that produces a negative health outcome. In other words, it’s all in your head.

The nocebo effect is sometimes used to explain the functioning of environmental sensitivities such as food sensitivities (notably to gluten), multiple chemical sensitivity, and electromagnetic hypersensitivity. If you believe it’s going to make you sick, it’s going to make you sick… and it’s actually your belief that’s causing the harm.

I question the good faith and logic of many who use this term to dismiss, for instance, someone’s negative reaction to Wi-Fi. If the mind is so powerful to create repeated, unwanted sensations in the body, why isn’t it just as powerful to heal?

I happen to believe in the power of the mind to both heal and to harm. Mental and psychological stress is a prime example of the latter – it weakens our immune system. However, just because the mind has the power to change our health for better or worse, does not exclude other agents from affecting our health as well. Just because sources are not widely understood – or their impacts widely accepted – does not mean that they are inert.

So the next time someone tells you it’s all in your mind, maybe ask them if they would trust in solely the power of their own mind to heal themselves from cancer? Our mind is inside of our body after all. Our bodies can tell us when we encounter harmful elements when we are tuned in enough to pay attention.