Nocebo Effect: Science Proves Your Negative Beliefs Harm Your Health

Lissa Rankin MD | Wake Up World

Brain thinking-compressed

The medical establishment has been proving that the mind can heal the body for over 50 years. We call it “the placebo effect,” and we know that when patients in clinical trials get nothing but sugar pills, saline injections, or fake surgeries, but believe they might be getting the new wonder drug or miracle surgery, their bodies get better 18-80% of the time.

While many are aware of the seemingly mysterious placebo effect, fewer people know about its evil twin, “the nocebo effect.” When I was researching my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, I became convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that a combination of positive belief and the nurturing care of the right healer can activate the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and help the body heal itself.


But was the opposite also true? Do negative beliefs about our health or harsh care from insensitive doctors harm the body? Turns out they can.

Harmful Beliefs Poison Your Body

As reported in an article in The Lancet, researchers in San Diego examined the death records of almost 30,000 Chinese-Americans and compared them to over 400,000 randomly selected white people. What they found was that Chinese-Americans, but not whites, die significantly earlier than normal (by as much as 5 years) if they have a combination of disease and birth year which Chinese astrology and Chinese medicine consider ill-fated.

The researchers found that the more strongly the Chinese-Americans attached to traditional Chinese superstitions, the earlier they died. When they examined the data, they concluded that the reduction in life expectancy could not be explained by genetic factors, the lifestyle choices or behavior of the patients, the skill of the doctors, or any other variable.

Why Did The Chinese-Americans Die Younger?

The researchers concluded that they died younger not because they have Chinese genes, but because they have Chinese beliefs. They believe they will die younger because the stars have hexed them. And their negative beliefs manifested as a shorter life span.


It’s not just Chinese Americans whose fears about their health can result in negative health outcomes. One study showed that 79% of medical students report developing symptoms suggestive of the illnesses they are studying. Because they get paranoid and think they’ll get sick, their bodies comply by getting sick.

I know this from personal experience. I was a first-year medical student, studying the numerous ways the body can run amuck, burning the midnight oil memorizing the litany of pathological processes that can lead to thousands of different illnesses – everything from porphyria to Dengue fever to osteogenesis imperfecta to narcolepsy.

Then suddenly, my heart rate was 230 on my ICU rounds, and suddenly, what I had feared when I was reading my chapter about cardiac arrhythmias was actually happening to me. My attending physician hooked me up to an EKG, my fellow medical students diagnosed me with “supraventricular tachycardia,” and for years, I was plagued with heart palpitations.

And it wasn’t just me. The student health clinic didn’t seem the least bit surprised to see me and my fellow students, traipsing through just before finals with bizarre complaints and a slew of strange symptoms we had self-diagnosed. Not only had the doctors and nurses staffing these clinics heard similar complaints from years of experience caring for medical students. They also informed me that the syndrome had actually been given a name: “medstudentitis,” or more formally “medical student disease.”

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  1. Stephieubanks@gmail.com' Stephi says:

    Excellent !!!

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