What is the Nocebo Effect and How Can It Affect You?

We have all heard of the Placebo effect (the result of a positive thought), but not everyone heard of the Nocebo. So, what is the Nocebo effect?

The Placebo Effect

First, let’s see what placebo is. A placebo is a fake treatment that can produce a very real response. A sick patient takes the medicine and gets well, but later finds out it’s a sugar pill instead of the medicine. The patient believes that the treatment is real and more the patient believes the treatment will work, the more likely he is to display a placebo response.

The study shows that 81% of depressed people that are given a placebo, will get better from the placebo.

More than 50% of the people with pain, after getting saline injection do not have any pain.

So, it’s not the inert substance that’s doing the healing. According to dr. Joe Dispenza, the sugar pill represents the potential in the quantum field. Person thinks about the possibility of getting better and combines it with an emotion of gratitude or joy. The combination of the clear intention and the elevated emotion is the exact combination that causes the person to move towards desired results.

Although the majority of people ridicule at the notion of positive thoughts, one-third of all medical healing are attributed to the placebo effect.

What is the Nocebo Effect?

According to Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., the function of the mind is to create coherence between our beliefs and the reality we experience. That means that our mind will adjust the body’s biology and behavior to fit with our beliefs.

For example, if a patient has been told he will die in six months and his mind believes it, he most likely will die in six months. That is called the nocebo effect, the result of a negative thought, which is the opposite of the placebo effect, where healing is caused by a positive thought.

pillsThe nocebo effect is the consequence of a negative thought. Instead of experiencing a positive effect from an inert substance, a patient is actually experiencing unwanted side effects because he believes he is going to get the side effects of something that is a drug but actually is an inert substance.

For some people, the mere suggestion of side effects is enough to bring on negative symptoms.

More than 40% of people, that are on their way to their 1. chemotherapy treatment gets nausea when they drive over to their treatment because a doctor told them they will get nausea afterward.

There was another study with cancer patients. They split the group in half and gave chemotherapy to half of the group and a placebo chemo to the other half. Results show that 30% of the placebo group still lost their hair.

Similarly, women who believed they were prone to heart disease were four times more likely to die just because they believed so.

A negative thought is equally powerful as a positive thought in affecting our health but in the opposite direction. Negative thinking or expectation can cause every illness and disease.

This is very important because negative thinking and negative emotional patterns are actually hardwired into the brain.

According to psychologists, 70% of our thoughts are negative, disempowering and self-sabotaging.

Why Doesn’t Positive Thinking Work for Some People?

The programs in our subconscious mind influence the effectiveness of our conscious positive thinking. In other words, the result of a positive thought is dependent upon whether that thought is supported by our subconscious mind.

medicationIf the subconscious mind has programs to support the intention of the conscious mind, positive thoughts are likely to manifest themselves, but if the subconscious programs are in conflict with conscious mind’s positive intention, positive thoughts probably will not materialize.

It is possible to increase the probability of manifesting positive thought through the meditation and mindfulness because when we stay conscious we don’t fall under the subconscious control.

Taking into account that in today’s active world mindfulness is difficult for most people, a more efficient way to ensure positive thinking, would be to reprogram the subconscious mind to cooperate with a conscious mind.

Diagnosis vs Prognosis

There is a difference between diagnosis (to identify a disease) and a prognosis (the prospect of recovery). Although doctors may often be correct about diagnosis, their prognosis and percentages, which are based on outcomes they saw in the past might be incorrect.

Prognosis is a suggestion but it can become manifestation. We are conditioned to believe doctors. If doctors tell you that you have an incurable illness, or that you have a 5% possibility for survival, they implant in your mind a belief that you won’t get well and that you can’t do anything about it. As long as you believe those prognoses, you will never recover, because you won’t be motivated to take any action towards your healing.

Have you ever wondered why is that that people develop a disease for many years and then when they are finally diagnosed, which also means that they supposed to get a chance to recover from a disease, they often die in few months? It’s because they believed in a bad prognosis.

Your subconscious mind believes or does not believe. Your perceptions and beliefs shape your reality. Negative prognosis can take away your power if you allow it but you have an opportunity to believe in a different truth.

In 1993, the Institute of Noetic Sciences published Spontaneous Remission: An Annotated Bibliography, which assembled the largest database of medically reported cases of spontaneous remission in the world, with more than 3,500 references from more than 800 journals. You can find it in the Digital Media Library of the Institute of Noetic Science.

Not paying attention to prognosis is not equal to denying the reality of what you are facing. It is reducing the mind’s destructive reaction to it.mind

What we focus on grows and what we choose not to feed eventually leaves us. So, the suggestion would be to feed the mind with positive thoughts of a healthy outcome.

According to dr. Bruce Lipton, health is controlled not so much by genes, but by the mind. Therefore, controlling thoughts and changing limiting beliefs is required for someone to experience the healing.

DNA and Emotion

Seventy percent of the culture lives in stress the majority of their time. It’s a scientific fact that the hormones of stress push the genetic buttons that create disease.

So, if you turn on the stress response just by thought alone and the hormones of stress can make you sick, then your thoughts can make you sick. So, if it’s possible that your thought can make you sick, it is also possible that your thoughts can make you well.

Dr. Bruce Lipton’s research illustrates that the perception in your mind is reflected in the chemistry of your body. By changing your perception, your mind can alter the activity of your genes.

DNA is influenced by the emotion. In the presence of negative emotions such as anger or hate, DNA is tightened and is not expressed in their full capacity. Positive emotions such as compassion and gratitude relax DNA and allow their fullest expression. When we tap into the fullest potential, we have an ability to literally change DNA.

In observation published in Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1994, Glen Rein Ph. D and Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. cite, “Individuals trained in feelings of deep love and appreciation…were able to intentionally change the shape of the DNA”. “…human emotion produces effects which defy conventional laws of physics.”

Relaxation vs Stress Response

Our body is equipped with natural self-repair mechanism. But that mechanism only operates when the body is in the relaxation response. Any time our body is in a stress response, those mechanisms are disabled.

Before coming to a doctor, a person is usually scared and his amygdala is firing.

Mind over medicine book(Dictionary: amygdala is a roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions)

When we have a positive belief that we are getting a drug and when it is delivered to us by a doctor, whom we are conditioned to believe, the amygdala is calmed down and all of a sudden body starts to heal itself.

In her book Mind Over Medicine – Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, a New York Times bestseller, Dr. Lissa Rankin describes how the body can heal itself. According to her, you first have to believe that it is possible for you to heal yourself. Also, the healing will be more effective with the support of someone else who believes that you can heal yourself, be it a doctor or people you are surrounded with.

If the Mind Can Create the Healing Effect, Why Do We Need to Take the Medicine Then?

You Are the Placebo bookAccording to Dr. Joe Dispenza, people can overcome disease by changing their state of being, without relying on pharmaceutical drugs, the sugar pill or saline injection. In order to change your state of being you have to select potential in the quantum field, focus on that potential, have a thought, that is a clear intention and connect that clear intention with the emotion of how you are going to feel if you are already healed. When you think and feel the certain way, you move to the state of being.

If you would like to learn how to heal the body without pharmaceutical drugs, I would highly recommend Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, which combines the latest research in neuroscience, biology, psychology and quantum physics to demystify the placebo effect. This book may be the only prescription you will ever need.

The Body Experiences What the Mind Believes

It is a big difference between thinking that you are a hopeless victim of an illness and recognizing that your body can heal itself with the right support. You are the gatekeeper of your mind and it is your responsibility to optimize your body self-healing mechanisms and listen to your intuition of what your body needs to be healed.

If you have any questions about the nocebo effect or would like to share your experience, please leave a comment below…

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Thank you!


  1. Very interesting. I have eliminated all my prescription drugs and I’m doing fine. However, I still have one symptom that I’d like to see disappear. My whole body hair loss. Alopecia universalis. Somehow the positive thinking has not cured this one yet. I’m still optimistic.

    1. Hi Melinda,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sorry to hear about your alopecia. Although I had just a partial alopecia, I can relate to what you are going through.
      A few years ago, I went through a very stressful period in my life and as a result, a great part of my hair fell out from the top of my head. Doctors couldn’t find the cause. They diagnosed me with alopecia androgenetica and prescribed minoxidil and steroids to treat my scalp, with the notion that I would need to use that treatment until the end of my life.
      As time was passing by, it wasn’t any better, it was even worse, and I could hardly cover that part of my scalp with the rest of my hair. I was terrified and more I looked at it, more stressful I became. Finally, doctors suggested steroid injections into my scalp and that was a milestone in my treatment. At that moment I became aware that they didn’t know what they were doing and that they didn’t really care about me, so I firmly decided that I would take care of myself. I threw steroids away and started looking for answers. It is interesting how answers start coming when you start asking.
      First, I came across the article on how toxic dental materials from the root canals of our teeth could spark autoimmune diseases. Then I read everything I could find by Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. George Meinig on that topic. Since the majority of dentists don’t know or don’t believe that, I found a holistic dentist and had my devitalized teeth extracted. Then I went to a holistic doctor and first thing he asked me was if I had any devitalized teeth. He claimed that they would prevent healing. He then prescribed homeopathic drops and after 5 months of using them, I had my hair started growing again.
      So, what healed me? In my opinion, the most important thing was that I decided to take care of myself when I recognized that doctors won’t help me. I accepted the situation as it was and started looking for the answers. Since I believed that I could be healed, the right people and circumstances showed up. I hope this will encourage you to keep looking and believing in a positive outcome.

  2. Your Post blew my mind and my subconscious, as well. I never even heard of nocebo effect. I mean of course I heard of placebo effect. I experienced this when i was a kid. I had a bed wetting problem. And my mother took me to the doctor and a placebo was giving to me, just a simple sugar pill. I did not know it, and my brain thought it was a magic pill. In a week, I stopped being a bed wetter(i know embarrassing).
    But now reading this I know it was positive thinking that was my cure. Thank you for such an interesting Read.

    1. Hi Sean,

      Thank you for visiting my site and sharing your experience. It’s an interesting story and excellent example of how placebo works. Cheers!

  3. Hi Blanka,

    This was a really interesting article to me.

    It hit on the strong connection between our mental activity and what happens to us, physically. This is a connection that many people ignore, so it’s hard to overstate. But we often unconsciously end up creating the circumstances in our lives that match what we unconsciously believe. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to bring our beliefs and assumptions to light.

    Working with addicts in recovery, false beliefs are a big deal and a primary underlying cause of addiction. Nobody chose the beliefs that brought them to addiction, and almost nobody is directly aware those beliefs even exist. But sure enough, as you get to know them and ask questions and hear their stories, those false beliefs crop up, and it’s key to recovery for people to recognize the false beliefs they have, let them go, and replace them with healthier ones.

    Thanks for drawing attention to this very important subject!

    1. Hi Phil,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree we create circumstances in our lives according to our subconscious beliefs, but we are rarely aware of that. It seems everything starts and ends with beliefs, so it’s very important to recognize limiting ones and replace them with empowering ones. All the best!

  4. I definitely know for a fact the placebo and nocebo are real, though it still amazes me how many people are in denial over the research! Our minds are more powerful than we give it credit for. Understanding how to gain control over it is an art. I am in love with this article; it has so much potential to help a lot of people who need to read this! Keep em coming,


  5. Very interesting! I’ve never heard of the nocebo effect, but I can see why it’s so powerful. I know when I’m really, really worried, my thoughts are completely taken over by that worry. And I get a physical response to that worry. I think it’s actually more powerful than the positive, placebo effect. Which means we need to keep a closer eye on it!

    1. Yes, it’s very important to feed our minds with positive thoughts in order to get a positive outcome. Worrying is equal to praying for something you don’t want and that’s why your body responds that way. So, don’t worry, be happy! 🙂

  6. I had not heard of the term Nocebo Effect. I am more of an upbeat and positive person. I generally do not like to dwell on negativity, or let it take over my life. We only have one life to live, we have to live it to the fullest and enjoy! So I can’t see dwelling on the past, or things that might happen, etc. This is great information!

  7. This was a really interesting post, thanks so much for putting this information here! So many people over-medicate in the belief that they need it when perhaps they need a smaller dosage and other cognizant tools to address their situation. The mind is such a powerful tool and it’s amazing how much of it we don’t use. I like to think of it as a muscle of the body that needs exercise to be a strong as I can make it and use it for my best possible life experience!

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