Belief…the Placebo Effect

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I’m the Evidence….for how Belief Inspires

The ITE poem opens with Belief. For so many people, recovery from mental illness begins with—and is strongly supported by —the belief that things will get better. Or, that despite ongoing symptoms, one’s life can have meaning and purpose. However, when you’re dealing with overwhelming symptoms, believing in yourself isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Here’s where our ability to inspire comes in. We can help people build belief in themselves and see hope and possibilities for their futures. We can, in a way that’s life altering, help others see that they can manage and change distressing symptoms and life circumstances. Whether from a physician, a mental health professional, family member, or peer, the message that recovery is possible is powerful. And research supports this!

Research on the placebo effect has been going on since the 1970s. The placebo affect is defined as “a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.”

2013 article in Harvard Magazine delves into research about the “mysterious human reactions” that occur when individuals dealing with physical and mental issues are supported in changing their perceptions about the outcome of treatments and rehabilitation they receive. The article discusses how engagement with people, and perhaps even the act of caring itself, can “stimulate real psychological responses, from changes in heart rate and blood pressure, to chemical activity in the brain” for people experiencing pain, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. And, while the research has detractors who question non-conventional medical approaches, it’s clear that for many, many people, their personal perceptions of what is possible regarding their health, and the way physicians and other caregivers frame perceptions, has a significant impact on wellness and recovery.

In no way does the Harvard article suggest that we can solely “think ourselves better,” and it recognizes that there is much more research to be done. But it does clearly acknowledge the need to “transform the art of medicine into the science of care,” and the fact that each of us can, in our own way, be the Evidence and inspire belief in others.

 

 

 

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