colourful pills in the shape of a heart Photo by Madison Agardi on Unsplash

The placebo effect happens when someone’s medical symptoms are improved by taking an inactive substance or treatment with no known medical effect.

In medicine, placebos are used in clinical trials. But did you know that they can also affect your everyday life?

What It Works On

In medicine, placebos work better on symptoms regulated by the brain, with some conditions responding more than others.

Flaticon Icon Conditions that respond better:

  • pain management

  • stress-related insomnia

  • cancer treatment side effects like fatigue and nausea

  • high blood pressure

  • immune disorders

Flaticon Icon Conditions that don't respond or don't respond as well:

  • cholesterol levels

  • cancer

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

  • Alzheimer’s disease 


What is a placebo likely to help with?

Placebos Outside Of Medicine

Girl meditating on a rock looking over a valley of red rock formations

The placebo effect doesn't just influence medical symptoms. It could also affect some important life skills:

Increased well-beingwhen practicing self-help rituals like healthy living, eating right, exercising, yoga, social time, and meditating.

Speed, Strength, and Endurance when clocks were secretly tampered with to make them run slow, cyclists training to exhaustion were able to persist significantly longer.

Creativityhotel employees that received more positive feedback from their bosses demonstrated more creativity in solving day-to-day problems.

Quicker Learning mental function improved after receiving a fake electrical current.

The Power Of Ritual

Vet describing that he 'actually is a doctor'

Environmental and ritual factors can enhance the placebo effect. Examples include:

  • How the pills look — colored work better than plain white!

  • Injections and more-expensive-looking products

  • The doctor’s bedside manner

  • Going to a clinic at certain times

  • Being examined by professionals wearing white coats

The Nocebo Effect

If you can think yourself well, can you also think yourself ill? The Nocebo effect shows that you can.

The nocebo effect can produce psychosomatic symptoms that mimic the effects of every condition known to medicine and include:

  • tremors

  • paralysis

  • seizures

  • blindness

It's estimated that one in six hospital appointments in neurology are for people with psychosomatic symptoms. Doctors need to be very careful to determine if there's another explanation before determining that psychosomatic symptoms are the cause of your illness.


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