The Nocebo Effect

When Words Make You Sick

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Pub Date 19 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 12 Dec 2023

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Description

An investigation of the nocebo effect—the placebo effect's evil twin.

 “The nocebo effect” is a phenomenon best summarized as the occurrence of a harmful event that stems from consciously or subconsciously anticipating it. The most recent and massive demonstration of the nocebo effect was found with the claims of COVID vaccine side effects, where a significant portion of these side effects were not actually caused by the vaccine. Instead, they were the result of our negative expectations, the so-called nocebo effect.

There are myriad other examples throughout history, and recent studies have documented the critical role of the nocebo effect in treatment side effects--such as with statins for high cholesterol, the higher incidence of complaints after negative media reports of certain medicines, and the mysterious illnesses associated with the Havana Syndrome, during which dozens of US government employees fell ill after reportedly being exposed to an unidentified sound wave. 

We are just discovering the power behind this effect, as explored in the groundbreaking work of a dozen top level researchers. Most importantly, researchers have investigated strategies that can be adopted by both clinicians and patients to reduce the nocebo effect.

In turns enlightening and informative, The Nocebo Effect is the first book to investigate this fascinating phenomenon, and offers a wide variety of topics and angles, by the foremost researchers in this emerging field. 

12.7 billion doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered around the world, with nearly 613 million doses in the United States alone. Unfortunately, the vaccine has not been universally accepted, often as a result of the side-effects of the vaccine that were widely discussed in news outlets and amplified by social media, relaying anecdotes of people feeling sick after getting jabbed. But lost in this discussion of side effects, and ignored by the CDC, vaccine experts and the media, is the inconvenient fact that a significant portion of these side effects were not actually caused by the vaccine. Instead, they were the result of our negative expectations, the so-called nocebo effect.

“The nocebo effect” stems from the Latin word nocere, which translates roughly as “to harm” and can be best summarized as the occurrence of a harmful event that stems from consciously or subconsciously anticipating or expecting it. We are just discovering the power behind this phenomenon, as explored in the groundbreaking research of a dozen top level researchers. 

While there has never before been such a massive demonstration of the nocebo effect as with the COVID vaccine, there are myriad other examples throughout history, and recent studies have documented the critical role of the nocebo effect in treatment side effects--such as with statins for high cholesterol--and the psychological and social processes that produce these effects, such as the higher incidence of complaints after negative media reports of certain medicines, all the way to the illnesses associated with the Havana Syndrome, during which dozens of US government employees fell ill after reportedly being exposed to an unidentified sound wave, and the  recent media coverage of bed bug infestations in Paris. Most importantly, researchers have investigated strategies that can be adopted by both clinicians and patients to reduce the nocebo effect.
In turns enlightening and informative, The Nocebo Effect is the first book to investigate this fascinating phenomenon, and offers a wide variety of topics and angles, by the foremost researchers in this emerging field. 
 

An investigation of the nocebo effect—the placebo effect's evil twin.

“The nocebo effect” is a phenomenon best summarized as the occurrence of a harmful event that stems from consciously or...


Advance Praise

"In this pioneering book, leading researchers show how words help shape our conscious experience of the world, which in turn directly affects our bodies and our health. The more we know, the more we can say ‘no’ to nocebos.” – John Bargh, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University, and author of Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

“An excellent and well-written discussion of ‘the pla­cebo effect’s evil twin’ by leading researchers in the field. Reading this book has the potential of decreasing the reader’s experience of nocebo effects, and for that reason, I highly recommend that it be read by everyone.”—Irving Kirsch, Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at the Harvard Medical School and author of The Emperor’s New Drugs

“An outstanding compilation of the latest research by eminent researchers in the field. Written in an understandable way, The Nocebo Effect is a helpful manual for readers to stop “nocebo-ing” themselves.”—Jeremy Howick, Director of the Stoneygate Centre for Empathic Healthcare at the University of Leicester, Director of the Oxford Empathy Program, and author of The Powerful Placebo

“A fascinating multidisciplinary volume that offers a comprehensive understanding of an underappreciated force in medicine and psychology, and provides illuminating insights into improving care.”—Rob Henderson, founding faculty fellow at UATX and author of Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class

"The nocebo effect has been so far understudied and underestimated compared to the placebo effect. This volume fills that gap by providing an exciting, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary account of a phenomenon that certainly needs more attention."—Fabrizio Benedetti, M.D., Professor of Neurophysiology, University of Turin Medical School, Turin, Italy

“This book is needed, comprehensive, evidence-based and, most importantly, opens as many discussions as it provides answers. A must-have and must-read for anyone in clinical practice and research.”—Prof. Dr. Jens Gaab, University of Basel, Switzerland

"In this pioneering book, leading researchers show how words help shape our conscious experience of the world, which in turn directly affects our bodies and our health. The more we know, the more we...


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9798887700243
PRICE $26.99 (USD)
PAGES 256

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Featured Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Mayo Clinic Press for this eARC.

I was really looking forward to this read, thinking it would be interesting. And while there were some interesting points, for the most part it was disappointing. Each chapter was written by a different person and there was a lot of variation in writing style which made some chapters more engaging than others, but made the book as a whole feel disjointed. There was also a lot of repetition, perhaps also due to the chapters being written by different people. Overall, the book was well researched but for me lacked the specific scientific (in particular physiological and biochemical) information I was expecting (and wanting). Furthermore, a lot of the conclusions were opinions and essentially common sense.

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