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The nocebo effect

Gardiner Morse

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Abstract

Scattered studies suggest that negative thinking can harm patients’ health.

Article Extract

The medical literature is replete with clinical research documenting the placebo effect. In fact, the concept is so well established in Western medical thinking that few physicians would challenge it; of course a patient’s positive expectations about an intervention can positively affect outcome.

But what about a patient’s negative expectations? Can negative thoughts harm health? There’s a small but suggestive body of literature to support the idea, and a little-known term to describe it: the ‘nocebo effect’.

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