The mind-body effect says that your mind impacts your health. The Mind-Body Effect

The Mind-Body Effect

The mind-body effect basically says that suggestions, desires, beliefs, expectations and fears influence what people experience.

This psychogenic phenomena is all about the global contributions suggestion, belief, desire, fear, and expectation have upon your natural health and wellness. In medicine, this phenomenon is usually called the placebo effect.


Highlights of The Mind-Body Effect:

    Expectation plays a key role in the mind-body effect.
  • The mind-body effect is usually called the placebo effect.
  • The mind-body effect works better on some health conditions than on others.
  • A person's long term beliefs and fears either positively or adversely affects their health and wellness.
  • The mind-body effect is a special form of optimism.
  • The mind-body effect cannot work miracles against serious diseases or injuries.
  • Expectation plays a key role in the mind-body effect.


The mind-body effect can also refer to the phenomenon where an ineffective therapy can benefit a patient merely by the suggestion or belief that the therapy is beneficial. Often this placebo effect is due to a person placing great faith in the effectiveness of their physician or other health care professional, such as a personal trainer. Or, it could merely be the result of the extra attention that was given to them during the treatment process.

The mind-body effect is believed to make more of an impact upon some health conditions than on others. It works best with psychogenic problems, like depression, anxiety, headaches, asthma, moderate hypertension, fatigue and gastrointestinal symptoms. It is also remarkably effective as a painkiller.[4] And, has some influence on the immune system.[5], [6], [7] These are the very same types of illnesses that people in the wellness movement are most concerned about.

A negative placebo effect is sometimes called a nocebo effect, in medicine. If a patient is skeptical of an intervention, the explanation offered to them for its effectiveness, or the credibility of the physician admininistering the treatment then a perfectly effective treatment might prove to be ineffective on a given patient due to a negative placebo effect. In worst case scenarios, a nocebo phenomenon originating from the unfounded fear of the detrimental effects attributed to a particular treatment might actually result in a patient feeling like they are suffering from a negative side effect.

"While the placebo effect refers to health benefits produced by a treatment that should have no effect, patients experiencing the nocebo effect experience the opposite. They presume the worst, health-wise, and that's just what they get."

"'They're convinced that something is going to go wrong, and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy,' said Arthur Barsky, a psychiatrist at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital who published an article earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association[3] beseeching his peers to pay closer attention to the nocebo effect. 'From a clinical point of view, this is by no means peripheral or irrelevant.'"

"Far more esoteric factors may also shape both the placebo and nocebo response. A Dutch study, for example, found that most people considered red and orange pills to be stimulating, with blue and green-colored pills more likely to have a depressant effect."[1]

The mind-body effect, however, is really more global than the placebo effect of medicine. It basically hypothesizes that a person's long term beliefs and fears might either positively or adversely affect their health and wellness. Suggestions, desires, beliefs, expectations and fears may have biological consequences.

The most likely physical mechanism for the mode of action of the hypothesized mind-body effect is the neuroplasticity of the brain and autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system interacts with the immunal and hormonal systems of the human body. A preference for responding more with your sympathetic nervous system than with your parasympathetic nervous system to stressful events in your life is being hypothesized by the mind-body effect to create changes in your brain and nervous system over your entire lifetime that conceivable might impact upon your health and wellness, such as a chronic disposition towards headaches.

The mind-body effect is really a special form of optimism. Dispositional optimists, or people with positive outcome expectancies who are fully engaged in living life, were found in a recent study to be about half as likely to die of cardiovascular disease during a 15 year period as men who were more pessimistic by nature.[8]

Obviously, everybody will eventually die some day. Thus, the mind-body effect cannot work miracles against serious diseases or injuries. So, there is a greater potential for the mind-body effect to be adversely affecting your health and wellness, than there is for you to be the recipient of a miraculous cure.

"Ten years ago, researchers stumbled onto a striking finding: Women who believed that they were prone to heart disease were nearly four times as likely to die as women with similar risk factors who didn't hold such fatalistic views."[1], [2]

The mind-body effect hypothesizes that it is entirely feasible that a person fearful about all the negative press on the chronic use of aspirin use could end up with psychosomatic stomach problems, as a result of their fears.

"Fifteen years ago, researchers at three medical centers undertook a study of aspirin and another blood thinner in heart patients and came up with an unexpected result that said little about the heart and much about the brain. ... When researchers reviewed the data, they found a striking result: Those warned about the gastrointestinal problems were almost three times as likely to have the side effect. Though the evidence of actual stomach damage such as ulcers was the same for all three groups, those with the most information about the prospect of minor problems were the most likely to experience the pain."[1]

Similarly, on a positive note, some people might be receiving a wellness benefit from cardiovascular training merely due to the mind-body effect generated by their expectations of success from favorable reporting in the news media.

Expectation plays a key role in the mind-body effect. Expect to be sick all the time, and you just might end up being that way. Expect to be normally healthy all the time, and you just might succeed.

Return to Attitude and Your Mind

The Mind-Body Effect Comments:


  1. The Washington Post Company, By Brian Reid, The Nocebo Effect: Placebo's Evil Twin, April 30, 2002.
  2. Voelker R. Nocebos contribute to host of ills. JAMA. 1996 Feb 7;275(5):345, 347. No abstract available. PMID: 8568997
  3. Barsky AJ, Saintfort R, Rogers MP. Nonspecific medication side effects and the nocebo phenomenon. JAMA. 2002 Feb 6;287(5):622-7. Review. PMID: 11829702. [Abstract] [Online]
  4. Staats P, Hekmat H, Staats A. Suggestion/placebo effects on pain: negative as well as positive. J Pain Symptom Manage. 1998 Apr;15(4):235-43. PMID: 9601159 [Abstract]
  5. Glaser R, Robles TF, Sheridan J. Mild depressive symptoms are associated with amplified and prolonged inflammatory responses after influenza virus vaccination in older adults. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003 Oct;60(10):1009-14. PMID: 14557146.
  6. Savard J, Laroche L, Simard S. Chronic insomnia and immune functioning. Psychosom Med. 2003 Mar-Apr;65(2):211-21. PMID: 12651988.
  7. Rosenkranz MA, Jackson DC, Dalton KM. Affective style and in vivo immune response: Neurobehavioral mechanisms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 5 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 12960387.
  8. Giltay EJ, Kamphuis MH, Kalmijn S. Dispositional optimism and the risk of cardiovascular death: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Feb 27;166(4):431-6. PMID: 16505263 [Abstract]

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