Nocebo: There is a negative placebo effect

Everyone is probably familiar with the nocebo effect: Anyone who reads the package insert of a medication often feels exactly these symptoms shortly afterwards. A conversation about the side effects of the corona vaccination apparently triggers exactly these symptoms. What is the nocebo effect?

The paradox of the so-called nocebo effect is that if someone expects to get sick, they can actually get sick as a result.

How do placebo and nocebo differ?

The   positive effect of a dummy treatment is called the placebo effect . The nocebo effect, on the other hand, is a negative effect that appears to be caused by a drug. As a prerequisite, those affected must be aware of the possible negative and harmful effects of the treatment they are undergoing.

Nocebo research is a relatively new field. In controlled, clinical studies, patients who received a placebo regularly discontinue participation because of side effects that are typical of the drug under investigation. They knew about its side effects beforehand and they developed them even though they didn’t get the drug.

Which favors the nocebo effect

It is often difficult to tell what is nocebo and what is a real side effect. The following three factors are held responsible for triggering the nocebo effect:

  • Personality:  The main emotion of people susceptible to the nocebo effect is  fear  as a result of bad experiences. Even very sensitive people are susceptible to the nocebo effect.
  • Hearsay:  Fear and insecurity are reinforced by negative reports in the personal environment or half-knowledge in public and social media.
  • Medical behavior:  How patients are informed and how treatments are carried out can increase or decrease the nocebo effect.

Nocebo effect and the corona vaccination

The nocebo effect is also evident in connection with a corona vaccination. Because many people report side effects after the first or second vaccination – those who still have the vaccination ahead of them often fear that they will also develop these side effects.

And it is precisely these negative expectations that have a tremendous impact on the nocebo effect. In concrete terms, this can mean: The more you deal with the side effects of the corona vaccination, the greater the likelihood that side effects will be noticeable.

Nevertheless, the nocebo effect does not have to be negative: if side effects such as  increased temperaturebody aches  and fatigue become noticeable after a corona vaccination, the  immune system  is probably working very strongly. That in turn is a positive and desired event.


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