What is the nocebo effect?

If you want to translate the name, then this means Latin for “I damage”. The principle involves the opposite of the  placebo effect . This means that the patient does not expect the positive, but – on the contrary – he fears the worst. He is quite convinced that the  active ingredient  in a drug could harm him. A typical example of a nocebo effect is e.g. B. a  fear triggered by the information in the package insert.

What does the person concerned do?

If the nocebo effect is strong, the patient is often no longer willing to take the prescribed medication as prescribed by the doctor. In the worst case, compliance suffers so much that the person concerned does not even take the drug. In certain cases, this can have serious consequences. For example, if  you have high blood pressure  or heart disease. Failure to take it can even be fatal. Another way patients act is to rush into frantic activity and pull whatever information they can find. The effort is in no relation to the cause.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

In the case of anxious or very sensitive patients, the nocebo effect goes so far that they actually experience symptoms. For example, if patients are informed that a certain drug causes gastrointestinal problems, some of them actually develop these symptoms.

What role does the effect play?

In the everyday life of doctors and clinics, the nocebo effect – in contrast to the placebo effect – does not play a major role. This is not surprising, since it costs less energy and is healthier to generate positive expectations than to reduce fears of becoming ill from external influences.


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