How Placebos Work

It's amazing that a sugar pill can sometimes "fix" an ailment. Placebos are often prescribed, and sometimes to great therapeutic effect. Sometimes the simple act of believing you're going to get better can actually make you get better. Though the placebo throws a physician's honesty into question, many patients make lasting improvements with its aid.

Recent posts on Placebo

DHEA Improves Depressed Mood But Not Cognitive Functioning

Have you read about DHEA for depressed mood or cognitive problems? There are positive findings for depression but most studies on cognitive decline and dementia are inconclusive.
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Sham Surgery

By Steve Taylor Ph.D. on November 01, 2017 in Out of the Darkness
How can pretending to perform an operation have the same effect as actually performing one? How can healing take place without any treatment?

Omega-3s in Mental Health Care, Part 2

Are you curious about the role of omega-3 fatty acids in mental health? Omega-3s may be helpful in the early stages of schizophrenia and may be beneficial in PTSD, but not ADHD.

Omega-3s in Mental Health Care: Part 1

Curious about the evidence for omega-3s for depressed mood? Many studies report beneficial effects but more research needs to be done.

L-Theanine for Generalized Anxiety

Do you find that anti-anxiety drugs don't work or have side effects that get in the way? Consider trying l-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid that might help.

Acetyl-l-carnitine: Important for Mental Health

Are you curious about the role of acetyl-l-carnitine in mental health care? This amino acid has beneficial effects on depressed mood, cognitive impairment, and dementia.
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The Power of Placebo

By Steve Taylor Ph.D. on September 16, 2017 in Out of the Darkness
The placebo effect is more than belief - again and again, it has been shown to produce real physiological and neurological changes. Does this mean that the mind can heal the body?

‘Sonic Attack’ on the U.S. Embassy Likely Psychological

By Robert Bartholomew Ph.D. on September 05, 2017 in It's Catching
'Sonic wave attack' is more likely mass hysteria.

Loving a Broken Body

By Billi Gordon Ph.D. on August 13, 2017 in Obesely Speaking
I lost 290 pounds in six months by giving up rage, anger, humiliation, and suffering.

Patient-centered vs. Lab-centered "Personalized Medicine"

By Allen J Frances M.D. on July 24, 2017 in Saving Normal
We shouldn't neglect the bedside art of medicine as we become enamored by its laboratory science.

Stanford Researchers Identify Life-changing Power of Mindset

Mindset plays a surprisingly significant role in our health and longevity, according to a new study from Stanford University.

New Research Explains Why Some of Us Really Hate to Exercise

A new study suggests that shifting rigid mindsets and stereotypes about what it means to be "athletic" may be the secret to making moderate-intensity exercise actually feel good.

27 Facts About the Best Ways to Treat Depression

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on June 30, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Depression is a common and highly impairing condition that often requires professional treatment. Find out what the research shows about what works and what doesn't.

Do You Need Drugs for Your "Chemical Imbalance"?

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on June 22, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Research reveals some surprising news about the role of serotonin in depression—and suggests millions of Americans taking drugs for depression would do just as well on placebo.

Cannabis for Kids: Can Marijuana Treat Childhood Seizures?

By Joe Pierre M.D. on June 21, 2017 in Psych Unseen
Smoking marijuana may not be helpful for seizures, but new research suggests that cannabidiol may be.

The Gambler's Fallacy in Research

Clinical research differs from patient care in its goals and priorities. How are the two different and what are the gambler's fallacy and therapeutic misconception?
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The Healing Power of Placebos: Fact or Fiction?

By Joe Pierre M.D. on May 25, 2017 in Psych Unseen
Does new research really prove that placebos don't require deception?

When Friends Believe Nonsense

By Temma Ehrenfeld on May 19, 2017 in Open Gently
Do you discourage your loved ones' silly medical treatments?

A Little Bit of Magic Please

If science were a man, I would marry him, even though I’d know of his imperfections. However, we all benefit from a bit of magic....

Is Prescribing a Placebo the Same as Lying?

By Joseph A. Shrand M.D. on April 18, 2017 in The I-M Approach
Is it ever OK to lie? The placebo response is well known. But prescribing a placebo borders on unethical in our age of informed consent. But are placebos happening all the time?

New Drug Valbenazine Approved by FDA for Tardive Dyskinesia

By Joe Pierre M.D. on April 13, 2017 in Psych Unseen
What is tardive dyskinesia and who should take this new medication?

Why are Females Prone to Mass Hysteria?

By Robert Bartholomew Ph.D. on March 31, 2017 in It's Catching
Mass hysteria is an overwhelmingly female condition. But why?

Prestige, Power, and Placebos

By Samuel Veissière Ph.D. on March 22, 2017 in Culture, Mind, and Brain
Intuitive errors and social pressures often fool us into the wrong decisions. But our social minds also possess untapped healing power. Recent research shows us how to use it!

Expectations and Cancer: Does How We Think Matter?

By Anne Moyer Ph.D. on January 16, 2017 in Beyond Treatment
Expectations have the potential to influence the experience of cancer, for worse and for better.

How Testosterone Affects What Men Find Attractive

By Robert Burriss Ph.D. on December 21, 2016 in Attraction, Evolved
Testosterone, the male hormone, has well-known effects on muscle growth and competitiveness. But can it also affect how men perceive women's faces?

Your World Is Full of Placebo Buttons

By Nir Eyal on November 08, 2016 in Automatic You
Many buttons and controls you use every day do absolutely nothing but make you feel better. Why is that a good thing?

Suggestible You

By The Book Brigade on November 03, 2016 in The Author Speaks
The power of suggestion lies behind the enigmatic placebo response, but it also plays a big role in your everyday life.

Do You Believe in Magic?

By Temma Ehrenfeld on October 26, 2016 in Open Gently
Don't fall for quack cures like homeopathy.

No, Placebo Response Rates Are Not on the Rise

By Peter D Kramer on October 13, 2016 in In Practice
New research finds that placebo responses are not on the rise in antidepressant trials—a result that suggests the impact of placebo has been exagerated

Why Doctors See Antidepressant Effects That Researchers Miss

By Peter D Kramer on September 22, 2016 in In Practice
Trust drug trials and mistrust clinical observation? Sometimes doctors know best—while researchers are blind to factors that help depressed patients recover.