Functional Disorders,Nocebo’s and Placebo’s

Executive Summary

This page suggests that functional diseases are likely to be the result of nocebo’s and can most probably be healed by the use of placebo’s.

What are Functional Disorders?

According to Wikipedia “A functional disorder is a medical condition that impairs normal functioning of bodily processes that remains largely undetected under examination, dissection or even under a microscope. At the exterior, there is no appearance of abnormality.  “

What are Placebo’s and Nocebo’s?

According to Wikipedia a  placebo  is a substance or treatment which is designed to have no therapeutic value. Common placebos include inert tablets (like sugar pills), inert injections (like saline), sham surgery,[and other procedures.
In general, placebos can affect how patients perceive their condition and encourage the body’s chemical processes for relieving pain[4] and a few other symptoms,[5] but have no impact on the disease itself”
Lissa Rankin MD in Mind Over Medicine and Kelly Turner in Radical Remission Ph.D. reports numerous instances of the Placebo having a healing/curing impact on the disease.
Maybe when a person receives a placebo , they get hope that it will cure them, they relax , and move into the Relaxation Response/Activate their parasympathetic nervous system which promoted healing.

According to Wikipedia ,”A nocebo effect is said to occur when negative expectations of the patient regarding a treatment cause the treatment to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would have.[1][2] For example, when a patient anticipates a side effect of a medication, they can suffer that effect even if the “medication” is actually an inert substance.” As they expect something negative, they most probably go into feeling of fear/flight/freeze , i.e. the Sympathetic Nervous System.

For a review seePožgain I, et al (2014) Placebo and Nocebo Effect: A Mini-Review

A Possible Treatment of Functional Disorders

If Functional Disorders are caused by Nocebo’s, then is it possible to treat them by application of Placebo’s? If the underlying beliefs that triggered the harmful effect on the body are changed/removed /replaced, will the harmful response stop?

This notion seems to be supported in the literature.
In “The Role of Placebo in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Functional Neurologic Disorders” K S Rommelfanger  discusses cases describing using placebo’s as a therapy for psychogenic (aka functional) disorders..”.  He ends his abstract with the words
“Are we harming patients by withholding placebo treatment?”

However in Provocative Induction of Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures: Noninferiority of an Induction Technique Without Versus With Placebo David K Chen demonstrated that” in a sufficiently powered and standardized study, that the success rate of inducing psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) without placebo (saline infusion) is noninferior to induction with placebo. “

Material to be added.

What do you think of the idea that if I believe that a sugar pill will work to cure my illness , then once I take the pill my fear of the illness will go down . Then  I will slide from the sympathetic nervous system (fear ) into the parasympathetic nervous system (aka activate the Relaxation Response).This system is the healing system of the body and will get to work letting nature heal me.If I dont take the sugar pill , then I will stay in fear and all kinds of nasty things happen in my body as it prepares for fight or flight.


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