You’ve heard of The Placebo Effect, which is a term that describes the power of an inert substance (such as a sugar pill to improve symptoms of illness). Or you can give an athlete a sugar pill, telling them it’s doping drugs, and in fact they will run faster on the track than ever before.
The Placebo Effect has been wildly studied since the dawn of time and has evidence of creating mental and physical changes in ones being. There have also been studies observed in a depressed patient, where participants who believe they are on antidepressants but are reeky taking sugar pills, claiming they feel like they are in a better mood.
But there’s a flip side to this, called The Nocebo Effect, which has been defined as “a harmless substance or treatment that when taken by or administered to a patient is associated with harmful side effects or worsening of symptoms due to negative expectations or the psychological condition of the patient”. To put it simply, bad expectations and “negative vibes” in a clinical encounter involving a prescribed medication lead to the patient experiencing real harm as an outcome.
This occurs when our thoughts don’t make us better, they make us worse. A notable example of the dangers of the nocebo effect took place in the 1970s, when a physician accidentally told a patient that he only had 3 months to live, thinking he had esophageal cancer. The man, suddenly died three weeks later, and an autopsy revealed that he had been misdiagnosed, there was zero evidence of cancer in his esophagus. He thought he had cancer, the doctor thought he had cancer, everyone around him thought he had cancer. The doctor shared afterwards: “did I remove hope in some way?”
Where are your patients self-administering The Nocebo Effect before they step foot into your practice?
“Ughhh…I hate going to the dentist”
“I’m always so sore after”
“This dentist is going to kill me”.
“I hate going to the dentist”
“Every time I leave with a bloody mouth”
“I hate the sound of the tools on my teeth”
“My braces keep breaking and they keep giving me a temporary fix”
What if all these stories your clients were telling themselves, was the real reason you’re stressed out?
And what could you do to minimize this effect at your practice?
If you’d like to talk to me about this idea, or other ways you can be more fulfilled as a dental professional, fill out the information below and I’ll reach out.