Apr 10, 2017

Mind Over Matter.

Placebo Effect

"A beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment."

So this last semester, during week 10 of my Math class we were talking about basic statistics and we were given an assignment to watch a six minute video clip about the Placebo Effect. Of course I had heard about the Placebo Effect and basically knew what it was but I had never pondered much about it. I did not have any feelings about it either way.

This video clip was a follow up on a most fascinating three year study done at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A doctor named Dr. Bruce Moseley and many of his helpers were trying to study the effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee. They very randomly divided the 180 patients that qualified and consented for this surgery into groups for the study. Two groups of patients actually had the surgery and one group did not have the surgery. They took great care to make sure that the study was very random and that not even the doctor performing the surgeries knew which patients were actually getting the surgery until he opened an envelope after the patient was under anesthesia and on the operating table. They wanted to do their best to make sure all the patients had the same experience with no bias at all. The patients knew there was a chance that they would not get the surgery when they consented to be part of the study.

What stunned me was that seven years later the people who did not have the surgery were still convinced they were better. You watch them being interviewed, crying about the pain that they had been in. Then you see them so grateful, happy that they are able to function again even though they did not even have the surgery. After watching the video clip we were asked to read the article written about the study in the New England Journal of Medicine and it was very interesting. The very last sentence of the study says, "Finally, health care researchers should not underestimate the placebo effect, regardless of its mechanism."

Ever since this information from this study entered my brain I cannot stop thinking about our minds and how powerful they are. I am painfully aware that most of us do not use our minds to their full potential. Does this study mean if my brain believes something then it is so? How many times have my kids said to me;

"Oh I can't do that, I hate the way it feels.
"Oh I can't do that, it makes me sick."
"Oh I can't so that, it is too hard."

So many of us have things we simply cannot or will not do and we are sure we have very valid reasons for why. What if those reasons are not true? What if someone just told us that and we decided it sounded good, we convinced ourselves of it, and never really looked back? We all flippantly say to each other, "Oh you can do anything you put your mind to." Do we believe it? Is it true? Did you know that when we say that we are quoting Benjamin Franklin?

I have always been the kind of girl that gets extremely car sick if I ride in the back of a car. Ever since I was very little I have always had a throw up bag within reach when in the back of any car. My ex husband used to always casually mention that he felt like car sickness was just in my head. That used to make me a little sad. Is he right? If I worked really hard, told myself that I am not car sick, told people I am not car sick, and emphatically decided I do not get car sick would it work? Would I not get car sick? Is mind over matter true? If someone says "mind over matter" they are suggesting that you use willpower to overcome physical problems.

I think of the things that I think I cannot do. I wonder what would happen if I simply started thinking that I could do them and then eventually actually believed that I could do them. How much power do I have? Is it like having the force? Yoda says that, "Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view." So I am afraid of what I am afraid of because of my point of view and that is it? That is all that is holding me back? Do I love rain and gray days because of my point of view? And do you hate them because of your point of view? I see my kids declare that they cannot do things or they hate certain things, or something simply will not work and I wonder is it true? I guess it is true for them therefore it is true.

The doctor who performed the surgeries in the study says in the video that he went from being a skeptic about the placebo effect to a believer and that it is as much or more the patients belief about the surgery that influences the result as much as it is the actual surgery. This doctor had seen people get better purely because of what was in their minds.

Just what we all need is an over thinker thinking about her mind and what she believes. If I believe you hate me, do you? If I believe you love me do you? If I believe I am skinny am I? If I believe Reese's eggs are a vital food group are they? I told myself I could get a B in my Math class and I did what would have happened if I told my mind I could get an A?


Camie said...

Hi Jen!! I want to recommend an awesome podcast I have been listening to. It relates so much to what you are writing here! The podcast is called Bold New Mom. You can get it off her website or on a podcast app. Episode 87 is a great place to start. I have been binge listening to them!!

Ackerman/Mejias Family said...

The power of words, especially the spoken word!! I recently read an article that pointed out that God said, "Let there be light." and there was. God said and it was so. It serves as an example of how powerful words are!! I'm simplifying what I read, but that was the gist of it. How often do we spend our time feeding ourselves negative thoughts and absent-minded statements that we take and make a part of us without giving it a second thought??
I'm working on trying to be mindful of what I say and it's hard because the bad stuff just seems easier to believe. I think that comes from the adversary who knows first hand how powerful words are and wants to keep us confided -_-