Great Expectations and the Placebo Effect

Great Expectations and the Placebo Effect

ilustration by Marie-Chantale Turgeon

by Don Ingwerson

Article first published on Blogcritics

When CBS’s 60 Minutes did a story about placebos being as effective as antidepressants, I thought viewers probably raised an eyebrow and listened a little more attentively, because this wasn’t someone’s personal opinion but mainstream media sharing cutting-edge research information from Irving Kirsch, an Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard. The airing of this story, along with an article that I read in the Wall Street Journal by Shirley Wang  about the effect placebos have on issues like weight loss, dementia, fertility, and depression – real life issues that I know people face every day – really got my attention. Wang states, “…more and more research suggests there is more than a fleeting boost to be gained from placebos. A particular mind-set or belief about one’s body or health may lead to improvements in disease symptoms as well as changes in appetite, brain chemicals, and even vision, several recent studies have found, highlighting how fundamentally the mind and body are connected.” It’s interesting to note that Kirsch also commented on the connection between the body and the mind when he found that the expectation of healing was so powerful that it alleviated all but the most severe symptoms of depression.Continue Reading