Addressing the Nocebo Effect: Limiting the Potential for Negative Clinical Outcomes

  • Meredith Reynolds
  • Anatoli Ginbo
  • Jerilyn Anderson
  • Vanessa Saina

Abstract

In contrast to the familiar placebo effect, increased positive outcomes triggered by positive

expectations, the opposing and less favorable phenomenon known as the nocebo effect results

in aversive outcomes stemming from negative expectations. While currently being a rather new

and trending field of research, associated ethical conflicts have restricted the types of studies

conducted and the available knowledge concerning the topic. The ethical dilemma and lack

of complete understanding make it difficult for clinicians to develop changes that effectively

reduce the likelihood of nocebo responses affecting clinical trials, patient treatment outcomes,

side effect severity, and overall negative feelings surrounding medical settings. Regardless,

some semi-successful modifications in patient-physician communication and interactions have

been able to decrease the probability of nocebo responses occurring. Further research is needed

to obtain more knowledge about the way the nocebo effect works, to better identify susceptible

patients, and to develop more effective methods of controlling the nocebo effect.

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