Find Your Sugar Pill
Capturing the placebo effect
Researchers spend time and effort to reduce the level of the placebo response in their experiments. You as a person with Parkinson’s, however, are interested in the ultimate outcome or how you feel with any treatment. This outcome includes the combined changes due to placebo and real treatment effect. We can improve treatment benefits for ourselves (or reduce negative effects) by understanding the factors that contribute to the placebo effect and change our behaviors to match. Once again the power of the mind and spirit play a strong role in how we feel.
Enhance your healing response. The following behaviors can help you harness your placebo effect.
- Increase your level of expectation for therapy. Think positive. Understand the benefits. Reinforce the positive. Evaluate the negative.
- Understand your prior treatment experience. Discuss your experience if you had a negative experience with a treatment in the past. It is helpful to understand why you had a problem, ways that this can be circumvented going forth with new treatment, and how a new treatment is different. In this way you will be expecting a different response than your prior experience.
- Actively participate. A treatment has a greater chance of working if you actively participate, are motivated and work with your provider to make decisions for treatment. Aim to learn and understand what treatments can and cannot do. Understand how a treatment can personally help you and how one treatment may be preferential for you. The section on Health care and Care Tips offers more information on personal and disease self-care management
- Include others in care. Including your loved ones, family and friends in your decisions about care help in many ways. How you do with Parkinson’s affects you and others around you. Engage them in your care. The positive reinforcement and wellbeing you get from sharing, compassion, encouragement and hope can go a long way towards successful outcomes.
- Align with your beliefs. Choose therapy that is in line with your values and beliefs. If you believe in the power of nutrition and supplements, ask your healthcare provider about treatments in this area.
- Combine treatments you believe in or that have special meaning to you with medical treatment. This is especially true for mindfulness therapies that focus on positive healing and lifestyle changes that improve mood and physical health. For instances, it may be helpful to combine practices that are important to you to improve the benefit of a treatment. Examples include prayer, massage, meditation and diet to aid the benefits of other treatment. Ayurvedic medicine. Reinforce positive learning.
- Choose healthcare providers that you trust, actively listen to you, educate, engage you in the decision making, and can demonstrate the benefits of a treatment.
- Treat depression and anxiety as these conditions affect your perceptions of change, motivation for change, expectation for change and may increase side effect.
- Capitalize on the power of a good therapeutic relationship between you and your doctor or healthcare provider. You are more apt to trust a provider that listens, understands, is empathic and is open to your needs, values and ideas about your healthcare.
Learn more about the powerful role your mind plays in health and wellness in the Mind Power series:
The Power of a ‘Sugar Pill’. We review the mysteries of the ‘placebo effect’ and how this shapes our understanding of research and treatment effects.
Silence the Mind. Don’t let ‘life’s moments pass you by’. Being present in the moment can lead to greater joy, awareness, and new experiences. Dr. Jan Fite, PhD a clinical psychologist at the University of Washington discusses the power of mindfulness practice.
Glass Half Full Think positive. Positive thoughts encourage positive moods leading to positive activities.
Author: Monique Giroux, MD Medical Director Northwest Parkinson's Foundation