Dissident AIDS Database

Co-factorsStressPsychological stressNocebo effect
Looking Forward to a Laugh is Good for You
 Fox Maggie
  "...Lee Berk, an assistant professor of family medicine and researcher in complementary and alternative medicine who led the study, said in a telephone interview : "This study shows that even knowing you will be involved in a positive humorous event days in advance reduces levels of stress hormones in the blood and increases levels of chemicals known to aid relaxation," he said. His team tested 16 men who all agreed they thought a certain videotape was funny. Half of them were told three days in advance they would watch it. Those who knew in advance they would see the video started experiencing biological changes right away, Berk told a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Orlando, Florida. When the men watched the video, levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, fell 39 percent, Berk found. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, fell 70 percent, while levels of the feel-good hormone endorphin rose 27 percent and growth hormone levels rose by 87 percent. "Growth hormone is very beneficial to the immune system," Berk said. This all suggests that anticipation of a funny event can lower stress and stimulate the immune system, Berk said... Berk said. "You have been thinking about it all day, so you experience a change in biology even before you get there," Berk said. "That is therapeutic." Berk said the finding strengthens the advice that everyone lighten up a little to live longer. "Anticipation is half or two-thirds the fun," he said."
  Reuters - November 6, 20022002
The Nocebo Effect: Placebo's Evil Twin
 Reid Brian
  "Ten years ago, researchers stumbled onto a striking finding: Women who believed that they were prone to heart disease were nearly four times as likely to die as women with similar risk factors who didn't hold such fatalistic views. The higher risk of death, in other words, had nothing to with the usual heart disease culprits -- age, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight. Instead, it tracked closely with belief. Think sick, be sick... Arthur Barsky, a psychiatrist at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital ... published an article earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association : ... "Nocebos often cause a physical effect, but it's not a physically produced effect," said Irving Kirsch, a psychologist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs who studies the ways that expectations influence what people experience... Fifteen years ago, researchers at three medical centers undertook a study of aspirin and another blood thinner in heart patients and came up with an unexpected result that said little about the heart and much about the brain. At two locations, patients were warned of possible gastrointestinal problems, one of the most common side effects of repeated use of aspirin. At the other location, patients received no such caution. When researchers reviewed the data, they found a striking result: Those warned about the gastrointestinal problems were almost three times as likely to have the side effect. Though the evidence of actual stomach damage such as ulcers was the same for all three groups, those with the most information about the prospect of minor problems were the most likely to experience the pain. Changing ethical standards have made it difficult to even repeat some of the classic nocebo experiments. In a study from the early 1980s, 34 college students were told an electric current would be passed through their heads, and the researchers warned that the experience could cause a headache. Though not a single volt of current was used, more than two-thirds of the students reported headaches... In one blinded study last year, researchers found that patients with Parkinson's disease given a placebo released a brain chemical called dopamine, just as the brain exposed to an active drug would do..."
  Washington post, Tuesday, April 30, 20022002
A psychomatic study of contagious dermatitis.
 Ikemi Y & Nakagawa S
  Thus it was shown that a perfectly harmless substance could produce a specific physical reaction through the power of suggestion, and that the physical symptoms produced could match perfectly with the symptoms that were suggested. It was also shown that the reaction to a toxic substance could be prevented, even in highly susceptible individuals, if they were convinced that the toxic substance was actually a harmless one
  Kyoshu Journal of Medical Science; 13; 335-350, 19621962
Self-willed death or the bone pointing syndrome.
 Milton GW
  "There is a small group of patients in whom the realisation of impending death is a blow so terrible that they are quite unable to adjust to it, and they die rapidly before the malignancy seems to have developed enough to cause death. This problem of self-willed death is in some ways analogous to the death produced in primitive peoples by witchcraft ('pointing the bone')... The Melanoma Clinic at Sydney hospital (where Dr. Milton worked) often admits patients with incurable melanoma who are beginning to show all the features of self-willed death. As soon as the patient feels that something can be done to help him, ... his mental attitude improves. This improvement may be so dramatic that there is danger of the medical staff believing that various treatments offered ... have prolonged the patient's life by an organic effect."
  Lancet 1; June 23, 1973; 1435-1436.1973
Voodoo illness.
 Campinha-Bacote J
  "Conjure doctors and folk healers report that symptoms typically fall into two broad categories: gastrointestinal and behavioral. Gastrointestinal symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, food not tasting right, and "falling off" (unexplainable weight loss). Behavioral symptoms include bizarre behavior, delusions and hallucinations... Generally, the victim believes in the power of the person who administered the hex, and realizes he/she has been hexed or at least suspects it. Left untreated, voodoo illness can progress to voodoo death... (In the United States) hexing practices are no longer restricted to rural isolated communities ... Nor is a belief in voodoo illness restricted to the poor, uneducated, or lower socioeconomic classes. Indeed, the Western health worker is more likley to encounter (this phenomenon) than ever before."
  Perspectives in Psychiatric Care 1992 28(1); 11-17.1992
Nocebo--the opposite of placebo
 Kaada B
  "In its most extreme, nocebo-stimuli may cause death -via a fatal wasting syndrome very similar to AIDS- , as in voodoo-death in primitive societies, an example of the fear-paralysis reflex. Whether the outcome is positive or negative is determined, inter alia, by the subject's possibility of coping with the situation."
  Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen ;1989, Mar 10; 109 (7-8): 814-21.1989
Voodoo death.
 Cannon WB
  Walter Cannon, the renowned professor of physiology at Harvard School of Medicine who first described the hormonal effects of the "fight or flight" response, was also the first to publish a review of the phenomenon that he called "Voodoo death". He compiled reports from a number of Western-trained physicians who lived in areas of the world where native inhabitants believed in, and practiced, this phenomenon. These physicians attempted to rule out other explanations for the deaths, such as poisoning.
  Psychosomatic Medicine; 1957; 19:182-190. (reprinted from American Anthropologist; 44: 1942).1957
Hex death: voodoo magic or persuasion?
 Meador CK
  Dr. Meador gave case histories of two people who received death-hexes from medicine men. One of the men was a Haitian given a death hex by a medicine man, while the other was an American given a death hex unintentionally because of a false positive liver scan which appeared to indicate widespread metastatic cancer, when in actuality there was none. The first patient, a poorly educated man near death after a hex pronounced by a local voodoo priest (he had lost a large amount of weight, He looked wasted and tuberculosis or widespread cancer was considered the likely diagnosis. He also suffered from severe dementia) rapidly recovered after ingenious words and actions by his family physician. The second, who had a diagnosis of metastatic carcinoma of the esophagus, died believing he was dying of widespread cancer, as did his family and his physicians. At autopsy, only a 2 cm nodule of cancer in his liver was found. Dr. Meador summarizes the aspects necessary to cause a voodoo hex to succeed, including deep belief in the hex by the victim, the family, and the community, as well as initial social isolation followed by expectant preparations for death.
  South Med J; 1992 Mar: 85(3):244-71992
Voodoo in the general hospital. A case of hexing and regional enteritis.
 Cappannari et al
  This case occurred in the United States and involved a woman considered to have magical powers. The person hexed was the woman's daughter-in-law : It all began when the woman in question found she was pregnant and her mother in law, who "did not like her" told her that her baby would be born dead and that she would die afterwards. The baby died and the daughter in law fell seriously ill for 2 years. Her symptoms began improving immediately after a spiritual intervention induced a "hypnoid-like state" and then again after she outlived her predicted date of death.
  JAMA. 1975 Jun 2;232(9):938-40.1975
Voodoo in Africa and the United States.
 Golden KM
  As a Peace Corps volunteer teacher I spent two years in West Africa. There I lived in an area where the voodoo cult originated, and where cursing and hexing were actively practiced..."...Disobedience of tribal custom is punished by ... curse death, which means certain death to the victim. My landlady was fatally affected by such a curse... For a year or so she had been suffering from severe and acute attacks of abdominal pains. She had had exploratory surgery performed by European doctors ... Towards the end of my Peace Corps tour I noticed that she was losing weight and saw her less and less often. When she died, she was buried at the outskirts of the cemetery. When I asked a friend of mine why, I was told that she had been cursed by one of the yehwe, one of the major cults of the village, because she had been an adulteress. For the curse to be successful, the victim has to be made aware that he or she has been cursed... Death comes slowly but surely over a period of months. When the curse becomes known, the victim's family and friends as well as the entire community withdraw their support. The victim becomes an outsider to the few cohesive and organized activities of the village ...Feeling Hopeless and helpless, the victim withdraws, thus furthuring his or her isolation ... Although the threat to life is not acute, the emotional strain of feeling hopeless is evident over an extended period of time... The victim remains in a state of chronic fatigue and melancholia, and ... he or she simply dies. Unlike the curse death in this village, curse deaths in other parts of Africa have been reported to occur immediately after the curse has been placed... When cursed with all the drama of the ceremony, the victim dies suddenly... In the village I lived in, belief in the power of such hexes is wholehearted. In areas where the belief is weaker, the victim seems more amenable to treatment... when curses and hexes are effective, overdependency and a feeling of powerlessness also occur...Furthur, psycho-physiological forms of giving up are often seen in (Western) hospitals. Patients ... told of their imminent death have been known to react by withdrawing, eating and drinking poorly, and socially isolating themselves; at times these reactions result in premature death."
  Am J Psychiatry; 1977, Dec; 134(12): 1425-1427.1977