eli5 can the placebo effect negatively affect you


One example I was curious with if you believe you have an eye disease or if you think that something wrong will happen to your eye as if like lines will specifically start to curve more more as you get older will that potentially be a possibility?

So basically if I picture and imagine the effect happening will it essentially cause a problem to where it’s not curable? I know that seems random but it was just on my mind.

What is the largest capacity of the placebo effect?

In: 6

Here is a article talking a bit about the subject, maybe you find interesting.


The placebo effect is not what you are describing. The placebo effect is specifically when you do something to fix something and believe it does something it doesn’t do. Example: you take a large blue pill that is medically proven and prescribed to deal with headaches, and eventually you can take any pill that is large and blue and believe you have headache relief. Or you take a pill that has nausea described as a side effect and suddenly have nausea – the placebo effect shows up in blinded trials, where it turns out you were just taking a placebo pill with nothing in it but still got nauseous because you believed that’s what the pill would do.

Your example is hypochondria and has nothing to do with placebo effect, since there is nothing you are taking or doing (besides thinking) to make you feel as if something is wrong. In this case, no, it’s not possible that you can believe you will eventually perceive lines as curved and later have it become true due to a health condition in your eyes. If you were to think about that all the time and eventually perceive that, it would be considered psychosis or some other severe mental health issue and would be something that could be treated with mental health interventions. There’s no way you could cause permanent damage to your eyes by thinking about that all the time.

Edit just to add: hypochondria can be a serious health issue, but primarily due to stress and the effects that has on your heart and cardiovascular system and other systems in your body.

The placebo effect can negatively affect you, but not in the way you are thinking.

The placebo effect is where you are told a specific treatment will cause a benefit, and then despite getting a placebo, you experience the benefit anyway. The opposite is the “nocebo” effect: you are told a treatment might have a certain negative side effect, and despite getting a placebo, you experience the negative effect anyway.

What you are describing is not the placebo effect. The placebo effect requires some kind of (false) treatment that does not actually cause the benefits the patient perceives.

There is a negative counterpart to the Placebo effect. It’s called the Nocebo effect.

It’s the same premise: Taking a substance that you “think” (It doesn’t need to be conscious thinking. Placebo also works on babies and animals) can have harmful effects can trigger a negative reaction.

It won’t give you an infection but it can cause more pain or discomfort.