Kirsch

Thought: the substance of health

Health practitioners have a potent ally in support of patients’ health…the patient.  More specifically the patient’s own expectation of healing.

The impact of mind/thought on health is well documented.   More and more studies are confirming thought as a substantive element in achieving health goals.  The attitude the patient brings into a specific health situation cannot be understated.

Irving Kirsch

According to Irving Kirsch, Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at the Harvard Medical School, a patient’s expectation of healing is more important than the medication being prescribed when it comes to treating depression.  His claims are backed up by clinical research.  Kirsch was featured on the CBS News program, 60 Minutes.

When treating depression Kirsch has found that “the difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an anti-depressant is minimal for most people.”  Admitting that individuals do get better when taking depression medication, Kirsch said, “It’s not the chemical ingredients of the drug that are making them better, it’s largely the placebo effect.”

Placebos or sugar pills are being administered in a wide variety of instances, both mental and physical.  Their use includes treatment of ulcers, Parkinson’s disease, and knee pain.

The implications are enormous. The CBS report goes on to address what bearing Kirsch’s studies have on the pharmaceutical companies and how they conduct their own research.

The bigger story for patients is the growing chorus of experts acknowledging the individual’s own influence in healthy outcomes.  Old assumptions about how healing comes about are being replaced.  An individual’s own ability to address health concerns is coming more into focus.

The next step is finding ways to consistently reproduce the beneficial influence of mental qualities such as expectation and confidence.  How does someone maintain a healthy state of expectation when confronted with aggressive physical symptoms or emotional distress?

Prayer and meditation have shown promise.  Medical centers are including these therapies in their integrative medicine departments.  Complementary and alternative medicine research is placing an ever greater emphasis on the spirituality component in well-being.  I, myself, have found prayer invaluable in healing.

In a follow-up interview reporter, Lesley Stahl, remarks, “What our minds can do to affect our health that we have no idea about is just kind of breathtaking.”  I have a feeling there are more surprises down the road.

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