Good-or bad- News? Study of mind over body

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by victoria, Jan 25, 2011.

  1. victoria

    victoria New Member

    I'm not sure if this is good or bad news, I think it is a combination, personally:

    "The idea that people can control their own health has persisted through Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking,” in 1952, to a popular book today, “The Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne, which teaches that to achieve good health all we have to do is to direct our requests to the universe.

    ...On the contrary, a recently completed study of nearly 60,000 people in Finland and Sweden who were followed for almost 30 years found no significant association between personality traits and the likelihood of developing or surviving cancer.

    ...But such beliefs have implications for how we regard people who are ill. If people are insufficiently upbeat after a cancer diagnosis or inadequately “spiritual” after a diagnosis of AIDS, are we to assume they have willfully placed their health at risk? And if they fail to recover, is it really their fault? The incessant pressure to be positive imposes an enormous burden on patients whose course of treatment doesn’t go as planned. "

    whole article at:

    [This Message was Edited on 01/25/2011]
  2. quanked

    quanked Member

    Thanks for the article. I think you are right--the study conlusion has pluses and minuses.

    While there is " significant a s s o c i a t i o n between personality traits and the liklihood of developing or surviving cancer" there ARE
    s i g n i f i c a n t associations between ACE's (adverse childhood experiences) and developing cancer and other serious medical diseases.

    Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study

    IMHO we should be looking at how to prevent adverse childhood experiences and thus avoid many illnesses altogether then we do not have to make ourselves and others feel guilty about not being "positive" about a death sentence ; )

  3. victoria

    victoria New Member

    There was a researcher (neuroscientist) recently who tested his family for having psychopathic tendencies, as one side of the family had a "history" according to his mother.

    He was the only one who had the different brain that was similar to psychopaths/serial killers, but he didn't have problems.

    But, as he said, he had a wonderful childhood. Unless there's more to it, which is of course possible.
    A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret
    by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

    The criminal brain has always held a fascination for James Fallon. For nearly 20 years, the neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine has studied the brains of psychopaths. He studies the biological basis for behavior, and one of his specialties is to try to figure out how a killer's brain differs from yours and mine.

    About 4 years ago, Fallon made a startling discovery. It happened during a conversation with his then 88-year-old mother, Jenny, at a family barbecue.

    "I said, 'Jim, why don't you find out about your father's relatives?' " Jenny Fallon recalls. "I think there were some cuckoos back there."

    Fallon investigated.

    "There's a whole lineage of very violent people — killers," he says.

    One of his direct great-grandfathers, Thomas Cornell, was hanged in 1667 for murdering his mother. That line of Cornells produced seven other alleged murderers, including Lizzy Borden. "Cousin Lizzy," as Fallon wryly calls her, was accused (and controversially acquitted) of killing her father and stepmother with an ax in Fall River, Mass., in 1882.

    ...Conveniently, he had everything he needed: Previously, he had persuaded 10 of his close relatives to submit to a PET brain scan and give a blood sample as part of a project to see whether his family had a risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

    After learning his violent family history, he examined the images and compared them with the brains of psychopaths. His wife's scan was normal. His mother: normal. His siblings: normal. His children: normal.

    "And I took a look at my own PET scan and saw something disturbing that I did not talk about," he says.

    What he didn't want to reveal was that his orbital cortex looks inactive.

    "If you look at the PET scan, I look just like one of those killers."

    Fallon cautions that this is a young field....

    whole article is at:

  4. Jayna

    Jayna New Member

    "IMHO we should be looking at how to prevent adverse childhood experiences and thus avoid many illnesses altogether"

    I completely agree. While I don't believe necessarily that my abusive mother was a direct cause of my illness, I do know that living under stress from a very young age had many lasting effects, not least of which was that the attitudes and behaviors I learned from living with her were largely incompatible with living a happy, healthy life after I left home. I never learned to cut myself any slack, and generally worked on projects long after I should have stopped to rest, kept trying to please and impress people long after a sensible person would have realized they weren't worth the effort, and didn't develop a lot of supportive relationships because I didn't believe I was worth caring about except for what I could visibly achieve. Those attitudes and behaviors might not have caused me to get sick, but they sure made my life hell once I was sick.
  5. ellikers

    ellikers New Member

    While I don't believe that we can just "think" ourselves out of having chronic pain and illness (at least not with a simple a thought as that) I DO believe there is a lot of validity to research being done that underscores the impact of negative earlier life experiences (such as stress and trauma) on later life health experiences and I do believe health is strongly affected by our attitudes and thoughts.

    There is a lot of current work advocating that we can benefit a lot from changing our thoughts and attitudes (and therefore our behaviors) because we can actually change our brain structure and have it fire less. This is based on the idea that we have chronic pain due to misfirings in the central nervous system, and if we focus on reworking our minds (focusing on other things, visualizing calming down the pain centers in the brain etc) we can decrease the activity in those pain centers.

    Books and movies that deal with this issue in depth that I can think of:

    "The Brain that Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge

    "What the )$*%($ do we know?" (also called "what the bleep do we know?")

  6. jole

    jole Member

    Maybe there is something to studying a person's brain. Would have to leave the scans to a professional I guess. But as to childhood experiences........I'm not so sure. My reasoning is this: My father was terribly abusive. My one sibling was an alcoholic, two habitual liars, one work-a-holic, two normal, and me. When asked about our childhood, you would have gotten 7 completely different versions of each and every event. No two people perceive things the same. Each were abused to different degrees and sometimes the ones who weren't had the hardest time coping. It's not all cut and dried.

    My neice had a horrible cancer and fought for 8 years. She and her hubby were the most positive people I've ever met, and she remained that way until the very end. My mother was the same way. As a nurse, I watched people "poor me" themselves from the very first day and survive many times. Of course, a positive attitude is a good thing, and one we should all strive for, but does it make a huge difference? I'm not so sure. Makes it easier on everyone around us, though :)

    I'm very much in favor of positive self-help books, and love them. They sure can't mess a person up, and everyone feels better when finished with one. I believe they can make it easier to cope with the life and situations we are dealt, and even give us some control. I believe they can change our perspective and thoughts on things. But I'm definitely not sold that we can 'heal' ourselves or change our 'core'. I've been proven wrong before though.......Jole
  7. victoria

    victoria New Member

    I wrote a post last night and it's not here, dangit. Not as eloquent in the AM (LOL).

    I think the feeling of helplessness is one of the worst things humans experience; whether or not our brain is able to or can always do what we want it to, is another question.

    As a former hypnotherapist, I know what the mind is capable of, both personally and what I've observed first-hand as well as read about.

    The way the mind works is not always clear... and not always manageable. Interesting side note: my DH as a psychologist had a pt who was a MPD - in one personality she had a life-threatening allergy that was not present in the other 2 personalities. He also worked with many chronic pain pts using deep hypnosis states to help alleviate pain as well as with severe chronic cases of anorexia. If a person was worked with intensively, there could be almost immediate changes with some conditions. It's great that now they are able to actually see the changes physiologically.

    So, I've always tried to use hypnosis & meditation to work on my own immune system. Well, I have been, but not with much success (at least to the point it needs to - then again,I could be worse, who knows?) At any rate, I use it regularly.

    I also think genetics do play a role, as Jole said... I've had similar experiences in essence, as my brother turned out quite differently than I did (major problems with drugs/alcohol) tho we had the same parents and non-traumatic childhoods.

    The mind is a funny thing.... just more food for thought - here's an article about a placebo being used knowingly in a study vs a medication, and many pts responded even tho they knew it was a placebo.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Placebo Works Even if Patients Know

    Imagine your doctor gives you fake medication and tells you it's nothing more than a sugar pill. Would it still work?

    Incredibly, according to a new study of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, the placebo effect, even when patients were in on the secret, worked almost as well as the leading medication on the market.

    It's also a lot cheaper. And the best part about placebo - no side effects.

    "I didn't think it would work," said senior author and Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine at Anthony Lembo in a statement. "I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them."

    Researchers at the Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center split 80 patients into two groups. One group was given placebos and informed of it. The other group was given nothing.

    "Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had 'placebo' printed on the bottle," said Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk. "We told the patients that they didn't have to even believe in the placebo effect. Just take the pills."

    After three weeks. the placebo group reported adequate symptom relief at double the rate of the group told to do nothing (59 percent vs. 35 percent). And those results are about as good as the leading irritable bowel syndrome drugs on the market.

    Researchers sounded the usual cautionary notes. The study was small. It's not clear what it would mean for other conditions and more research is needed.

    The work appeared in the medical journal PLoS One and was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Harvard.

    [This Message was Edited on 01/27/2011]
  8. ellikers

    ellikers New Member

    You're right Susan, the placebo effect does have other things at play. I've read research that supports exactly what you are saying, that someone even feeling more supported or understood or taken seriously (and being treated) by people can ease symptoms and improve their condition.

    We also think placebo effect works (according to what we know) because the same areas of our brain can respond to something whether or not it actually happens. This is directing our thought that direction .... believing a medication or treatment will help, focusing on calming down the pain regions of the brain, etc.

    It doesn't mean that effective or "real" medications and treatments are bunk because the "sugar pill" works, it means "wow, how great are our bodies and minds that can mobilize this type of healing and recovery!" We should harness this MORE which is what advocates for neuroplasticity (changing our bodies and brains) in treating pain are talking about.

    Pretty cool. But I'm also a total nerd on the subject ever since I started learning more about it last Fall. ;)

    I've changed the way I relate to my body and manage my emotions/stress and pain since last summer ... and I think it's incredibly transformative!

    Comprehensive pain treatment/management needs to incorporate these ideas in my opinion. We all deserve to have practitioners that work on us through multiple modalities (body work in the form physical therapy and massage, breathing exercises and meditation, emotional/mental support and therapy to help us cope with stress, nutrition, medication, exercise and movement ... etc).
  9. Janalynn

    Janalynn New Member

    Very interesting discussion!
    It sounds too cliche' to say our minds are very powerful things. I find the whole concept of actually how powerful they are very fascinating, especially when it comes to controlling what can happen to our bodies and our health.

    I am a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and all that comes with it. Besides how one's life can change dramatically, how one perceives it and reacts to things is the biggest difference, therefore forcing different choices being made in the future.

    Our minds don't know the difference between fact and fiction, so they believe what they are told. If we tell ourselves something long enough, often enough, we will believe it. Just like a child who is told they aren't worth anything day after day believes it, if we tell ourselves day after day that we ARE worth something, eventually our minds begin to believe it to be true.

    The whole concept of the Placebo effect proves that people's minds are suspectible to believing what they told - "this pill is going to help you" "Hey I think I AM feeling better!"

    Side note about the power of thought - if I think not even consciously sometimes, about my nose, it will throb. Weird and hard to explain, but everytime it happens, I'm amazed that just by my thinking I can cause a physical feeling.
  10. IanH

    IanH Active Member

    "The incessant pressure to be positive imposes an enormous burden on patients whose course of treatment doesn’t go as planned."

    This is a very important issue because it often underlies some Doctor's treatment of patients with ME/CFS or FMS.

    When my wife saw a neurologist for her illness he thought she was after disability benefits and he started early in the conversation with comments to me and her like:

    You do know this illness is associated with a psychiatric history
    You musn't dwell on the illness
    It is important to keep working

    all guilt inducing statements

    There is no doubt that one can ease one's suffering through attitude but to say that you can alter the course of a non-psychogenic illness is hard to research and confirm. Many have tried and failed. The failure is because the studies have not controlled the research properly - so you can have many interpretations to the results.

    This is the case with studies which associate early childhood trauma with disease later in life.
    I am sure that early chilldhood trauma will affect some people's ability to handle stress but to say that it is a cause of "physical" disease is questionable. For example it is quite popular for people to state that FMS or ME/CFS is associated with early childhood trauma. Does this mean we are saying that if you had early childhood trauma you are more likely to get FM or ME/CFS.
    I doubt it! But the symptoms might be worse because the symptoms are a function of stress - to a degree.

    Also studies that have reported associations with early trauma are fraught with control problems because:
    1. Self report in any research has low reliability. ( a bit like eye-witness testimony).
    2. People who are ill tend to report early trauma more vividly and negatively and place greater illness attribution on those experiences.
    3. Ill people reporting early trauma tend to have lower SES. People with lower SES get poorer quality help.

    I don't think the outcome of cancer is affected by thinking aside from how it may affect coping behaviour. Such as :
    How early one seeks help.
    Persistence or assertiveness in seeking/demanding help
    Compliance to medication
    Changes in lifestyle and diet

    A lot of things are said about ME/CFS and FMS that are not based on decent science. We need more fundamental research into the immunology, neurology and endocrinology if we are to identify the cause(s).

    There is an upcoming conference by "Invest In ME" on the politics of this illness called "Science, Politics and ME" on May 19th in London.
  11. ellikers

    ellikers New Member

    The ability for brains to actually change and for us to recover from pain and illness is not about simply "thinking positive" or having guilt weigh us down ... repressing emotions such as grief and depression about one's illness is not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about being present and fully aware of how we are feeling (emotionally, physically, mentally) and choosing to reframe how we think about our bodies and abilities and lives, and practicing behaviors and activities that strengthen our bodies abilities to heal.

    Stuff down emotions will not help anyone heal (in my opinion).

    There are amazing things that can happen when people use their minds. The book I mentioned before "The Brain that Changes Itself" has numerous examples of people healing and greatly improve their abilities when medical experts basically said they were never going to get better (were permanently disabled, etc). So neuroplastic change creates actual physiological change, even for illnesses and injuries of a physical nature.

    I'm not saying that means everyone will be able to completely recover from everything ever, but that our bodies and selves are capable of more than they were previously given credit for.
  12. IanH

    IanH Active Member

    Yes, such is the basis of c.b.t.
    The neurologist had an ulterior motive, he was really a politician.