Mind over matter, can thinking kill you?

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

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Having just read this Guardian article, ‘The nocebo effect’, I’m reminded of how powerful the human brain is. Neurology is my special interest, and the ways that our psychology can interact with our physiology. We all know that stress does not just affect our minds, the way we think or act, but can physically manifest and even shorten your life (good old telomeres!). “Chill out, you’ll live longer” springs to mind. But can a patient affect the course of their treatment just with their mind?

I’m not talking about magic or supernatural powers. I’m referring to the way emotions and attitudes can affect the chemicals released by the brain, emotions after all are just that. A person with depression can be suffering a simple chemical imbalance; perhaps they are not releasing enough serotonin and can be given a tangible remedy. But a person with a state of mind leading to physical symptoms, this is perhaps more difficult to solve, and highlights the need for positivity and better mental health care in the UK.

Take the scenario of a woman suffering a ‘phantom pregnancy’ whereby the abdomen swells, appetite increases, breasts are tender or even lactating. Or an injured solider who still feels pain or an itch which cannot be scratched in the legs he no longer has. These cases exist in no small number, and phantom symptoms are no less real to the patient than those which are visibly proven, yet they are induced solely by the power of the mind.┬áThe mind exists only in the brain, and the brain communicates all vital messages to the rest of the body, even the slightest brain damage can have a huge impact on motion, speech, and personality.

Consider what your mind can do when applied to an actual physical condition, can thinking positively really aid your recovery and is thinking negatively detrimental? I believe so to an extent. For example placebos, be they ethically sound or not, undeniably have a positive effect for some people (be it an illusion or not). Countless studies back this up. But can you create your own placebo; can you trick your body into healing faster?

A very interesting topic relating to neurology is pain, which exists in the brain (ironic considering the brain itself feels no pain!). An interesting study I read a while back by the University of Nottingham is discussed in this video: Mind tricks may help arthritic pain

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Doctors and dentists with HIV/AIDs

Abacavir - a nucleoside analog reverse transcr...

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It’s something I’ve looked into before, but I found an interesting article tonight:

Click here to see

I have deep sympathy for anyone that contracts the disease, but particularly those who simply could not prevent it; rape victims, babies born with it, etc. What makes matters more complex is when someone within Healthcare has this disease. As stated in the article I linked, there are regulations on declaring positive test results, and prohibitions when it comes to surgeries, sutures, and any situation that may pose a risk of transmission.

In short, it is not legal to fire a doctor or dentist for having HIV or AIDs, but their career is effectively over nonetheless. What a terrible thing for them, to have gone through so much schooling and hardship only to be brought down by a disease. In any other walk of life they may continue relatively as normal; because improved medication generally means a higher quality of life, and the delay of full-blown AIDs stemming from testing HIV positive.

But it is necessary, for others safety, that transmission risks are minimised. I must admit I would prefer to be treated by a doctor or dentist whom was not HIV positive, and it would be nothing against the person. A disease shouldn’t dehumanise anyone. I just know that if I were HIV positive I would never want to risk infecting others, and would certainly never want anyone to infect me either.

The best thing anyone can do is protect others, ourselves, and encourage the progression of medical research.

End of my boring rant.