Elena Lacey at WIRED cites some research studies to show how tracking your symptoms actually makes you feel worse than help in a recovery.
“Fifteen percent of adults in the US use an app regularly or occasionally to track symptoms of a disease. About as many use a sleep-tracking app to figure out whether they get enough shut-eye. Turns out, dwelling on symptoms, including insomnia, makes them more likely to occur. Call it the nocebo effect—the dark sibling of the placebo effect, the familiar mind-over-matter tendency that makes us feel better if we take a sugar pill that we believe is an effective medication.
“The body’s response can be triggered by negative expectations,” says Luana Colloca, a University of Maryland neuroscientist and physician who studies placebo and nocebo effects. “It’s a mechanism of self-defense. From an evolutionary point of view, we’ve developed mechanisms to prevent dangerous situations.”
The symptom tracker doesn’t just reveal your highs and lows. It produces a state of anxiety—and possibly more pain.
That’s because our expectations shape how we feel. About 18 percent of people enrolled in trials of migraine drugs reported side effects—from a sugar pill. (They didn’t know if they were taking the real drug or the fake one.) In a different study, people who were told that their postoperative morphine was ending felt a sudden surge in pain; other patients whose morphine drip stopped without a specific warning didn’t feel that intense pain.
A stunning example of how the mind shapes our physiology emerged from a recent Stanford University study of how people react to learning about genetic risk factors. About 200 study participants took genetic tests and were told that, based on the results, they were either at risk of or protected from two obesity-related factors: cardiorespiratory (heart-lung) exercise capacity or satiety (feeling full) after eating. In fact, they had been assigned to the different groups randomly.
The news changed their physiology to match what they were told. Regardless of their actual DNA-based risk, they had more or less lung capacity and endurance when exercising and more or less of a hormone that makes people feel full.”
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