​​​​The Placebo Effect & Depression: Proof Your Thoughts Matter

The placebo effect is the effect of your thoughts on your well-being.

The biggest lesson you can learn from the placebo effect is that by improving your thinking, you can improve your well-being. This includes eliminating depression and enjoying a happier depression-free life.

Indeed, in every drug trial for antidepressants ever conducted, the placebo effect proves this. Here’s how.

An example of how the placebo effect works

To understand how the placebo effect works in drug trials for antidepressants, consider the following example:

  1. A depressed person is given a placebo, like a sugar pill (a placebo is, by design, something that is inert, inactive, and has no meaningful effect on a person whatsoever)
  2. The depressed person is told that this sugar pill will help him stop being depressed (it won’t, of course; the entire point is to get the person to believe that his situation will improve)
  3. The depressed person now believes that he might stop being depressed (the sugar pill is the vehicle that gets him to believe this)
  4. The depressed person takes the sugar pill and feels better (obviously, not due to the sugar pill, but due to his belief that he might stop being depressed)

When this depressed person feels better, due to a positive change in his thoughts, this outcome is referred to as the placebo effect.

The placebo effect has proven to be so powerful in depression, that every antidepressant manufacturer now has to prove that its drug is more powerful than your one, simple, little belief that you might stop being depressed.

As Dr. Stephen Ilardi says, “the placebo response rate in depression is not trivial. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won’t approve any new depression medication until the drug’s manufacturers can provide compelling evidence that the medicine outperforms a placebo.” (The Depression Cure, p. 46).

3 lessons from the placebo effect about the power of your thoughts

Click on any lesson to learn more.

  1. Your thoughts are so powerful that all antidepressant manufacturers have to struggle to beat the placebo effect before their products hit the shelves  

Again, before any antidepressant makes it to the market, it has to beat the power of your simple, little thought that you might get better and stop being depressed. And this is very tough for any anti-depressant to do!

Indeed, even if any antidepressant beats the power of this belief, it barely beats it. That’s how powerful your thoughts are.

To look at it another way, even if there is some sort of a drug effect (the power of the antidespressant), it is always much smaller and pales in comparison to the placebo effect (the power of your beliefs).

As Irving Kirsch, PhD, says in The Emperor’s New Drugs, on p.50, “even the small percentage of people who ‘respond’ only to the real antidepressant do not get much chemical benefit from the medication. Most of their improvement can be explained as a placebo effect.”

  1. You have clear evidence from every antidepressant drug trial ever conducted that changing your thinking is the most important and effective thing you can do to eliminate depression  

If you’re depressed, it might not seem like the simple, little belief that you might feel better one day would have that much of an impact on you.

But every clinical drug trial for antidepressants provides overwhelming evidence that it undoubtedly does.

Indeed, the irony of drug trials for antidepressants is that rather than ever providing conclusive evidence about the effectiveness of any pill, drug, chemical, or medication, they always provide conclusive evidence that changing your thoughts is the most effective way to eliminate depression.

After all, the entire hope and goal for every antidepressant in a drug trial is to beat the power of just one change in thought. (The power of going from “I can’t get rid of depression” to “Maybe I can get rid of depression”).

The power of just one change in thought is huge. So imagine the power of changing 5 thoughts… Or 10 thoughts… Imagine how powerful that would be!

When you consider this, it’s clear that it’s no contest: changing your thinking is way better, smarter, more powerful, and more effective than wasting any time taking pills that have nasty side effects. Every drug manufacturer already knows this. Now you do, too.

(If you’re interested in learning more about drug trials for antidepressants, read The Emperor’s New Drugs by Irving Kirsch.)

  1. Being more optimistic is one of the most important and powerful factors for eliminating depression: indeed, antidepressant manufacturers ultimately try to beat the power of increased optimism, when trying to beat ‘the placebo effect’  

Not only do drug trials for antidepressants provide evidence of how powerful your thoughts are for eliminating depression, but they also highlight what type of thinking is extremely powerful and beneficial for you.

Think about it: the idea that you might (just might) feel better one day is an optimistic outlook. And it is the power of this one thought that all antidepressant manufacturers are trying to beat!

The key, here, is to appreciate that optimism can play a powerful role in helping you become and remain depression-free, and to highly value this type of positive thinking.

Again, click on any lesson to learn more.

Imagine if drug manufacturers were honest

If antidepressant manufacturers were more honest, they would put the following labels on their drugs: “The most powerful ingredient in our pills is your belief in them.”

They might also put labels on their pills like: “It took 3 times for us to beat the placebo effect, but we finally did it.”

This is because drug manufacturers can run drug trials over and over until their antidepressant finally beats the placebo effect by a hair. It is absolutely crazy (and feels absolutely criminal) that this is allowed, but it is.

In any case, even though drug manufacturers clearly do not have your best interest at heart, you can at least thank them for one thing: they prove with every single drug trial how powerful the placebo effect is for depression.

By doing so, they teach you that the most powerful and effective thing you can do to eliminate depression is to change your thinking.

Next: Is Depression Really Caused By A Chemical Imbalance? →

You are here:

Section 2 Lessons:

  1. What causes depression?
  2. The placebo effect & depression: proof your thoughts matter
  3. Is depression really caused by a chemical imbalance?
  4. Why can’t I stop being depressed?
  5. Can depression be cured without medication?
  6. What is the best way to beat depression?

Next Section In The Depression-Free Course:

Section 3

About the author

Hi, I'm Dave Fonvielle, the founder of Always Greater. On this website I teach you step by step how to be happier and more successful achieving your goals, whether it's completing a small personal to do task, like doing the dishes, or a large business goal, like launching a new product. Get my free 3 Tiny Habits for Being Happier & More Successful training for all of this right here.