Placebo Effect for All Psychiatric Diagnoses “of Considerable Magnitude”

Depression and anxiety led the way, with massive improvements via placebo alone.


In a new study, researchers found huge improvements in psychiatric symptoms on placebo alone, particularly for depression and anxiety. They included the 10 least biased, most recent randomized controlled trials for nine common diagnoses in their attempt to quantify the improvements that could be expected without treatment.

“First, symptom improvement occurred in all conditions under placebo treatment. Second, the improvements were of considerable magnitude. Third, improvement varied significantly among disorders and was particularly strong in MDD and GAD,” the researchers write.

The study was led by Tom Bschor at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. It was published in the top-tier journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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Peter Simons
Peter Simons was an academic researcher in psychology. Now, as a science writer, he tries to provide the layperson with a view into the sometimes inscrutable world of psychiatric research. As an editor for blogs and personal stories at Mad in America, he prizes the accounts of those with lived experience of the psychiatric system and shares alternatives to the biomedical model.


  1. The placebo effect pertains to a type of psychological energy that is not grasped or understood by Western medicine but is intrinsic to Eastern strands where they call it chi in the Chinese and prana in the Indian Sanksrit language, but we needn’t theorize it. You know this psychological energy when you are emotionally motivated: if you really desire something intensely, you have infinite energy for it. If you are terrified your body is more likely to fail you before your energy, and obviously this kind of psychological energy is not calories. In depression this energy is obviously low. It is stimulated by pleasure and threat. It wakes up to these things and falls asleep without them. Know it in yourself. It is why psychological illusions profoundly effect the quality of life: giving a false meaning to your meaningless life, or avoiding looking at unconfortable truths, gives a kind of energy of illusion. When you see clearly you see your true energy status for what it is, and seeing clearly involves the clearing away of all psychological illusions – and all beliefs and opinions are psychological illusions. They delude the brain into thinking it knows when it merely posits. Knowledge cannot know – it represents: it doesn’t know. Only perception grasps things as they are, and it does so without labelling them. Even if it sees an illusion it shows that illusion for what it is without labelling it. So it is clarity itself and the only tonic to heal the brain of all the mental viruses generated by our culture.

    Let me be clear: this energy is actually life energy. It is life itself. It is intelligent and creative in nature. It heals. If you have low psychological energy you will not just have slugging mind and heavy heart but poor physiological functioning too. We call it stress, but there is no stress when there is energy for action. Think of presidents, media personalities, celebrities or rock stars. Think about the amount of physiological and psychological stress you’d expect them to endure. But they have roaring supplies of this life energy, and there is a whole social economy of this life energy, but if I go into that it will just be mere theory. You have to discover these things in yourself and if you’d even begun this journey you wouldn’t consider what I am saying as being either psychotic or mystical.

    The placebo effect is easily understood as being the result of the energy of illusion, the optimism that I am doing something about my problem. This removes the energy draining burden of worrying thoughts, and helps the heart and body relax about distressing psychological symptoms. But what the organism doesn’t realize is that they are using a paliative to mask and cover up the problem, to burry the problem. But the problem is a distress signal from your soul. The problem is the distress signals from your own heart and mind and body about it’s life. Ignoring it because you think it’s a brain disorder means you will never understand and heal it, and you have not the slightest suspicion of the utterly grave and tragic psychological, spiritual and social consequences of this failure to heal and resolve what we are. If we continue in our ignorance our psychological problems will only get progressively worse and worse and worse until we die, and this not just on the individual level – as a society too, and look around you – it is happening already. We are collapsing psychologically, morally and spiritually. We are awash with evil and deluded and mad leaders and cultural and economic vampires of every conceivable kind. These include psychiatrists and psychopharmacology which is a grift for extracting money by deluding parents into prescribing them drugs that damage their children’s brains and mutilate their life chances in every conceivable way. Psychiatry is a vast and incalculable spiritual and social violence, a vast violence against truth, nature and sanity, this quite aside from all the appalling social, emotional, economic and physiological consequences of the disease that is psychiatry and the mind of the society bleached white, baked and ossified in it’s empty hearted, bottomless greed.

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    • This is all very well. But I wish to point out that it ignores Hubbard’s work, and other recent work, that finds a “being” at the heart of every living thing. He calls this being a “thetan.” But the exact name used is relatively unimportant.

      What Hubbard determined through his research is that this being is totally non-physical (and therefore not itself an “energy.”) This is a common confusion in this field. This being is creative and is (along with all its companions in this universe) the ultimate source of all physicality and all energy.

      This being has intention and can postulate into existence matter, energy, or changes of these. Thus, it can postulate its own “healing,” especially when helped along with a placebo – just one of many valid therapies.

      Medicines have no direct effect on a being. But they do affect the body, and thus the being indirectly. There is no good reason for psychology or psychiatry to focus on medicine and biochemistry. This is all on the body (somatic) level and has nothing to do with the spiritual (psychic) level, which is what psychology and psychiatry should be addressing. The body is addressed by fields like biology and neurology.

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    • I initially had trouble too, Marie. I had to change my password, but since I’ve had to change all my passwords recently – due to one or more people hacking into my phone and computer – I’d forgotten it. So I had some trouble initially, but eventually I got in.

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  2. “They also found that, across diagnoses, women were more likely to improve in the placebo group than men. This was true even after accounting for gender differences in diagnosis (since more women were found in the depression and anxiety groups). They were unable to explain this finding.”

    It could be due to the fact that women tend to be targeted more than men by the paternalistic psychiatric and psychological industries. Plus, since the psy industries tend to target woman and men that were survivors of abuse or trauma. Whereas, they tend to target men who they consider “dangerous,” which a state of “psychosis” appears to be. It’s likely targeting women, in my case, for merely knowing innately that the wrong people were in charge, just after 9/11/2001, is unwise? Thankfully, I’m no longer the only one who sees this.

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