In 2007 a 27-year old man known as ‘Mr A’ collapsed on the floor of a hospital emergency department after taking a drug overdose. His blood pressure was crashing, he was hyperventilating and shaking, and nurses sprang into action to insert an intravenous line into his arm to try and flush his system and save his life.
The man had been taking part in an antidepressant drug trail, and although he had reported that his mood had improved significantly in the first month, in the second month he had an argument with his ex-girlfriend and became suicidal. He took the remaining 29 pills he had all at once, but immediately regretted his actions and was rushed to the hospital by his neighbour.
The case was written up in the medical journal General Hospital Psychiatry because four hours after the man had collapsed, it was revealed that had been in the placebo arm of the clinical trial. He had taken an overdose of sugar pills. When Mr A discovered the news, he was surprised and tearful with relief. Within 15 minutes, he had recovered.
I used this story at the beginning of my talk at the 2016 Happiness and Its Causes Conference as a demonstration of the profound influence that the thoughts in our mind can have on our body. My talk was about what I’ve learned from travelling the world to interview scientists at the cutting-edge of mind-body medicine, and how I use their wisdom in my efforts to get healthy after being diagnosed with a chronic disease.