Pruritus pp 103-110 | Cite as

Placebo and Nocebo Effects on Itch: Methodological and Clinical Implications



Patients often experience beneficial (placebo) or worsened (nocebo) treatment effects only due to the expectation they have about the treatment (e.g., “This treatment will work for me”). These placebo and nocebo effects have only relatively recently received attention for symptoms of itch. Experimental studies indicate that learning via verbal suggestion and conditioning play a key role in placebo and nocebo effects on itch in line with research in other areas, such as pain research. Results on contagious itch in both animals and humans further emphasize the role of social learning and suggest that itch sensations might be particularly susceptible to placebo and nocebo effects. When analyzing placebo effects in clinical trials, a meta-analysis demonstrated at least moderate placebo effects on itch in different dermatological conditions. For clinical and research practice, an overview is given of how to control for placebo and nocebo effects and how to optimally make use of these effects in the treatment of itch.


Nocebo Placebo Expectation Expectancy Itch Pruritus Pain Verbal suggestion Conditioning Social learning Doctor-patient communication 



Realization of this book chapter was supported by an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) and an Innovation Scheme (Vidi) Grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), awarded to AWM Evers. The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health, Medical and Neuropsychology Unit, Institute of PsychologyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC)Leiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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