A nocebo is a negative placebo: a belief that makes one feel worse. Medical journals around the world have documented innumerable cases of effective nocebos: soldiers who die in wartime with no physical wounds; long-married couples who die within days, or even hours, of each other; medical patients with no cardiovascular troubles who drop dead of heart attacks after receiving disheartening news. Some patients have even accurately predicted their own demise.
Numerous studies have shown that hopelessness causes death. Once someone believes – for whatever reason – that life is no longer worth living, the belief easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mothers dying of grief in the wake of losing their offspring has been seen in several animal species, including humans.
Psychogenic death is real. It isn’t suicide, it isn’t linked to depression, but the act of giving up on life and dying usually within days, is a very real condition, often linked to severe trauma. ~ English psychologist John Leach
Formally termed “stress cardiomyopathy,” the disease is popularly known as broken heart syndrome. No one knows how it happens physiologically, but hormone discharges related to mental stress are suspected. Heart muscle is not damaged, as it is in a heart attack. Instead, the heart is stunned, badly enough to stop altogether.
When I’m asked, can you die of a broken heart, I say, absolutely, yes, you can. ~ American cardiologist Ilan Wittstein