Reading Marcia Angell's piece in the latest NYRB on the treatment of mental illness (an interesting read btw), I found myself wondering if it really makes sense to speak of placebo effects in the context of mental disease. If you believe you're less depressed, aren't you, in fact, less depressed? And if a course of treatment can make you believe you're less depressed, then doesn't that make it a valid cure for your condition, even if it has no chemical or physiological benefits whatsoever?
In other words, what if the most effective treatment for depression were to create the illusion of treatment: administering what are basically sugar pills, but convincing the patient, through a combination of advertising and pseudo-scientific research that he / she is getting better? A treatment that would work just so long as the illusion lasted?