Psychological effects are defined as any cognitive effect that is either established within the psychological literature or arises as a result of the complex interplay between other more simplistic components such as cognitive enhancements and suppressions.
This page lists and describes the various psychological effects which can occur under the influence of certain psychoactive compounds.
Catharsis (from the Greek katharsis) is precisely defined as a cleansing, with no substantial consensus in regards to its exact meaning. Generally, this effect is a form of emotional insight. The process typically starts off being difficult to fully face and is sometimes accompanied by physically intense sensations which typically lead into pronounced emotion enhancement, deep introspection, and an analysis of one's character and past events. During this experience many people describe reliving traumatic events, witnessing painful memories, having enhanced mental imagery, reliving of past experiences, painful feelings in general, and a release of previously repressed emotions. This process of integrating manifestations of conflicts and traumas into long-term stable memories is often described as feeling very natural.
This effect can be helpful in aiding an individual overcome conditions such as addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other personal afflictions relating to suffered past traumas. After this experience is over, most users report feelings of increased life satisfaction, rejuvenation, and spirituality enhancement which may last days, weeks, or even years after the event is over.
Catharsis is most commonly induced in therapeutic settings under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of entactogens, dissociatives, and meditation.
The culturally dominant definition of catharsis, releasing the pressure of negative emotions, was popularized by both Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud as the hydraulic model in psychoanalysis and Jakob Bernays's purgation theory in philology. There is a large amount of discussion of these theories' unsuitability towards the emotion of anger, showing that acting aggressively produces more aggression. Aggression studies' applicability towards catharsis can be called into question though, specifically regarding the nature of security required to experience this effect. It is also notable that Freud himself abandoned this model in practice, favouring the psychoanalytical technique of free association.
A delusion is a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly held despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture (i.e., it is not an article of religious faith). When a false belief involves a value judgement, it is regarded as a delusion only when the judgement is so extreme as to defy credibility. Delusional conviction can sometimes be inferred from an overvalued idea (in which case the individual has an unreasonable belief or idea but does not hold it as firmly as is the case with a delusion).
This article focuses primarily on the types of delusion that are commonly induced by hallucinogens or other psychoactive substances, as opposed to the various categories that are listed within the DSM as occurring within people who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Although there are common themes between these two causes of delusion, the underlying circumstances are distinct enough that they are seemingly very different in their themes, behaviour, and frequency of occurrence.
Within the context of psychoactive substance usage, delusions can usually be broken out of when overwhelming evidence is provided to the contrary or when the person has sobered up enough to logically analyse the situation. It is exceedingly rare for hallucinogen induced delusions to persist into sobriety.
It is also worth noting that delusions can often spread between individuals in group settings. For example, if one person makes a verbal statement regarding a delusional belief they are currently holding while in the presence of other similarly intoxicated people, these other people may also begin to hold the same delusion. This can result in shared hallucinations and a general reinforcement of the level of conviction in which they are each holding the delusional belief.
Delusions are most commonly induced under the influence of heavy dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, deliriants, and dissociatives. However, they can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of cannabinoids, stimulant psychosis, and sleep deprivation. They are most likely to occur during states of memory suppression and share common themes and elements with clinical schizophrenia.
All delusions can be categorized by whether or not they are bizarre and whether or not they are mood-congruent. These various different types are described and documented below:
- Bizarre delusion: A delusion that is characteristically absurd and completely implausible. An example of a bizarre delusion could be the belief that aliens have removed the delusional person's brain.
- Non-bizarre delusion: A delusion that, though false, is at least theoretically plausible. An example of this could be the belief that the delusional person is currently under police surveillance.
- Mood-congruent delusion: A delusion with content consistent with either a depressive or manic state. For example, a depressed person may believe that a news anchor on television highly disapproves of them as a person or that the world is ending. However, a manic person might believe that they are a powerful deity, that they have special talents, a special higher purpose, or are a famous person.
- Mood-neutral delusion: A delusion that does not relate to the sufferer's emotional state. For example, a belief that an extra limb is growing out of the back of one's head would likely be neutral to a persons depression or mania.
In addition to these categories, delusions can be classified by their thematic content. Although delusions can have any theme, certain underlying themes are commonly found amongst different people. Some of the more common delusional themes which are induced by psychoactive substances are described and documented below:
Delusion of reference
Delusions of reference (also referred to as ideas of reference) are perhaps the most common type of delusion. This delusion typically entails the falsely held belief that an insignificant remark, event, coincidence, or object in the person's environment is either a reaction to the individual or has significant personal meaning relating directly back to their life.
In psychiatry, delusions of reference form part of the diagnostic criteria for illnesses such as schizophrenia, delusional disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. To a lesser extent, they can also be a symptom of paranoid personality disorder. They can also be caused by intoxication, especially with hallucinogens or during stimulant psychosis.
A list of common examples of this type of delusion are described and documented below:
- Believing that everyone on a passing bus is talking about them.
- Believing that people on television or radio are talking about or talking directly to them.
- Believing that headlines or stories in newspapers are written especially for them.
- Believing that events (even world events) have been deliberately contrived for them, or have special personal significance for them.
- Believing that the lyrics of a song are specifically about them.
- Believing that the normal function of cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices are sending secret and significant messages that only they can understand or believe.
- Believing that objects or events are being set up deliberately to convey a special or particular meaning to themselves.
- Believing that the slightest careless movement on the part of another person has a significant and deliberate meaning.
- Believing that posts on social network websites or Internet blogs have hidden meanings pertaining to them.
Delusion of sobriety
A delusion of sobriety typically entails the falsely held belief that one is perfectly sober despite obvious evidence to the contrary such as severe cognitive impairment, significant motor control loss, and an inability to fully communicate with others.
Delusion of transcendence
Delusions of transcendence typically entail a falsely held belief that the person has "transcended into a higher plane of existence" or has discovered the secret to "transcending" and will be able to implement it just as soon as they sober up. Once this occurs, however, the supposed secret is found to be nonsensical, incorrect, or forgotten.
Delusion of enlightenment
Delusions of enlightenment typically entail the sudden realization the person has suddenly become "enlightened" and has figured out or been shown the supposed answer or meaning to life, the universe and everything. This delusion may be accompanied with euphoria from the belief that one has learned the fundamental truth about life. During the experience, this answer is felt to be incredibly simplistic and self-evident but is usually immediately forgotten or realized to be nonsensical once the person has sufficiently sobered up.
Delusion of death
Delusions of death are the falsely held belief that the person is about to die, is currently dying, no longer exists, or has already died. This delusion seems to be a result of anxiety caused by misinterpreting the experience of the person losing their sense of self during states of high level ego death. This type of delusion is usually very distressing for the person experiencing it.
Delusion of guilt
Delusions of guilt are caused by unfounded and intense feelings of remorse or guilt that lead the person to conclude that one must have committed some sort of deeply unethical act. The supposed unethical act can range from something relatively mild such as the belief that the person has cheated on their partner or it can be something much more serious such as the belief that they have murdered their friends and family.
Delusion of reality
Delusions of reality are the unfounded belief that something fictional such as the plot of a TV show, film, video game, or book is an actual real life event. This delusion may manifest as the perception that the fictional events are genuinely occurring in one's immediate vicinity, or simply that the media being portrayed is real. For example, one may have the sensation that fictional media is occurring around them, or may believe they are watching events occurring in real life, but elsewhere. This delusion seems to be a result of high level immersion enhancement combining with memory suppression to create a state of mind in which somebody is highly engrossed in media while no longer having a functional long term memory that can recall the difference between reality and fiction.
Delusion of unreality
Delusions of unreality are the unfounded belief that the person is currently inside of a video game, dream, or movie and therefore their current actions will not have any real life consequences. Depending on the person, this delusion can sometimes result in committing crimes or violent acts. It seems to be a result of intense derealization combined with disinhibition and memory suppression to create an altered state of mind in which somebody mistakes reality for a fictional hallucination.
Delusion of grandeur
The delusion of having become godlike is often seemingly a result of high level ego inflation and mania. The experience of thinking that another person or the people around them have become godlike is commonly the result of those people being more sober than the delusional person. This causes the delusional person to misinterpret that the other person/people are somehow more capable than a normal human being, when in fact it is just the delusional person who has become comparatively less capable due to cognitive suppressions such as memory suppression.
Delusions of grander attributed to oneself more commonly occur during stimulant psychosis. However, delusions of grandiosity which are attributed to other people are most commonly experienced under the influence of heavy dosages of psychedelics.
Delusional parasitosis, also known as Ekbom's syndrome, is a form of psychosis in which victims acquire a strong delusional belief that they are infested with parasites, whereas in reality no such parasites are present.
Sufferers may injure themselves in attempts to rid themselves of the "parasites." Some are able to induce the condition in others through suggestion, in which case the term folie à deux may be applicable. Nearly any marking upon the skin, or small object or particle found on the person or his clothing can be interpreted as evidence for the parasitic infestation, and sufferers commonly compulsively gather such "evidence" and then present it to medical professionals when seeking help.
Depersonalization or depersonalisation (sometimes abbreviated as DP) is medically recognized as the experience of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, one's mental processes, body, or actions. During this state, the affected person may feel like they are "on autopilot" and that the world is lacking in significance. Individuals who experience depersonalization feel detached from aspects of the self, including feelings (e.g., "I know I have feelings but I don't feel them"), thoughts (e.g., "My thoughts don't feel like my own"), and sensations (e.g., touch, hunger, thirst, libido). This can be distressing to the user, who may become disoriented by the loss of a sense that their self is the origin of their thoughts and actions.
It is perfectly normal for people to slip into this state temporarily, often without even realizing it. For example, many people often note that they enter a detached state of autopilot during stressful situations or when performing monotonous routine tasks such as driving.
It is worth noting that this state of mind is also commonly associated with and occurs alongside derealization. While depersonalization is the subjective experience of unreality in one's sense of self, derealization is the perception of unreality in the outside world.
Depersonalization is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety, depression, time distortion, and derealization. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of dissociative compounds, such as ketamine, PCP, and DXM. However, it can also occur under the influence of cannabis, psychedelics, and to a lesser extent during the withdrawal symptoms of depressants and SSRI's.
Derealization or derealisation (sometimes abbreviated as DR) is medically recognized as the experience of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, one's surroundings. This effect is characterized by the individual feeling as if they are in a fog, dream, bubble, or something watched through a screen, like a film or video game. These feelings instill the person with a sensation of alienation and distance from those around them.
Derealization can be distressing to the user, who may become disoriented by the loss of the innate sense that their external environment is genuinely real. The loss of the sense that the external world is real can make it feel inherently artificial and lifeless.
This state of mind is commonly associated with and often coincides with depersonalization. While derealization is a perception of the unreality of the outside world, depersonalization is a subjective experience of unreality in one's sense of self.
Derealization is often accompanied by various perceptual distortions such as acuity suppression, acuity enhancement, and perspective distortions. Other coinciding effects include auditory distortions and depersonalization. This effect is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of dissociative compounds, such as ketamine, PCP, and DXM. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent during the withdrawal symptoms of stimulants and depressants.
Depression can be described as a state of low mood and aversion to activity, which can affect a person's general sense of well-being in a negative manner. Depressed people often feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt, or restless. They may have problems concentrating, remembering details, feeling emotions, connecting with other people or making decisions. The negative effects of depression may cause the person to contemplate or attempt to commit suicide.
Within the context of psychoactive substance usage, depression is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety and irritability and can be considered as the polar opposite of cognitive euphoria. It is most commonly induced when a stimulant or depressant is used repeatedly for prolonged periods of time, during the withdrawal symptoms of almost any substance, or during the comedown/crash of a stimulant. However, it is worth noting that substance-induced depression is often much shorter lasting than clinical depression, subsiding once the effects or withdrawal symptoms of a drug have ended.
When not caused by drug use, in the context of formal psychology, these feelings can be classified as clinical depression or major depressive disorder by the DSM's diagnostic criteria when five (or more) specific symptoms from the list below have been present during the same 2-week period and the feelings represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms must also be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.)
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation.)
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
For a diagnosis of clinical depression to be accurate, the symptoms must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. They cannot be attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition. The occurrence of the major depressive episode must also not be better explained by another disorder on the schizophrenic or psychotic spectrum.
If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is highly recommended that you seek out therapy, medical attention, or a support group.
Déjà Vu or Deja Vu can be described as the sudden sensation that a current event or situation has already been experienced at some point in the past when, in actuality, it hasn't. This term is a common phrase from the French language which translates literally into “already seen”. It is a well-documented phenomenon that can commonly occur throughout both sober living and under the influence of hallucinogens.
Within the context of psychoactive substance usage, many compounds are commonly capable of inducing spontaneous and often prolonged states of mild to intense sensations of déjà vu. This can provide one with an overwhelming sense that they have “been here before”. The sensation is also often accompanied by a feeling of familiarity with the current location or setting, the current physical actions being performed, the situation as a whole, or the effects of the substance itself.
This effect is often triggered despite the fact that during the experience of it, the person can be rationally aware that the circumstances of the “previous” experience (when, where, and how the earlier experience occurred) are uncertain or believed to be impossible.
Déjà vu is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as short term memory suppression and thought loops. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and cannabinoids.
Ego replacement can be described as the sudden perception that one's sense of self and personality has been replaced with that of another person's, a fictional character's, an animal's, or an inanimate object's perspective. This can manifest in a number of ways which include but are not limited to feeling is one has literally become another human, animal, or alien consciousness. During this state, the person will be unlikely to realize that their personality has been temporarily swapped with anothers and will usually not remember their previous life.
Ego replacement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as delusions, psychosis, and memory suppression. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of heavy dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants.
It is often broken down into two separate subcomponents which comprise this effect: The first of these components involves the self-regulation of attention so that its focus is completely directed towards immediate experience, thereby quietening one's internal narrative and allowing for increased recognition of external and mental events within the present moment. The second of these components involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment that is characterized by a lack of judgement, curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
Within meditation, this state of mind is deliberately practised and maintained via the conscious and manual redirection of one's awareness towards a singular point of focus for extended periods of time. However, within the context of psychoactive substance usage, this state is often spontaneously induced without any conscious effort or the need of any prior knowledge regarding meditative techniques.
Mindfulness is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety suppression and focus enhancement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, and cannabinoids. However, it can also occur on entactogens, certain nootropics such as l-theanine, and during simultaneous doses of benzodiazepines and stimulants.
A panic attack is a discrete period of sudden onset of intense fear or terror. During these attacks there are symptoms such as shortness of breath or smothering sensations; palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; chest pain or discomfort; choking; and fear of going crazy or losing control. Panic attacks may be unexpected, in which the onset of the attack is not associated with an obvious trigger and instead occurs "out of the blue," or expected, in which the panic attack is associated with an obvious trigger, either internal or external.
Panic attacks are usually triggered in moments of severe anxiety, such as that caused by a bad trip. They are so subjectively overwhelming both physically and mentally that the user may believe they are dying, or that some great calamity is imminent, and are commonly mistaken for heart attacks. The subjective sensations can overwhelm rational thought even when the user recognizes that they are having a panic attack, especially in those who have not experienced them before.
Panic attacks are often accompanied by uncomfortable physical symptoms that may further aggravate a person’s anxiety as they may be mistaken for a serious health problem. The strongest mental effect of panic attacks is a crushing sense of impending doom, accompanied by despair, panic, and dread. These usually begin abruptly and may reach their peak within 10 to 20 minutes, but may also continue for hours in extreme cases before subsiding on their own. Although this experience is incredibly stressful it is important to note that it is not physically dangerous or harmful.
The various cognitive and physical symptoms of a panic attack are described and listed below:
- Hyperventilation - Hyperventilation occurs when one breathes deeper and more rapidly than usual. When hyperventilating, one may feel as though they are struggling to get enough air. As this causes a decrease of carbon dioxide in the blood, it may result in light headedness, a rapid heartbeat, chest pain, or a tingling sensation in a person's limbs.
- Abnormal heart rate and palpitations - Due to the release of stress hormones, one may experience heart symptoms including missed beats, palpitations, chest pain, and an accelerated heart rate.
- Tactile suppression - This can be described as a loss of sensation as well as numbness and tingling sensations throughout the body. It may feel as if one's skin or body parts are numb to the touch, and this can occur in a small area or become all-encompassing throughout multiple body parts or the entire body. Numbness most frequently occurs within the hands, legs, arms, feet, and face. This effect is often accompanied by a pins and needle sensation and it generally increases alongside of hyperventilation.
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or shaking
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Bodily pressures
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Fear of losing control or going insane
- Feelings of impending doom
- Chills or hot flashes
Paranoia is the suspiciousness or the belief that one is being harassed, persecuted, or unfairly treated. These feelings can range from subtle and ignorable to intense and overwhelming enough to trigger panic attacks and feelings of impending doom. Paranoia also frequently leads to excessively secretive and overcautious behavior which stems from the perceived ideation of one or more scenarios, some of which commonly include: fear of surveillance, imprisonment, conspiracies, plots against an individual, betrayal, and being caught. This effect can be the result of real evidence, but is often based on assumption and false pretense.
Paranoia is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety and delusions. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as cannabinoids, psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. However, it can also occur during the withdrawal symptoms of GABAergic depressants and during stimulant comedowns.
Personality regression is a mental state in which one suddenly adopts an identical or similar personality, thought structure, mannerisms and behaviours to that of their past self from a younger age. During this state, the person will often believe that they are literally a child again and begin outwardly exhibiting behaviours which are consistent to this belief. These behaviours can include talking in a childlike manner, engaging in childish activities, and temporarily requiring another person to act as a caregiver or guardian. There are also anecdotal reports of people speaking in languages which they have not used for many years under the influence of this effect.
Personality regression is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety, memory suppression, and ego death. It is a relatively rare effect that is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, most notably Ayahuasca, LSD and Ibogaine in particular as well as certain dissociatives. However, it can also occur for people during times of stress, as a response to childhood trauma, as a symptom of borderline personality disorder, or as a regularly reoccuring facet of certain peoples lives that is not necessarily associated with any psychological problems.
Psychosis is defined as an abnormal condition of the mind and a general psychiatric term for a mental state in which one experiences a "loss of contact with reality." The features of psychoticism are characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and formal thought disorders exhibiting a wide range of culturally incongruent, odd, eccentric, or unusual behaviors and cognitions, including both process (e.g., perception, dissociation) and content (e.g., beliefs). Depending on its severity, this may also be accompanied by difficulty with social interaction and a general impairment in carrying out daily life activities.
Within the context of clinical psychology, psychosis is a very broad term that can mean anything from relatively mild delusions to the complex and catatonic expressions of schizophrenia and bipolar type 1 disorder. Generally speaking, however, psychosis involves noticeable deficits in cognitive functioning and diverse types of hallucinations or delusional beliefs, particularly those that are in regard to the relation between self and others such as delusions of grandiosity, paranoia, or conspiracy. The most common of these signs and symptoms of psychosis are listed as separate subcomponents below:
- Auditory hallucinations
- Visual hallucinations
- Thought disorganization
- Thought connectivity
Psychosis is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as deliriants, psychedelics, dissociatives, and cannabinoids. However, it can also occur under the influence of stimulants, particularly during the comedown or as a result of prolonged binges. It may also manifest from abrupt discontinuation of long term or heavy usage of certain drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol; this is known as delirium tremens (DTs). Aside from substance abuse it may also occur as a result of sleep deprivation, emotional trauma, urinary tract infections, and various other medical conditions.
Rejuvenation can be described as feelings of mild to extreme cognitive refreshment which are felt during the afterglow of certain compounds. The symptoms of rejuvenation often include a sustained sense of heightened mental clarity, increased emotional stability, increased calmness, mindfulness, increased motivation, personal bias suppression, increased focus and decreased depression. At its highest level, feelings of rejuvenation can become so intense that they manifest as the profound and overwhelming sensation of being "reborn" anew. This mindstate can potentially last anywhere from several hours to several months after the substance has worn off.
Rejuvination is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics and dissociatives. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of entactogens, cannnabinoids, and meditation.
Suicidal ideation can be described as the experience of compulsive suicidal thoughts and a general desire to end one's own life. These thoughts patterns and desires range in intensity from fleeting thoughts to an intense fixation. This effect can also create a predisposition to other self-destructive behaviors such as self-harm or drug abuse and, if left unresolved, can eventually lead to attempts of suicide.
Suicidal ideation is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as depression and motivation enhancement in a manner which maintains the person's negative view on life but also increases their will to take immediate action. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of various antidepressants of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class. However, outside of psychoactive substance usage, it can also occur as a manifestation of a number of things including mental illness, traumatic life events, and interpersonal problems.
If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of suicidal ideation, it is highly recommended that you seek out therapy, medical attention, or a support group.
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