Understand why you feel weird after a bad trip

When you feel weird after a bad trip, all kinds of questions can come creeping in your head. I know it’s scary, so I created this post to help explain what’s going on and how to work through it. 

The main thing to understand is whether you’re experiencing short-term anxiety following a recent bad trip, or longer-lasting effects. The good news is that neither are permanent. Even if you may feel like it, you did not break your brain. You did not mess yourself up for good. I have been in your shoes – I’ve dealt with short and long-term effects after a bad trip – and I’ve gotten through it ALL. You will too. It may take some time, but you will feel normal again. 

Why you feel weird after a bad trip: Short-Term Uneasiness 

Whether you’ve just come down or tripped a few weeks ago, having lingering effects from a trip can be scary. It may be hard to believe right now, but I promise you will be just fine. If it’s been less than 3 months since you tripped, this is a good place to start understanding what’s going on (and how to fix it). 

After any unsettling experience, feelings of uneasiness are normal 

If you had just gone through an unsettling emotional experience, such as a car wreck or a painful break-up, no one would blame you for feeling uneasy. If you feel weird after a bad trip, it’s (in many ways) no different from any other unsettling experience. The main difference is the trip was something that happened in your mind. Because of that, it doesn’t leave you with a clear-cut explanation for your anxiety or uneasiness.  Truthfully, though, when you’ve gone through a difficult psychedelic experience, you have just as much of a reason to feel unsettled. Perhaps even more. 

When a person goes through a traumatic or unsettling experience, it can take a little bit to get back to normal. Traumatic experiences can also bring out new anxieties and leave you feeling very different than before. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you – it just means you’re shaken up and you need some time to feel yourself again. 

It’s very common to worry that something is wrong with you 

If you’re worried that something is very wrong with you, know that your concern is very common. There is a lot on the internet about all kinds of intense, serious-sounding disorders with long names, and that is often the last thing you need to read when you feel weird after a bad trip. It is very, very likely that you are simply shaken up, as anyone would be after a traumatic experience. 

How to tell if you’re just experiencing short-term uneasiness 

The two main ways to tell if you’re just experiencing something short-term is to consider the intensity of the trip and how long ago it was.

1. A scary trip vs. being shaken to your core 

There are scary, unsettling trips, and then there are trips that are so life-changingly horrifying that they shake you to the core of your very being and leave you to try and make sense of the emotional wreckage.

If what you experienced was scary, difficult, confusing, uncomfortable, unsettling, etc., but not utterly life-shattering, it’s likely that you’re dealing with more short-term anxiety. If you’ve had one of those life-shattering trips, you know what I’m talking about. It is likely that you will have to spend a longer time working through the wreckage. 

2. Timeframe 

If it hasn’t been long since you’re difficult trip, it’s likely that you’re dealing with something short-term. While there is no definitive timeline – everyone is different – I’ve outlined some general timeframes below. 

0-4 weeks

You’re still very fresh out of the experience, and at this point, I wouldn’t worry too much. I know things may feel very weird right now. It’s likely that you don’t feel yourself at all, but have faith that you will get back to normal. Remember – imagine how you might feel right now if you’d gone through another type of severely unsettling experience? If you’d just been broken up with in an awful way less than two weeks ago, would you expect yourself to feel totally okay today? I know that I wouldn’t. It takes time to heal from unsettling experiences. 

At this point, the best thing you can do is relax and do not self-diagnose. You are NOT schizophrenic or anything like that! While you definitely won’t be the same person you were before your trip, you will get back to a normal state. In the meantime, there are techniques that you can try to ease the anxiousness. 

  • Exercise! This isn’t necessarily the most popular suggestion, but it will really help you “burn off” that nervous energy. It can especially help get you out of your head and into your body, which is great if you feel yourself worrying a lot now. If real life has started to seem like an illusion now (“derealization”), the physical sensations of exercise can help get you back on Earth. 
  • Spend time outside. Getting a healthy dose of nature everyday can be extremely calming and grounding. I would suggest trying to be outside walking, exercise, or simply observing nature for at least 30 minutes per day. This works wonders. 
  • Spend time with people you like and trust. If you’re feeling anxious, it’s best not to spend a lot of time alone. At the same time, spending time with someone you hardly know or feel uneasy with can make matters worse. If you know of someone you trust in this way, you can simply say that you’re going through a tough time and would like some company. You don’t need to tell them what’s going on, especially if you think it would really concern them. If you need some guidance on how to talk about what you’re going through, I’ve written about it here
  • Eliminate specific fears and concerns. If the trip brought out specific anxieties for you, make a list of those things and start trying to work past them. While you may not be able to fix the issues immediately, working towards fixing them will bring some peace of mind. 
  • Try techniques for dealing symptoms of anxiety. Detailed explanations of some techniques that have worked for me can be found here
1-2 months 

While it may really be starting to feel like something is wrong with you (or that you broke your brain), I still would consider it short-term anxiety. Compare it to a more typical emotionally unsettling experience, such as going through a bad break-up, a car wreck, the loss of a loved-one, etc. These things can take a long time to get past, and that is totally natural.

If you feel weird after a bad trip that happened a month or two ago, you might really start to be feeling impatient with yourself. When we have a bad trip, often there is a feeling of shame that comes along with it, especially when compared to other people. If my friend had a normal, great trip, why was mine so screwed up? What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I handle it? Trips are highly personal experiences. Everyone reacts to psychedelics differently, and there should be no shame in having a difficult experience. It may be true that you took more than you should’ve or that you didn’t feel ready going into the trip, but putting yourself down for those kinds of things isn’t going to help you get past what you’re feeling now. The way you reacted the trip can help you understand aspects of yourself and your emotional state better, but you must approach that from a place of self-love. This can be an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself and grow immensely. In order to do that, though, it’s essential to have a positive attitude. 

3+ months 

If you’re more than three months out from your trip and still experiencing intense anxiety, it’s possible that you’re dealing with something more long-term. It’s important to consider this in connection with the intensity of your trip. It may simply be that you are someone who needs a while to get past unsettling experiences. There is nothing wrong with that. Think back to other times in your life that you’ve had to go through something difficult emotionally. Do you tend to get over things quickly, or does it take a while to process everything? If this seems consistent with your past experiences, I wouldn’t worry too much. On the other hand, if this seems wildly inconsistent with your usual disposition, it may be possible that you’re dealing with something longer-term. 

If it seems like you’re dealing with something long-term, I would still try to maintain a positive attitude. A bad trip can be one of the most difficult, trying experiences of your life, but it can also be one of the greatest opportunities to grow and improve yourself. It took me a very long time to heal from my difficult trip, but looking back, I can’t imagine being the same person I was back then. I am so much stronger and in-touch myself that I wouldn’t go back to that old me for anything. The important thing is to really start looking into your emotional state, the experiences of your trip, and the state of your life. Take this as a time to work on healing yourself, improving your life, and working out issues that have been holding you back. Read more about how to understand a bad trip and start to heal. 

Why you feel weird after a bad trip: Long-Term Effects 

Having a trip that produces long-term effects doesn’t have be a bad thing. It also doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you.  

Why did this happen? 

There are many reasons that this happened to you – none of which you should be ashamed of. If you feel weird after a bad trip and it’s been going on for a long time, try not to compare yourself to others. You may have tripped with someone who had a perfectly wonderful experience, and they can’t understand why you’re so shaken up. They may be starting to lose patience with you for not getting better already. Don’t worry about them: this is your life, not theirs. It’s time to accept that this did happen to you and start working to get to the bottom of it. 

So, why did this happen? The two main causes are (1) the intensity of your trip and (2) emotional troubles that lie beneath the surface. Additionally, if you took a mixture of substances or research chemicals, the trip may have had lingering effect on your brain chemistry. 

Ultra-Intense Trips 

You may have read above about scary trips vs. trips that shake you to the core of your whole being. You might feel that your trip shook you to your core. When you look back on it with your logical, sober mind, however, you can’t understand why it was so scary. In that case, you may feel confused and ashamed of the fact that you couldn’t handle something that seemed rather mild.

When we trip, we’re interacting with the core of our emotional beings. This is different than the rational mind that we use in everyday life. Our emotional selves are not rational, but they are deeply wise. They communicate in symbols and pictures rather than coherent, cause-and-effect ideas. What scared the hell out of you during a trip may not make sense in your rational mind. It may not seem scary at all. You may not even have words for your experience. This is all normal. 

It’s important to understand that something that scares you on a deep emotional level during a trip can go way beyond the type of fear that you experience in your daily life, even though it doesn’t seem scary in daily life. 

For example, you may have been terrified of the fact that your tripping partner would not look you in the eye. In daily life, that isn’t scary at all – people rarely make eye contact with each other these days. But you know how they say: the eyes are the window to the soul. On an emotional level, however, this lack of eye contact may have made you feel that your friend was hiding their true selves, keeping something from you, and refusing to connect. This may have triggered a deep-seeded mistrust that goes all the way back to something that happened when you were four years old. While this may sound like hocus pocus, it is the reality of how our emotional sides work. 

No matter how strong you are, an ultra-intense trip can bring you to your knees and require a great deal of time to get over. Even if you don’t understand why it was so intense, if you’ve had one of these trips, you just know it. 

Emotional Troubles 

While I touched on the ways that a bad trip can cause emotional troubles, another aspect: emotional troubles that existed before the trip. Everyone has emotional pain – it’s simply unavoidable. We all vary in the degree of pain we’ve experienced, how we’ve dealt with it, and how aware of it we are.

Wonderful and difficult psychedelic trips tend to bring out our existing dispositions. If you’re naturally shy, you may become more shy and timid while tripping. If you’re naturally adventurous, you may want to move about during the trip rather than staying in one place. When a psychedelic brings out existing emotional troubles, such as anxiety, fear, hurt, repressed trauma, and so on, it can trigger a negative experience. Having to face those emotional troubles may cause a lot of anxiety that stays with you long after the trip is over. If you were trying to ignore pain or a certain emotional problem, a trip can bring it out and make it very hard to ignore anymore. This can be difficult to process, and it may cause a lot of new anxiety. 

Issues with substances 

While traditional, old-school psychedelics are generally safe, newer research chemicals and mixtures of multiple substances can cause lingering unwanted effects. 

Research Chemicals 

Research chemicals can produce psychedelic effects, but they’re newer and can be harmful. Often, these chemicals are sold as acid, but they are not acid. Here are some of the ways you can tell that you may have unknowingly taken a research chemical: 

  • You felt really bad psychically during or after the trip 
  • What you took tasted like batteries 
  • You felt mentally chaotic, disconnected from yourself, or consumed by dark thoughts thoughts during the trip 
  • Your trip lasted 12+ hours 
  • You felt like you didn’t fully come down for a long time 

If you think you may have taken a research chemical thinking that it was acid, you’ll still be okay. These substances can have a more intense effect on your brain chemistry, making it take a longer to get back to normal. You will get back to normal though. 

Prescriptions 

If you were taking any sort of anti-depressants or other psychoactive prescriptions at the time of your difficult trip, it’s likely that it had a large impact on the experience. MAOIs or other substances that act like MAOIs hinder the metabolization of psychedelics like LSD. This can cause a trip to be far more intense and last much longer than usual. My general recommendation is to stay away from psychedelics until you’ve been off of any kind of prescription for depression, anxiety, mood, etc. for a while. 

Mixing Substances 

Many, many people mix various substances together while tripping. Smoking weed while on acid may be the most common, but there is a huge variety of ways that people combine drugs. This was even a factor during my life-shattering trip. I would recommend staying away from any kind of mixing. There are just too many different ways that substances can interact with your brain and each other that it’s better not to mess with it. 

If you did mix substances, it’s possible that your mixture was too intense on you and your brain chemistry. You may have given your brain a bit of a shock. Things will eventually get back into balance, but going forward, it’s important to remember that your brain is resilient but delicate. It’s really all you have in this life, and you must treat it with care and respect.

Steps to take 

If you feel weird after a bad trip and have been struggling with this weirdness for a while now, there are things you can do to improve your situation. I know these lingering effects are scary. I know you may be worrying that you did permanent damage, but I promise you will be okay. For healing, I recommend a 2-fold strategy that addresses your physical and emotional situation. 

Physical

If you’re struggling with anxiety and uneasiness, it’s important to get yourself grounded again while assisting your brain’s healing. Aerobic exercise, like jogging, swimming, or riding a bike, is extremely helpful for calming anxiety. It can help bring you back into physical reality and help you relax. It’s great to do these kinds of activities outdoors as nature is helpful in grounding. 

To help your brain regenerate, it’s important to eat a healthy diet that is full of nutrients. I would strongly suggest avoiding processed foods and opting for a lot of leafy greens. Taking a good, organic multi-vitamin will also help with this. During this time, it’s important to get as much sleep as you can. 

Emotional 

Once you’re no longer in an emergency state with your anxiety, it’s important to turn inwards. It’s important to move forwards in your personal development rather than just trying to become your old self again. These intense trips turn your life upside down. That can seem like a bad thing, but you can use it as a launch-point for starting fresh.

One of the most important things is to write about what you’re experiencing. If you’re struggling with anxiety, journal about what you feel in great detail. If unsettling philosophical questions are constantly entering your mind, write about it! Through writing and reading what you’ve written, you can start to see the patterns in what you’re experiencing. If certain thoughts make you very uncomfortable, take this as a time to push through the uncomfortableness. This part of healing is all about going deeper into yourself than you’ve ever been before. 

Self-diagnosis isn’t the answer.

Oftentimes, when people feel weird after a bad trip for a very long time, they tend to worry that what they’re experiencing is permanent. The tendency to self-diagnose kicks in, making the sense of anxiety worse. There are all kinds of scary-sounding things you can diagnose yourself with via WebMD, but doing so isn’t the answer. When you diagnose yourself some disorder or condition, you accept in into your life and your identity. Doing that makes it even harder to heal. What you’re going through isn’t permanent, and you will get through it. I’m living proof: I have been exactly where you are, and I have healed. 

The desire to self-diagnose often comes from a desire to understand what is happening and why. To feel normal. While not everyone has lingering effects like this after a trip, many, many people do at one point or another. Psychedelics are so intensely powerful that they can bring out a person’s greatest joy and deepest pain. It simply comes with the territory.   

The most important thing 

While you work to heal, the most important thing you can do is maintain a positive attitude. If you have that, nothing can stop your healing. While this is incredibly tough – it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through – it is an amazing opportunity to grow stronger, wiser, and more in-touch with yourself. Once you’re feeling normal again, you’ll look back on this as a pivotal time in your life. In the meantime, you’ll have good days and bad days, but if you can keep up your hope, positivity, and optimism, you’ll heal so much more quickly. I promise.

xoxo, 

Olivia 

p.s. As always, if you’d like further guidance or just need someone to talk to, feel free to contact me. I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m happy to help.