What to do when bad psychedelic trips cause anxiety about dying

One of the most common reactions to psychedelics, particularly DMT, LSD, and mushrooms, is feeling like you’re dead, dying, or going to die. Depending on you and your state of mind, this may be a beautiful, peaceful experience or a terrible, horrifying one that leaves you with powerful anxiety. That was my experience.

During my bad trip, I saw so many unbelievable, incredible, profound things. I felt that I was being given knowledge that no human could know. I experienced what seemed to be telepathic communication with my then-boyfriend, who I was tripping with. Knowing what I knew, experiencing what I had experienced, and seeing what I had seen, I felt that there was no way that I could return to normal human reality. For the duration of the trip, I developed an unshakable belief that, at some point, my boyfriend was going to kill me and then himself. I believed that we would then be locked in a sort of spiritual limbo forever, which is definitely not what I wanted. I screamed and panicked. It was terrifying. I repeated “Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me” over and over again until I was exhausted.

What changed my anxiety level

This continued until daybreak, when I finally made one very important shift in my mentality. In order to help calm me down, my boyfriend put on the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album had helped ground me in something familiar throughout the experience and also took the form of a guide. The very last song, “All You Need Is Love,” changed everything.

No matter how cliché it may sound in sober reality, the phrase “all you need is love” resonated with me on the deepest level, causing me to realize that I had to fill myself with love. All I needed to be okay in death was love, which is the opposite of fear. In that moment, I focused myself completely on love: I loved myself, I decided to love my boyfriend even if he did kill me and force me to spend eternity with him in some strange limbo, and I loved the trip. In this state of pure love, I finally relaxed, settled in, and waited to die. 

Why do psychedelics make you feel like you’re dying?

No matter how morbid that may sound, it is exactly what psychedelics are asking you to do. One of the biggest lessons of the psychedelic experience is that every one of us is connected to everything else, there is no true self, and that your consciousness does not stop at death. You can only transcend the mundaneness of life as it appears to be when you have no fear of death and understand that you are an inseparable part of the spirit, god, or collective consciousness. In practically every culture, there are stories, ideas, ceremonies, rituals, and myths based on the idea of simulated death and rebirth into a new state of existence, and psychedelics are no different.

A trip can take a negative turn when you respond with any kind of resistance or effort to control the experience – resisting this feeling of death is one of the worst things you can do. Can psychedelics kill you? Absolutely not, but they often simulate death as a difficult lesson presented to you for your ultimate benefit. If you try to resist the lesson and become terrified of dying, an otherwise good trip will likely turn into an extremely painful “bad trip” until you can release all fear of death.

When anxiety sets in after a “death fear” bad trip

In many cases, an extremely traumatic bad trip involving fear of death can trigger panic attacks in which you have a recurring feeling of dying or being about to die. This means that the fear you experienced during the trip was so intense that it became a trauma for you. Now, each time that your subconscious mind senses the slightest abnormality, it will sound the alarms and cause you to feel anxiety about dying, because the problem with trauma is that your subconscious mind does not know that the perceived threat of death is now over. You can read more about subconscious trauma here.

Every time you get anxiety, you may feel like you’re about to die all over again. This is the time to finally learn the lesson of love over fear – in addition to the trauma perspective, it’s also possible that you are experiencing this anxiety in order to give you another opportunity to get past the fear of death.

My breakthrough experience

About a year after my bad trip, I was fed up. I had had several panic episodes within the course of a week, and I was determined to get past it. As I was laying in bed one night, I prayed earnestly, desperately to the Divine for help getting past this anxiety. As soon as I voiced my prayer, I began to feel the usual bodily sensations that would cause me to panic. I resisted the urge to get up and distract myself, instead plunging myself into the same feelings of love and oneness with my creator that had gotten me through the bad trip.

As I visualized being cradled in the bosom of the infinite, loving, Divine, the sensations in my body intensified, but I did not waver or let fear enter my mind. Quickly, the sensations peaked – I felt warm, tingly, and strange – but then, without warning, they turned from strange to powerfully pleasurable, almost orgasmic. I was being rewarded for going through with a simulated death without fear. The feeling made me burst into laughter and tears of joy – I had done it! I had conquered my fear of death and learned the lesson.

How to get past anxiety about dying

  1. If you’ve really been struggling with fear of dying, you might consider going to the doctor for a “wellness visit,” i.e. a checkup. Ask your doctor for a thorough physical and possibly routine blood work, just because you haven’t had a checkup in a while and want to make sure everything’s a-ok. Most likely, nothing is wrong with you, but in the case that something is, you definitely don’t want to ignore signals. I would strongly advise against telling your doctor anything about your use of psychedelics.
  2. Start keeping records of when, where, and why you have anxiety. I would suggest a special notebook, note on your phone, or document on your computer where you write down every detail about your anxiety, what sparks it, and what it feels like to you. As you continue to do this, you’ll have a better understanding of the anxiety attacks, making them less scary.
  3. Practice relaxing, filling yourself with love, and feeling no fear. As you lay in bed at night, rest your mind on the feeling of being completely safe, secure, and protected in the arms of the spiritual being you identify with the most. Realize that you are not separated from that being nor were you ever. Try to feel a sense of excitement about the possibility of fully returning to a spiritual realm, and realize that, when your creator is ready for you to return there, you will have no power to stay on Earth. Work with these feelings until you have a favorite “spot” that you like to be in, which makes you feel utterly safe and at peace.
  4. Next time you start feeling a panic attack coming on, go to that “spot,” and fill yourself with deep, overwhelming love instead of getting anxious and worried. Stick with the experience, relaxing into the arms of the spiritual being you identify with and wash away any fear you feel with pure love. The experience may get very intense, but always remember it is a test – a lesson you must learn in order to overcome your anxiety and move to the next phase of your being. Eventually, it will peak and then subside. Congratulations.
  5. Enter this state of mind any time you feel anxiety coming on, and eventually, the anxiety will go away because you’ve finally learned the lesson.

When you take psychedelics, think of it as signing up for a class that will teach you how to stop identifying completely with your earthly self and how to overcome any fear of death. If you flunk the class, you’ll have to repeat it over and over again until you finally pass. It’s time to pass the class, and I know you can do it.