Dying to live: The Power of Transcendence in the Treatment of Existential Anxiety
There is a notable lack of effective treatments and therapies available for the treatment of existential anxiety. There are, however, a number of avenues worthy of more attention, all experiential or using insights gained from experiences. Such experiences include near-death experiences (NDEs), out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and those yielded by classical psychedelics such as psilocybin. Of these, the psychedelics may have a particular utility when it comes to the treatment of existential anxiety. Psychedelics are currently undergoing a long-overdue scientific research renaissance, and there has been some highly promising research utilizing psilocybin in the treatment of existential anxiety and depression in terminally ill cancer patients, yielding compelling and robust findings. A single dose of psilocybin produced immediate and sustained decreases in anxiety and depression and improvements in outlook and life meaning in an overwhelming majority of study participants. At sufficient doses, psychedelics can occasion mystical-type experiences, and it appears this is intimately tied to their long-term psychotherapeutic efficacy. There is some intriguing overlap in aftereffects reported by those who have undergone mystical experiences via psychedelics, NDEs, and OBEs. An interesting property of the NDE is that the psychological changes appear to be mentally contagious, so that one may reap the benefits of the experience without incurring the risk of experiencing one. A common thread and apparently psychotherapeutic element linking these experiences is the experience of being disembodied and of transcending the limits of the body.