Reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs as mediators of the therapeutic effects of psychedelics on obsessive compulsive disorder symptomology

This survey (n=312) finds reduced OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) symptomatology for those who (recreationally) had a significant psychedelic experience (mystical experience; psychological insight). The study also found fewer obsessive beliefs and reduced death anxiety.


Objective Emerging research suggests that the use of serotonergic psychedelics can be associated with reductions in obsessions and compulsions. However, little research to date has attempted to understand why this may be the case. The present study aimed to extend existing research by examining reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs as potential mechanisms underpinning the relationship between acute psychedelic effects and reductions in obsessions and compulsions.

Methods Participants (N = 312) who had reported having a significant psychedelic experience completed a retrospective survey that measured aspects of their experience as well as changes in death anxiety, obsessive beliefs, and obsessions and compulsions.

Results Acute subjective effects (i.e., mystical experiences; psychological insight) significantly predicted self-reported reductions in (a) obsessive beliefs, (b) death anxiety, and (c) obsessions and compulsions following a psychedelic experience. Mediation analyses evidenced significant indirect effects of mystical experiences, but not psychological insights, on obsessions and compulsions through reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs.

Conclusion These findings highlight the links between death anxiety, obsessive beliefs and obsessive-compulsive disorder symptomology, suggesting that reductions in obsessions and compulsions as a result of psychedelic use might, in part, be due to persisting effects of acute psychedelic experiences on these variables.”

Authors: Sam G. Moreton, Amber Burden-Hill & Rachel E. Menzies

Summary of Reduced death anxiety and obsessive beliefs as mediators of the therapeutic effects of psychedelics on obsessive compulsive disorder symptomology

The past two decades have seen a resurgence of research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs. However, little is known about the psychological mechanisms through which their benefits emerge.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious mental illness characterised by obsessions and compulsions. It often occurs alongside comorbid anxiety and mood disorders and is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including increased suicidality.

Despite several barriers to treatment and recovery, evidence-based treatments for OCD exist. SSRIs and CBT are the gold-standard pharmacological and psychological treatments for OCD, but many people with OCD still experience some level of residual impairment following treatment.

To access this content, you must purchase one of the following memberships: Sprout Membership, Pro Membership, Pro Membership Unlimited, Business Membership or Business Membership Unlimited. The membership will give you access to exclusive data, including summaries of psychedelic research papers, extended company info, and our member-only visualisations. Save yourself multiple hours each week by accessing Blossom’s resource library.

Linked Research Papers

Notable research papers that build on or are influenced by this paper

Reduced death anxiety as a mediator of the relationship between acute subjective effects of psychedelics and improved subjective well-being
This survey study (n=201) finds that reductions in death anxiety mediated the effects of the (acute) mystical experience on life satisfaction. Death anxiety did not mediate any of the effects of psychological insight.