Psychological flexibility mediates the relations between acute psychedelic effects and subjective decreases in depression and anxiety

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Prior research has shown that acute subjective psychedelic effects are associated with both spontaneous and intended changes in depression and anxiety. Psychedelics are also theorized to produce increases in psychological flexibility, which could explain decreases in depression and anxiety following a psychedelic experience. Therefore, the present cross-sectional survey study sought to examine whether psychological flexibility mediated the relationship between acute psychedelic experiences and spontaneous or intended changes in depression and anxiety among a large international sample of people who reported having used a psychedelic (n = 985; male = 71.6%; Caucasian/white = 84.1%; Mage = 32.2, SD = 12.6). A regression analysis showed that acute effects (i.e., mystical and insightful effects) were significantly associated with decreases in depression/anxiety following a psychedelic experience. A path analysis revealed that, while controlling for age and sex, increases in psychological flexibility fully mediated the effect of mystical and insightful experiences on decreases in depression and anxiety following a psychedelic experience. This suggests that psychological flexibility may be an important mediator of the therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs. Future prospective experimental studies should examine the effect of psychedelic drug administration on psychological flexibility in order to gain a better understanding of the psychological processes that predict therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Contextual Behavioral Science
Volume15
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2020

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Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinogens
  • Mechanism
  • Psychedelics
  • Psychological flexibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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