Anxiety After Mushroom Trip – One Year Later
About a year ago, I went on a psychedelic journey that went not as great as usual – but things got really strange when all of a sudden, I started experiencing panic attacks and anxiety after this mushroom trip.
While anxious feelings during a trip are quite common, it is usually reported that mushrooms have great potential of healing anxiety.
But what if you never had any anxiety but suddenly started experiencing it after a trip?
That‘s exactly what happened to me. At first, I thought it was just a bad trip and that was it. But then I started having panic attacks regularly in which I experienced exactly the same physical symptoms as during my trip.
I had never had any mental health problems before but that trip changed something – permanently.
So how is life, one year later? Luckily, I can say it is quite beautiful again and I feel like I have successfully overcome my mushroom-induced anxiety. It has been tough to deal with but I also feel like I learned a lot from those unexpected after-effects.
When I first realized something had ‚gone wrong‘, of course, I first asked the internet about it – and only found a few short anecdotes of anxiety after a trip but no reports on how the situation actually evolved for them.
That‘s why I wanted to share my experience with mushrooms and anxiety, in the hopes that it will help others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Can shrooms cause permanent anxiety?
Most likely, magic mushrooms themselves do not directly cause anxiety. They can, however, bring feelings, fears and memories to the surface that may be deeply unsettling.
And as it seems, a bad trip can “rewire” our brains to relive the experience again and again, which for some people takes the form of ongoing anxiety or panic attacks.
If you experience anxiety after a bad trip, part of overcoming it is finding meaning in it.
I suggest you take some time to reflect on questions such as:
- What were the mushrooms trying to tell me?
- Are there things I need to change in my life?
- Have I buried some feelings or fears for (too) long?
- Did the trip bring up something I used to avoid facing?
- What can I learn from a challenging situation?
- Which aspects of my life require more attention?
- How can I be more compassionate with myself?
I will share more about what helped me to deal with anxiety after my trip below, but first, let me tell you what happened.
My personal experience
What happened during the trip?
I was staying in a quiet mountain hut with one of my closest friends and one of his friends which I quickly came to like. People I fully trusted and felt at ease with, not my first mushroom trip, either. Perfect set and setting, one could say.
I always feel slightly nervous before a trip, but it was not more than usual, so I was not concerned.
Out of us three, I was the first one to feel the effects kick in and right away I felt a little unsettled and chose to retreat from the bonfire to my bed.
Very soon, I started feeling nauseous and increasingly overwhelmed. I didn‘t experience strong hallucinogenic effects, the whole experience was very physical.
What made the whole thing so surprising was that it actually happened on a very low dose (about 1g of dried magic mushrooms).
Physical sensations I experienced:
- nausea (to the point of throwing up)
- feeling cold
- shaking and twitching muscles (especially my legs were shaking a lot)
I did my best to surrender and stay calm throughout the experience. It was a little overwhelming but I was not freaked out, actually. It felt like possibly my body was simply releasing something (hence the shaking and vomiting) and I just needed to stick with it.
“This, too, shall pass.”
Interestingly, my friends barely felt the effects of the shrooms while I went through this intense experience.
Why did they affect me so much more? I have no idea. But that‘s how psychedelics work – sometimes they have nothing to say to you, otherwise even just a little will spark very intense reactions.
What happened after the trip?
The day after, I felt completely normal again. I was wondering quite a bit about why the trip had turned out this way but again, I was not really concerned – the past is in the past.
Only when about two weeks later, I had the first panic attack before a flight to see my boyfriend, I started to sense something was off.
How I felt before the flight, resembled exactly how I felt during the trip. Nauseous, cold, shaking, overwhelmed – accompanied by the feeling of not being strong enough to make it through this situation.
And that was what most concerned me. I had always had a firm belief in being strong enough to make it through anything. In those moments of anxiety, that certainty shattered.
In the months after, the same patterns kept showing up again, in different situations. It was also an intensely emotional time, including a very painful breakup.
Suddenly, things that were completely normal for me, like going on a hike or traveling, had become a challenge. I was afraid of being afraid.
Most situations in which I experienced anxiety/panic attacks could be traced back to two triggers:
- feeling like something is challenging
- emotional vulnerability
In the beginning, it was hard to even talk about these experiences – just sharing the story of it, led me to start shaking and feeling very anxious.
How long did the anxiety after the mushroom trip last?
The most intense phase lasted around 3 months. I had a couple of these anxiety attacks per month and they would usually last for some hours.
It took about 6 months to feel relatively safe in my body again and not like anxiety is just lurking around the corner anymore.
I still occasionally experienced anxiety after that but it did not impact me as severely anymore. Now, after a year, I feel like my mental health is doing well again, on a similar level as it has been before. Anxiety no longer plays a role in my everyday life anymore.
Is it gone forever? Maybe, maybe not. There is no way to know for certain. But now know that I can deal with these feelings in case they do come back.
Will you ever be yourself again?
Experiencing anxiety for the first time feels a lot like having lost yourself. It can be really tempting to wish to just go back to your former self.
But realistically, you won‘t ever be the same again.
This experience will change you – the important thing is to not let it break you.
Being confronted with these feelings may have been something you needed to work on anyway. If you dare to face them it is very likely that you will come out much stronger than before.
Psychological distress is typically trying to tell us something – so if you take this as an opportunity to really tune in with yourself, it may actually carry a lot of potential for growth.
How I overcame anxiety after a magic mushroom trip
Here is what helped me to recover from my post-trip anxiety and panic attacks. Ultimately, everyone needs to find their own version of healing but you will hopefully find some good starting points in this list.
1. Therapy, therapy, therapy
I probably should have looked for professional help much sooner. In the beginning, I was still hoping for the anxiety to simply pass and kind of felt like it was not „serious enough“.
By the time I finally got a therapist (about 4 months after the trip), the worst had already passed. But still, seeing a therapist helped me tremendously – luckily, I was able to find an online provider that allowed me to continue therapy throughout my travels.
I learned a lot of strategies to deal with complicated feelings and got to understand myself more deeply while exploring emotions, values and acceptance.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation, I urge you to look for a therapist as soon as possible. It is very reassuring to have professional guidance in tough times and to be able to work through those feelings in a safe space.
P.S. There are therapists that specialize in psychedelic integration. You can find a list here or do your own research locally. However, any regular therapist will also be able to effectively guide you through this.
2. Keep up (or build) good habits
With anxiety and a break-up combined, I was a complete mess for a while. But I still tried my best to keep up positive habits that would benefit my mental health, such as going for walks in nature.
Daily yoga became my life-saving anchor for a while – when I started implementing this habit was when I really started seeing improvements in my mental health and started to feel a bit more secure again.
Especially since my anxiety was so strongly physical, connecting with my body in a safe and healthy way was a very important part of my recovery. It made me feel a lot stronger again and ready to face what was coming.
Exercise is commonly recommended to improve mental health – we already know it is good for us in so many ways, right?
And: Be compassionate and loving with yourself. Is vital to care for yourself and implement things into your life that make you feel good.
Here are some (proven) self-care activities that benefit mental health:
- movement (yoga, going on walks, going to the gym, any kind of exercise you enjoy)
- take deep belly breaths or try breathwork
- take cold showers or ice baths
- journal to process difficult emotions
- nourish your body with healthy food
- get plenty of sleep
- integrate a gratitude practice into your life
- spend time in nature (maybe even barefoot)
- keep up strong social ties and talk to your loved ones about how you feel
- limit how much time you spend on social media / in front of screens
Personally, I have also abstained from stimulating substances (alcohol, coffee, weed, psychedelics) throughout my healing journey since these can amplify anxious feelings. I now do drink coffee again but actually haven’t felt called to reintegrate the rest.
Note: Reduce stress as much as you can. Anxiety thrives when we are stressed, so try some of the methods from above to create the foundation for good psychological and physical health.
3. Don‘t let anxiety stop you from living your life
The last, really important thing I‘d like to share with you is: Keep living your life. Keep doing the things you want to do and work toward your dreams.
The worst thing you can do is to let anxiety control your life. It is still you who is in charge. Anxiety might feel like an enormous obstacle but don‘t let it become a showstopper.
It scared me shitlessly, but I still worked on finishing my van to go on a trip all the way from Germany to Iran – and eventually left. As a seasoned traveler, it was hard to admit how hard it actually was to start this trip but in the end, just one thing counts – that I went and did not let anxiety beat me.
Which neural pathway do you want to reinforce? Do you want to go down anxiety lane again and again or will you choose to live your life as you had intended to? Challenge negative (or anxious) thoughts and don’t let them become your new reality.
When we make courageous choices, we signal our brain again and again that this is a safe thing to do. You might have to start really small but from there you can work your way up and build increasing resilience.
You are equipped to meet any challenge you encounter in life. So if anxiety will be part of this season of your life, let it – you got this.
Lessons from my mushroom anxiety
„Magic mushrooms ruined my life“ would be a realistic conclusion for many reading a story like this. But no, I never wanted this to become my story.
Instead, I started looking for the lesson in all of this. What has anxiety after a mushroom trip taught me? Has it maybe even changed my life in positive ways?
1. Opening up new ways of feeling
I am a very, very mind-focused person. My world of feelings was quite shallow, rather numb. But if I had to narrow down the main effect this mushroom trip had on my life, I‘d say:
It cracked my heart wide open.
One of my theories of why I experienced these moments of anxiety is that I simply never felt this intensely. And because I did not know how to deal with these heightened feelings of pain or anxiety, my body went into panic mode.
Maybe it was simply years of bottled-up feelings that all of a sudden came to light – enough to cause anxiety.
I first had to learn to sit with these feelings and understand that they are safe for me to experience.
Before this trip, I never knew what people meant that they feel feelings in their bodies. Now I do. For a long while, however, it felt like I was just feeling the emotions we label as negative more intensely.
I was waiting for that moment when I would also feel gratitude, love, and joy more intensely. And after many months, it finally started happening. I came to know the term „full-catastrophe living“ – living fully, with all its ups and downs.
Dealing with the after-effects of this mushroom trip has given me the capacity to feel much more deeply. And I am eternally grateful for that.
2. Mushrooms (and anxiety) can guide change
The time after this particular magic mushroom was full of changes – not just the anxiety surfacing, but also the end of a relationship and the beginning of a new job coincided with it.
It was a time of falling apart and slowly piecing myself back together.
Logically, I questioned many things during that time – and also reflected on what was important to me.
After that experience, my relationship with nature has become even deeper than it has been before. Going outside is immensely healing – and I knew I really wanted to make this a priority in my life.
There are many small inner processes that started during this time and I can feel how they are taking my life in a different direction. It has taken a long time to feel safe enough again to challenge myself again but now I am looking forward to what changes the future brings.
Difficult moments often show you what you need to change in your life.
3. Passing hardship makes you a stronger person
No, you did not ask to experience anxiety. Nor did I. But when it has already happened the best thing we can do is deal with it courageously.
In the end, those difficult moments in our lives are what make us so much stronger.
Learning how to be compassionate with yourself when everything seems to fall apart is a huge skill to have. Realizing how you managed to keep going is definitely something to be proud of.
Often, we only understand in hindsight how those times changed us and made us stronger. So, please, never lose the belief that you will make it through this.
Should you do psychedelics again after a bad trip?
For a long time, taking psychedelics again was absolutely no option for me. I don‘t think it is wise to turn to hallucinogenics while feeling mentally unstable.
In my opinion, I‘d recommend focusing on processing this trip first (thoroughly) and then seeing how you feel.
Even a year later, I‘m still not quite sure if I want to take psychedelics again – for now, not yet. They call you when you‘re ready, so I am sure I will know.
For me, it was important not to demonize psychedelics or blame them for the anxiety I experienced.
There certainly is a lot of healing potential to them and I’d still consider myself an advocate for psychedelics (I mean, I created a whole psychedelic art series – you can check it out here).
This trip has however taught me that you truly never know what you get. Sometimes, psychedelic integration can take a (long) while indeed.
In the end, it is a question only you can answer but be prepared and mindful when you go into your next experience.
2-year update: what now?
At the time being, end of 2023, two years have passed since my fateful psychedelic experience, and one year since publishing the original version of this article. Anxiety no longer interferes with how I live my life. I have become a bit more cautious but overall, I am doing extremely well.
I never expected this blog post to have such a profound impact. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people have reached out by now. Thank you to everyone who has, in comments and messages, shared similar stories, asked for advice, and is out there doing the work to heal.
It seems the phenomenon is not nearly as rare as one would think. While it has certainly been shocking to see how many people are affected, it is also reassuring to know that you are not alone in this and that it is possible to lead an anxiety-free life again.
From everything I have learned in those two years, I think it is safe to conclude: Psychedelic-induced anxiety is reversible. Our brain, body, and nervous system are quite miraculous in their ability to heal and recover from trauma, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.
Until this phenomenon gets scientifically studied (which I would love to see), we may not be able to fully understand what happens when a psychedelic experience negatively affects our mental health. Is it similar to PTSD? Is it something about neuroplasticity? At this point, we cannot know for certain.
While looking for explanations is tempting (I sure have dedicated a fair share of time to it), the important thing to focus on is your healing journey. Be prepared to do the work, align your actions with your intention to heal, and you will.
Know that healing is not linear. There will be times when you experience setbacks. But even with little ups and downs, the only way to go is forward.
Want to talk to others going through this? I just opened a Facebook support group for people who are experiencing psychedelic-induced anxiety. You can join here. Maybe with time, this can grow into a community to share experiences and connect, I hope you find it helpful.
If I can give you just one takeaway from this rather lengthy article, let it be this:
You will be okay.
I am sure of it. Sending you much love – if you experienced something similar, feel free to share your story in the comments.
Note: I‘ve used the words anxiety and panic attack pretty interchangeably here. Different therapists have diagnosed me with different things and it has felt like a mix of both at times – in the end, putting a label on it does not matter to me. Hope you can forgive this minor inaccuracy 🙂