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Out-of-Body Experiences and Brain Chemistry May 5, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Medication, mental illness, Mental Illness and Medication.
Tags: , , ,

During the course of my psychotic break with reality, I experienced a deep understanding of God and the Universe. As part of this experience, my sense of “self” expanded to include the entire universe and everything in it, including God.  I was literally One with the Universe.

As the hospital personnel administered increasingly larger doses of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers in an attempt to snap me out of my psychotic state, the medication brought my sense of “self” back inside the physical confines of my body.  My sense of Oneness with the Universe was gone, replaced with a sense of containment inside the constructs of my human body.

As the medication continued to course through my bloodstream in ever-larger doses, it eventually built up to a point where my sense of self was removed from my body entirely.  I viewed my body from a point about a foot above my head at a 45 degree angle, experiencing life as an observer.

Complaining of this symptom to my psychiatrist, he knowingly shook his head, declaring it a side effect of the lithium. Reducing the dosage of lithium and eventually replacing it with a different drug served to return my “self” back into the confines of my physical body, where it continues to reside to this day.

Based on my experience, it is clear that we can induce an expansive sense of self as well as a minimalist sense of self in the same person using chemistry.   The expansive self incident was induced by stress-related changes in brain chemistry, while the minimalist incident was induced by direct injection of a drug that changed my brain chemistry.  Both incidents were two sides of the same coin.

Illegal drugs are another route to induce either an expansive sense of self or a minimalist sense of self, as evidenced by the popularity of drugs like LSD. In fact, when I have relayed my psychotic experience to acquaintances that ingested LSD, they said the stress-induced state of psychosis I experienced is almost identical to the drug-induced state of psychosis they experienced.

Some acts, such as meditation and talk therapy, help a person get a more expansive view of themselves and the world around them which seems to change their brain chemistry (for the better).  Yoga acts something along these lines, helping the individual bridge the gap from containment inside the physical body to expansion of the “self” beyond the boundary of the physical body.

It’s well-known that some people experience an out-of-body sensation while in surgery, viewing the action from outside their bodies.  The chemical changes in their brains from the drugs used in the surgery are the obvious culprits. I experienced the same phenomenon as a result of antipsychotic and mood stabilizer drugs I took. It’s easy to discount the out-of-body experience as not legitimate.  And yet let us not discount the reality of the experience by saying that it isn’t “real” because a “self” can’t really be outside someone’s body. The perspective of seeing life from outside the physical confines of your body is as legitimate as any other perspective.

(Note: This blog was inspired by the Neurophilosophy blog of December 2008 titled The Body Swap Illusion)



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