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Exploring How Psilocybin Affects Self-Perception

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Researchers from Montclair State University recently dived into multitudes of social media posts to try and understand how psilocybin, the main psychedelic element within magic mushrooms, affects an individual’s self-perception. Published in the “Journal of Psychedelic Studies,” the recent study sought to understand how psychedelics, specifically psilocybin, affect self-perception and self-recognition.

Psychedelics such as psilocybin have attracted considerable attention in recent years, thanks to a growing body of scientific studies and anecdotal reports of their efficacy against a myriad of mental conditions.  Scientific literature on psychedelics states that they can treat the symptoms of debilitating mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and treatment-resistant depression, especially when they are paired with traditional talk therapy.

However, although several studies have found that various psychedelics have some mental-health benefits, researchers still don’t have a full understanding of how psychedelics affect people’s mental states or deliver their benefits. For the study, self-perception referred to how an individual views themselves in light of emotions, characteristics and qualities while self-recognition is the ability/inability to identify oneself correctly using mirror reflection, or self-reflection.

Led by Montclair State University’s Sam Elias, the research team found that psychedelic users go through a considerable range of experiences while they are under the influence. The researchers searched for Reddit posts with the keywords “shroom mirror” or psychedelic mirror, then screened the relevant posts against the inclusion criteria such as other substances used, how they described the mirror-reflection experience and explicit mentions of ingesting psilocybin.

After identifying relevant excerpts related to psilocybin experiences, the research team divided the posts into 15 groupings based on their tone and content. Team members then analyzed each category’s percentage or frequency to determine the number of times certain phrases were mentioned in each category. They then leveraged statistical tests while comparing the categories associated with self-recognition and self-perception.

Self-recognition covers the ”real self,” which is an ability to recognize oneself correctly, vs. the “unreal self,” which an inability to recognize oneself correctly. Self-perception, on the other hand, covers ”positive affect, negative affect and neutral affect.

The team found 89 posts with 775 excerpts out of a total of 486 texts meeting the inclusion requirements for the study.

Researchers did not discover a statistically notable difference between negative affect and positive affect, suggesting that magic mushrooms tend to boost a positive perception of oneself in users. However, the research team acknowledged that the study was limited by its reliance on self-reported Reddit posts. Future studies on how psilocybin affects self-perception will require more control as well as clinical study methods to study how the psychedelic affects self-perception as well as self-recognition via mirror reflections.

As companies such as Compass Pathways PLC (NASDAQ: CMPS) carry on with their R&D programs on psilocybin and other hallucinogens, we could gain more insights into how these substances affect not only perceptions of self but also how they impact other aspects of one’s mental state.

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