Embedding existential psychology within psychedelic science: reduced death anxiety as a mediator of the therapeutic effects of psychedelics

  • Sam G. MoretonEmail author
  • Luke Szalla
  • Rachel E. Menzies
  • Andrew F. Arena
Theoretical and Methodological Perspective


Psychedelic therapies can engender enduring improvements in psychological well-being. However, relatively little is known about the psychological mechanisms through which the salutary effects of psychedelics emerge. Through integrating extant research on psychedelics with contemporary existential psychology, we present a novel hypothesis that reduced death anxiety may be a key mechanism underpinning the therapeutic effects of psychedelics. In developing this hypothesis, we also provide a complementary review of mechanisms through which psychedelics may reduce death anxiety. We conclude that an awareness of the role of death anxiety in psychopathology has the potential to guide future research into psychedelic therapies.


Psychedelics Psychedelic therapy Psilocybin LSD DMT Death anxiety Fear of death Transdiagnostic 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of SydneyCamperdownAustralia

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