Ego death

Ego death (also known as ego suppression, ego loss or ego dissolution) is the temporary experience of a partial to complete loss of subjective self-identity. This is usually described as the profound experience of remaining fully conscious, while there is no longer an “I” experiencing one's sensory input; there is just the sensory input as it is and by itself. Ego death suppresses the otherwise nearly constant sensation in waking life of being a separate observer interacting with an external world. Although ego death does not necessarily shut down awareness of all mental processes, it does remove the feeling of being the cause of one's mental processes (being "the thinker"). This often results in the feeling of processing concepts from a neutral perspective completely untainted by past memories, prior experiences, contexts, and biases. The experience of ego death is well documented throughout the modern psychonaut subculture. However, it is worth noting that this informal term of "ego death" or "ego dissolution" is also occasionally used to refer to states of high-level unity and interconnectedness. [1] [2] [3] However, within the Subjective Effect Index those terms are defined to specifically refer to a loss of one's sense of self and not the sudden feeling that it is constituted by a wider array of concepts than it previously did.

Subjective differences between various substances

Within the context of psychedelic usage, ego death is most commonly triggered at heavy dosages by states of high level memory suppression which cause the person to forget who they are. At other times however it can also be triggered by or in combination with sensory overload causing the person's consciousness to be completely consumed by information and therefore incapable of maintaining a stable sense of self. Within the context of dissociative usage, however, ego death seems to be triggered at heavy dosages by increasingly intense cognitive disconnection causing a person to become entirely dissociated from cognitive functions such as the maintenance of a sense of identity. In terms of accompanying effects, psychedelic ego death usually occurs alongside states of level 6-7 geometry and internal hallucinations of an intense and often overwhelming nature. It also often synergizes with other coinciding effects such as personal bias suppression, unity and interconnectedness, spirituality enhancement, and delusions. [1] [3] These accompanying effects further elevate the subjective intensity and transpersonal significance of ego death experiences. [2] In comparison however, dissociative ego death usually occurs alongside of high level sensory disconnection and out of body experiences, within voids or holes filled with hallucinatory structures. When compared to its dissociative equivalent, psychedelic egodeath is also typically much more likely to cause an anxious response within those who are inexperienced. This is because many people experience dissociatives as inherently calming and tranquil whereas high dosage psychedelics are quite often experienced as the opposite. Outside of psychedelic's and dissociatives, it is also possible to experience ego death under the influence of a few other classes of psychoactive compound. For example, extremely heavy dosages of deliriants such as DPH or datura can often result in ego death that is accompanied by delusions, psychosis, and external hallucinations. Along side of this, heavy dosages of salvia divinorum are extremely effective at inducing ego death that is accompanied by bizzare internal hallucinations, autonomous entity contact, and machinescapes. Although these two classes of hallucinogen function very differently on both a subjective and neuropharmacological level, both of their equivalents to ego death feel as if they stem from different forms of a break down or deterioration in the brains ability to maintain normal levels of cognitive functioning.


  1. Lebedev, A. V., Lövdén, M., Rosenthal, G., Feilding, A., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart‐Harris, R. L. (2015). Finding the self by losing the self: Neural correlates of ego‐dissolution under psilocybin. Human brain mapping, 36(8), 3137-3153. |
  2. Nour, M. M., Evans, L., Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2016). Ego-dissolution and psychedelics: validation of the ego-dissolution inventory (EDI). Frontiers in human neuroscience, 10, 269. |
  3. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Leech, R., Hellyer, P. J., Shanahan, M., Feilding, A., Tagliazucchi, E., ... & Nutt, D. (2014). The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8, 20. |




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