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Catharsis (from the Greek katharsis) is precisely defined as a cleansing, with no substantial consensus in regards to its exact meaning.[1] Generally, this effect is a form of emotional insight.[2][3][4][5][6] The process typically starts off being difficult to fully face and is sometimes accompanied by physically intense sensations which typically lead into pronounced emotion intensification, deep introspection, and an analysis of one's character and past events.[7] During this experience many people describe reliving traumatic events, witnessing painful memories, having enhanced mental imagery, reliving of past experiences, painful feelings in general, and a release of previously repressed emotions.[4][6][7] This process of integrating manifestations of conflicts and traumas into long-term stable memories is often described as feeling very natural.

This effect can be helpful in aiding an individual overcome conditions such as addiction,[4][8] post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other personal afflictions relating to suffered past traumas.[9] After this experience is over, most users report feelings of increased life satisfaction, rejuvenation, and spirituality intensification which may last days, weeks, or even years after the event is over.[6][10]

Catharsis is most commonly induced in therapeutic settings under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.[9][11][12][13][14][15] However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of entactogens, dissociatives,[9][13][14] and meditation.


The culturally dominant definition of catharsis, releasing the pressure of negative emotions, was popularized by both Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud as the hydraulic model in psychoanalysis[16][17] and Jakob Bernays's purgation theory in philology.[1][18][19] There is a large amount of discussion of these theories' unsuitability towards the emotion of anger, showing that acting aggressively produces more aggression.[16][17][20][21] Aggression studies' applicability towards catharsis can be called into question though, specifically regarding the nature of security required to experience this effect.[22] It is also notable that Freud himself abandoned this model in practice, favouring the psychoanalytical technique of free association.[23]

Psychoactive substances

Compounds within our psychoactive substance index which may cause this effect include:

Experience reports

Annectdotal reports which describe this effect with our experience index include:

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Solbakk, J. H. (July 2006). "'Catharsis and moral therapy II: An Aristotelian account'". Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 9 (2): 141–153. doi:10.1007/s11019-005-8319-1. 
  2. Roseman, L., Nutt, D. J., Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). "Quality of Acute Psychedelic Experience Predicts Therapeutic Efficacy of Psilocybin for Treatment-Resistant Depression". Frontiers in Pharmacology. 8. ISSN 1663-9812. 
  3. Tesser, A., Leone, C., Clary, E. G. (September 1978). "Affect control: Process Constraints versus Catharsis". Cognitive Therapy and Research. 2 (3): 265–274. doi:10.1007/BF01185788. ISSN 0147-5916. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Winkelman, M. (July 2001). "Psychointegrators: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Therapeutic Effects of Hallucinogens". Complementary health practice review. 6 (3): 219–237. doi:10.1177/153321010100600304. ISSN 1533-2101. 
  5. Kaelen, M., Barrett, F. S., Roseman, L., Lorenz, R., Family, N., Bolstridge, M., Curran, H. V., Feilding, A., Nutt, D. J., Carhart-Harris, R. L. (October 2015). "LSD enhances the emotional response to music". Psychopharmacology. 232 (19): 3607–3614. doi:10.1007/s00213-015-4014-y. ISSN 0033-3158. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Gasser, P., Kirchner, K., Passie, T. (January 2015). "LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with a life-threatening disease: A qualitative study of acute and sustained subjective effects". Journal of Psychopharmacology. 29 (1): 57–68. doi:10.1177/0269881114555249. ISSN 0269-8811. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Belser, Alexander B.; Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle; Swift, T. Cody; Terrana, Sara; Devenot, Neşe; Friedman, Harris L.; Guss, Jeffrey; Bossis, Anthony; Ross, Stephen (2017). "Patient Experiences of Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 57 (4): 354–388. doi:10.1177/0022167817706884. ISSN 0022-1678. 
  8. Bogenschutz, M. P., Johnson, M. W. (January 2016). "Classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addictions". Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 64: 250–258. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2015.03.002. ISSN 0278-5846. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Garcia-Romeu, A., Kersgaard, B., Addy, P. H. (August 2016). "Clinical applications of hallucinogens: A review". Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 24 (4): 229–268. doi:10.1037/pha0000084. ISSN 1936-2293. 
  10. Carbonaro, T. M., Bradstreet, M. P., Barrett, F. S., MacLean, K. A., Jesse, R., Johnson, M. W., Griffiths, R. R. (December 2016). "Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences". Journal of Psychopharmacology. 30 (12): 1268–1278. doi:10.1177/0269881116662634. ISSN 0269-8811. 
  11. Winkelman, M. (September 1991). "Therapeutic Effects of Hallucinogens". Anthropology of Consciousness. 2 (3–4): 15–19. doi:10.1525/ac.1991.2.3-4.15. ISSN 1053-4202. 
  12. Hartogsohn, I. (2018). "The Meaning-Enhancing Properties of Psychedelics and Their Mediator Role in Psychedelic Therapy, Spirituality, and Creativity". Frontiers in Neuroscience. 12. ISSN 1662-453X. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Wolfson, P. E. (1 July 2014). "Psychedelic Experiential Pharmacology: Pioneering Clinical Explorations with Salvador Roquet (How I Came to All of This: Ketamine, Admixtures and Adjuvants, Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda Too): An Interview with Richard Yensen". International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. 33 (2): 160–174. doi:10.24972/ijts.2014.33.2.160. ISSN 1321-0122. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Kolp, E., Friedman, H. L., Krupitsky, E., Jansen, K., Sylvester, M., Young, M. S., Kolp, A. (1 July 2014). "Ketamine Psychedelic Psychotherapy: Focus on its Pharmacology, Phenomenology, and Clinical Applications". International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. 33 (2): 84–140. doi:10.24972/ijts.2014.33.2.84. ISSN 1321-0122. 
  15. Gasser, P., Holstein, D., Michel, Y., Doblin, R., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Passie, T., Brenneisen, R. (July 2014). "Safety and Efficacy of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety Associated With Life-threatening Diseases". Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 202 (7): 513–520. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000113. ISSN 0022-3018. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Bushman, B. J. (June 2002). "Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 28 (6): 724–731. doi:10.1177/0146167202289002. ISSN 0146-1672. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Bohart, A. C. (1980). "Toward a cognitive theory of catharsis". Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice. 17 (2): 192–201. doi:10.1037/h0085911. ISSN 0033-3204. 
  18. Golden, L. (1973). "The Purgation Theory of Catharsis". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 31 (4): 473. doi:10.2307/429320. ISSN 0021-8529. 
  19. Porter, J. I. (1 June 2015). "Tragedy and the Idea of Modernity". In Billings, J., Leonard, M. Jacob Bernays and the Catharsis of Modernity. Oxford University Press. pp. 14–41. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198727798.003.0002. ISBN 9780198727798. 
  20. Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., Stack, A. D. (1999). "Catharsis, aggression, and persuasive influence: Self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecies?". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 76 (3): 367–376. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.76.3.367. ISSN 1939-1315. 
  21. Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., Phillips, C. M. (2001). "Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 81 (1): 17–32. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.17. ISSN 1939-1315. 
  22. Geen, R. G., Quanty, M. B. (1977). "Advances in Experimental Social Psychology". The Catharsis of Aggression: An Evaluation of a Hypothesis. 10. Elsevier. pp. 1–37. doi:10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60353-6. ISBN 9780120152100. 
  23. Nichols, M. P., Efran, J. S. (1985). "Catharsis in psychotherapy: A new perspective". Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 22 (1): 46–58. doi:10.1037/h0088525. ISSN 1939-1536.