Connecting Personality Traits and Different Psychedelic Experiences 

Personality can be described as an “individual’s collection of interrelated behavioral, cognitive and emotional patterns that biological and environmental factors influence.” In other words, personality is what makes us, us. So, it makes sense that different personality traits can impact our psychedelic experiences; and vice versa, psychedelic experiences can have profound effects on our personalities. Let’s dive deeper into this interesting correlation.

The five personality traits  

When discussing personality from a psychology standpoint, the most widely accepted theory is the Big Five Model, which categorizes personalities into five different types. Every trait is considered a spectrum with two extremes and some middle ground in between. Depending on your personality, you’ll fall somewhere on the spectrum. 

The big five model: 

  • Agreeableness: This is a measure of how well a person gets along with others. People who score high in agreeableness tend to be cooperative, warm, trusting, and will often lookout for the needs of others, whereas people who are low in this area might be more solitary, less interested in working with other people, and more skeptical of individuals and situations.  
  • Conscientiousness: This trait explores how careful, intentional, self-disciplined, and organized a person is. A person who is very conscientious is not only driven and deliberate, but they have a high level of self-awareness. Conscientiousness is often used to predict employee productivity, since people who score low on this scale often struggle with regulation, structure, and follow-through.  
  • Extraversion: Extraversion measures how social, outgoing, and energetic a person is. People who score high on this scale are considered to be extroverted, and people who get lower scores are said to be introverted. Introverts are typically quieter, more lowkey, independent, and sometimes shy. Introverts can be just as personable and charismatic as extroverts, but they often take a bit longer to warm up.  
  • Openness: This category assesses a person’s openness to new experiences. People who measure high on the openness scale are often creative and imaginative, those head-in-the-clouds types. People who score low in this category can be closed off and more conventional, but also more practical, typically keeping order and sticking to routines.  
  • Neuroticism: Also known as the stress response, neuroticism looks at an individual’s emotional stability and how they handle negative feelings and situations. It also measures a person’s general attitude towards life and how adaptable they are. People who are highly neurotic tend to have more self-doubt and anxiety, whereas less neurotic people are calm, laid-back, and confident.  

How personality traits can alter psychedelic experiences

The big five personality traits can change how we experience hallucinogens

We already covered how DNA can impact a psychedelic trip, so in that same vein, let’s take a closer look at how personality traits can do the same. Using psilocybin, a team of researcher from University of Bergen in Norway conducted a study that examined the correlation between the aforementioned “big five” personality traits and different hallucinogenic responses. Their results were published in 2019 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.  

They noted a few interesting key points. For example, those who scored high in openness were more likely to experience “love, inner visions, and contact with non-ordinary beings and transcendent forces”. They also found that people who scored higher in extraversion reported deeper connections to others while using psychedelics. Interestingly, extraverts were also found to be “the least likely to encounter non-ordinary beings”. This is likely because they gravitate toward social interaction as opposed to more introspective experiences.  

They also found, as expected, that people who scored high in the neuroticism category are more likely to experience bad trips. They concluded that “highly emotionally stable individuals are less likely to experience fear during a psychedelic trip and risk-takers are more likely to experience ego death or ego dissolution because they have a higher tendency to pursue extreme psychological experiences.” 

How psychedelic drugs can change your personality  

Just like the five personality traits can have affect your psychedelic experience, conversely, psychedelics can also have an impact on those personality traits. Recent findings suggest that psychedelics can increase openness and conscientiousness, and decrease neuroticism. One study titled ‘The Effects of Psilocybin Therapy on Personality Structure’, published by David Erritzo in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica in 2018, examined 20 patients with treatment resistant depression who had started using psilocybin.  

First, they assessed the patients’ baseline personality traits using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R), which includes multiple questions for each personality trait that can be answered on a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Then, they gave each patient two doses of psilocybin, each one week apart. The first dose was 10mg, and the second dose was 25mg. And finally, the participants answered a series of follow up questions to see what their current state of mind was.  

Most notably, the researchers saw a substantial decrease in neuroticism scores, and an increase in extraversion and openness scores. Conscientiousness scores also increased, but only marginally. And interestingly, agreeableness scores remained identical from the baseline assessment for all participants. 

Psychedelics can open different parts of the psyche and change our personalities for the better

Although antidepressants can produce similar results, it’s not quite the same. It seems that psychedelic therapy can increase openness and extraversion in ways that other treatments simply have not been able to, and in a much shorter time frame. And when it comes to having those profound, life-altering psychedelic experiences, openness is the key personality trait, so they almost play off each other. The hallucinogens make you more open to experiences, and in turn, this openness make the psychedelic experience even better.  

New studies suggest that even microdosing can change your personality for the better by helping to facilitate positive thinking and kick bad habits. For example, study by Hannah Dressler et al., published in the Journal of Psychedelic Studies, found that 76 participants who were micrdosing psilocybin for 1 month benefitted tremendously from the practice. He noted that all of them reported an increase in conscientiousness and decrease in neuroticism. However, other personality traits such as agreeableness, openness, or extraversion remained the same. Which is interesting considering that studies on higher doses found somewhat different personality-related changes. The participants also reported feeling more organized, responsible, and determined, after microdosing, which helped them take on more daily, mundane tasks without wanting to quit.  

Another noteworthy study published in the Journal of Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs earlier this year echoed the above research, but added that microdosing can make users feel more authentic, “providing fresh insights and the potential benefits of this practice”. The participants themselves reported feeling higher levels of authenticity on days they microdosed compared to the days they did not.

Another noteworthy study published in the Journal of Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs earlier this year echoed the above research, but added that microdosing can make users feel more authentic, “providing fresh insights and the potential benefits of this practice”. The participants themselves reported feeling higher levels of authenticity on days they microdosed compared to the days they did not.  

Final thoughts  

The impact of personality traits on psychedelic experiences is very important to consider in both recreational and medical settings. It can give you a better indication of how you’ll react to hallucinogenic drugs and what course of treatment (or fun) is best for your journey.

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