Thought loops on substances like LSD are a common part of the psychedelic experience. Essentially a loop is getting stuck in a thought, feeling, or action.
Acid thought loops can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that they are normal and temporary. Your mind will eventually come back to its old self, and many suggest that thought loops are psychedelics “trying to show you something.”
What Is It Like to Be in an LSD Thought Loop?
Getting stuck in thought loops on acid can be obsessing over an idea or emotion and repeating the same tasks over and over. When on high doses of psychedelics, it’s very common to walk into a room, forget why you came, and then reenact the whole experience – sometimes maybe even for hours.
Some other examples are:
Thought loops can sometimes be paranoid and complex, but they can also be so simple it’s frustrating, like this one:
While most conversations focus on negative thought loops there are reports of positive thought loops on acid:
What To Do If You Are Stuck in a Thought Loop Right Now
Getting stuck in thought loops can be very confusing, but once you realize what’s happening, there are things you can do to break the cycle. First, don’t panic. You are not going to be like this forever, you are not going crazy, and getting “stuck in loops” is a very normal part of tripping on acid.
The realization that you are in the loop has the potential to weaken it or break it.
While under the influence of LSD, some recreational users who in real-time realize they are in a loop and now are aware of it, regret waking up from it and wish they could have stayed there for a bit longer.
Alternatively, you can try surrendering and enjoying the ride instead of fighting it. The LSD experience will pass shortly, as will the thought loops.
There are several things you can do to break or minimize your thought loops:
Take Deep Breaths
Probably the most powerful tool for navigating any psychedelic in the breath. From clinicians and researchers to shamans in the jungle, almost every facilitator will recommend connecting with your breath.
The act of taking long, slow, deep breaths has been shown by multiple studies to calm down your nervous system. Counting your breaths and inhaling deep into your belly will slow down your heart rate and thoughts.
This way of breathing can also be viewed as a mindfulness practice. By grounding yourself using your breath, you become more aware of the present moment, and hopefully, get out of the loop.
Surrendering to Obsessive Acid Thought Loops
One typical piece of wisdom offered by many psychedelic facilitators is to surrender when experiencing an intense or confusing experience such as thought loops.
When you are dealing with obsessive thought loops, you have to accept what is happening. It is very difficult and maybe even impossible to resist or push away something as powerful as a looping thought on acid. You might even find that fighting these uncomfortable thoughts will only make them stronger.
Change the Music to Interrupt LSD Thought Loops
Music has a considerable effect on our moods when we are sober, and research suggests that this could become even more amplified when we are tripping. Try changing the song or playlist to something familiar and comforting.
It’s been well documented that certain music can trigger old memories and “amplify emotions” for people on LSD. So, why not choose some music that makes you feel terrific and see if psychedelics can amplify the sensation?
On a side note, some recreational LSD users claim that music, especially psychedelic trance music, also acts as a loop when they are tripping on LSD. There could be a deeper meaning to this than simply getting stuck on a rhythmic pattern and nodding your head as in a rock show.
As an example, these users shared with us that when they leave a psychedelic party in nature and return home, they can still hear the beat of the trance music through the repetitive sound of their car wheels. One could say that this example contributes to the idea that their mind keeps looping back on that music, that it is both a passive and active listening experience.
According to the same users, the right music can not only change the atmosphere but also get you into a “musical loop” intentionally. The idea is that it might be able to facilitate your mind’s need to be stuck in an endless loop. In a way, you trick the loop itself by “placing” it on the background music. This might give you a couple of minutes of rest while still tripping on acid.
So if you’re stuck in a thought loop, and you need a break, try listening to some psychedelic music.
Move to a New Environment
You have probably heard about “set and setting,” meaning your mindset and environment are vital parts of the psychedelic experience. These two factors are very connected, with the environment directly affecting your mood.
If you are stuck in a loop in a particular setting, try going outside into a different room or choosing another activity. Going for a walk in nature or a familiar place like your bedroom or couch can have a calming effect.
Talk to Someone
Thought loops become more intense when you are alone in your head with them. Talking to another person you are tripping with, or a sober sitter can be extremely helpful for breaking the cycle of repeating thoughts.
It is possible for two or more people to be stuck in an almost identical thought loop. However, at the end of the day, for most people, it no longer feels like a mind prison, but rather an activity shared with others.
If you are tipping alone, you can try calling a friend you trust or even a psychedelic support hotline like Fireside Project, where volunteers can help you through the experience.
Why Do We Have Thought Loops on Psychedelics Like LSD?
There is not any official scientific research focused on the phenomenon of thought loops and psychedelics. There is an online theory that thought loops have to do with short-term memory loss while tripping. However, we couldn’t find any science to back it up.
The theory is illustrated well in this trip report describing LSD thought loops and how overwhelming the experience can be, with the author stating, “I was absolutely convinced that this would be my destiny for eternity.”
The Psychology of Thought Loops
In psychology, the phenomenon of thought loops is recognized with a couple of concepts defined in people without the effect of psychedelics:
- Rumination – these are constant repetitive thoughts, often negative, and are linked to depression.
- Intrusive Thoughts – these thoughts can feel strange, annoying, and taboo, are difficult to push away, and will repeat.
These patterns are related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, PTSD, and autism and can trigger or be triggered by anxiety. While these are fairly well documented, there has not been a lot of specific study on why these thoughts appear during psychedelic journeys. Neither can we confirm nor deny that these loops described here are the same as LSD thought loops.
Many psychedelic studies have examined conditions like OCD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. But the research to date has been on the after-effects of psychedelic treatment, which can decrease rumination with proper integration.
So how is it possible psychedelics both cause thought loops and potentially stop thought looping?
The Default Mode Network and Thought Loops
Many theories point to the Default Mode Network (DMN), which is related, among many other things, to introspective thought. The DMN is also associated with “dysfunction of the brain,” specifically with conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, autism, schizophrenia, dementia, and epilepsy. A great deal of psychedelic research is focused on these conditions because brain scans of people on psychedelics have shown changes to the DMN.
Psychedelic researchers Carhart-Harris and neuroscientist Karl Friston created a theoretical model for how psychedelics affect the brain. It outlines how the brains normally ordered and predictable patterns become disrupted by psychedelics like LSD allowing for new psychological pathways to emerge – specifically changes to rumination.
While this doesn’t precisely explain why thought loops happen during the psychedelic experience, it does offer some clues towards where psychedelic science could find answers to these questions.
Actually, to free ourselves from obsessive and repeating thoughts, we need to have something called “psychological flexibility.” As the name suggests, we can create distance from current mental patterns and consider new ones. It is also related to our ability to accept our circumstances and adapt to change.
Psychological flexibility is related to our well-being. Its opposite, psychological inflexibility, is rigid thinking that doesn’t adapt well to change – think rumination, depression, and all that other stuff associated with being “stuck.”
A study about the “Adverse Effects” of psychedelics documents that a “bad trip” can be navigated with proper support into something positive. Even though can’t simply tell ourselves or others who are stuck in a loop to “be more psychologically flexible.” What can be reassuring is the knowledge that “challenging experiences” (like a dark thought loop) during an LSD trip can be “cathartic,” implying a release of emotions that offers relief.
How to Get Out of a Negative LSD Thought Loop
An LSD thought loop will always come to an end. Feeling intense and sometimes scary emotions is part of taking LSD, and something to be prepared for no matter if it’s your first acid trip or you’re a seasoned vet. No one can really predict what will happen while on psychedelic drugs, so be ready for anything – good or bad.
If you are stuck in a thought loop, try to relax, accept what is happening, turn on some nice music, go for a walk, lay in the grass, or have a conversation with someone you trust. And remember that LSD or any other psychedelic is temporary!