We can spend years and even decades seeking relief from symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, and low self-esteem. How does a substance like MDMA work when nothing else has made a long-term, significant impact?
The key is in how MDMA calms the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with emotional processes. When we experience trauma, either a single incident (e.g., assault, abuse) or chronic pattern of events (e.g., emotional neglect, boundary violations, unmet childhood needs), adrenaline floods the body and the memory is imprinted in the amygdala in the form of a conditioned fear response.
Over time, the amygdala can become increasingly sensitive to threats, negatively impacting our nervous system, emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. We develop patterns of relating to ourselves (e.g., self-criticism, perfectionism), others (e.g., codependency, people-pleasing), and life itself (e.g., scarcity mindset, always on the lookout for “the other shoe to drop”) that help us survive but leave us feeling chronically anxious, depressed, stressed, overwhelmed, empty, numb, and/or disconnected. MDMA decreases activity in the amygdala and in doing so allows us to reprocess traumatic experiences in an environment of safety and release energy/emotions stored in our nervous system. By calming our nervous system’s conditioned fear response we can let go of our unhelpful coping mechanisms and defence strategies to heal the root of our symptoms. Trauma is the result of a disconnection from self and/or others (we evolve to survive in groups, not live alone so feeling disconnection is life-threatening). MDMA heals by helping us access feelings of connection, both to ourselves and others. Psychedelic medicine (including MDMA) is powerful and not without risk. It’s important to work with a trained, trauma-informed psychedelic guide or therapist who can properly review your medical and mental health history to ensure you have the safest, most beneficial experience possible.