The echoes of near-death experiences, according to study

Near-death experiences can have psychological consequences that shatter existential certainties. Result: they alter the flow of “normal life” in the minds of survivors. This is what a study conducted by post-doctoral fellow at the University of São Paulo (USP) Beatriz Ferrara Carunchio revealed, according to G1.

For those in a hurry:

  • Beatriz Ferrara Carunchio, postdoctoral fellow at USP, found that near-death experiences can profoundly alter survivors' perception of reality, affecting their existential certainties and modifying the course of their lives;
  • The study points to the existence of positive and negative experiences during near-death episodes, highlighting characteristics such as out-of-body experiences, encounters with entities and feelings of peace, as well as anguish and fear;
  • The research revealed that the nature of the life-threatening situation significantly influences the type of near-death experience, with variations between patients under the influence of substances, those with cardiorespiratory arrests and individuals in sudden risk situations;
  • The findings emphasize the need to understand how near-death experiences affect individuals' recovery and reintegration into everyday life, suggesting the importance of therapeutic approaches sensitive to these profound and transformative experiences.

To reach this conclusion, Beatriz analyzed reports collected by her during her doctoral research, carried out at PUC-SP. The researcher completed her postdoc at the Department of Social and Work Psychology, linked to the USP Psychology Institute.

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Near-death experiences and their consequences

Photo with trace of hand movement of a person lying down to illustrate a near-death experience
(Image: HandintheBoxinc/Shutterstock)

Near-death experiences (NDEs, for short) are described as intense psychological events with transcendental and mystical characteristics. They occur in moments of proximity to death (hence the name) or in situations of extreme physical or emotional risk.

The study, published in PUC's Revista Rever, indicates that the majority of NDEs lead to positive experiences of peace and serenity. However, research points to the existence of a significant subset of disturbing experiences, characterized by feelings of anguish, fear and discomfort. These experiences contrast with the most common reports of acceptance and contentment, which highlights the diversity of the psychological impacts of NDEs.

Among the common characteristics of these experiences, cited by Beatriz, are the out-of-body experience, crossing a tunnel, awareness of being dead, peace and serenity, review of life history, encounters with deceased loved ones, visits to other planes and encounters with an intense bright light. These elements vary between pleasant and disturbing experiences.

Beatriz's research involved 350 people in Brazil, revealing that 14% of patients overall and 51% of those at risk of death had NDEs. The nature of the risk condition significantly impacted the type of near-death experience experienced by patients. Furthermore, different conditions have led to different types of NDEs.

Types of experiences

Near death experience illustration
(Image: Pedro Spadoni via DALL-E/Olhar Digital)

Patients under the influence of substances such as alcohol, drugs or medication, for example, tend to report experiences with confusing or bizarre aspects. On the other hand, patients who have suffered cardiorespiratory arrests often report out-of-body experiences, while those exposed to risks of sudden death, such as accidents, have a prevalence of cognitive elements such as life history review.

The study sheds light on the complexity of NDEs and suggests the need for a deeper understanding of how these experiences influence the psychological recovery and reintegration into everyday life of individuals who experience them. Some reports from survivors are available on G1.

Beatriz Carunchio's findings highlight the importance of considering NDEs within the context of treatment and recovery of patients who have faced situations in which they almost died. The research paves the way for more sensitive and informed therapeutic approaches to these profound, transformative, and sometimes disturbing experiences.

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