What Is An Out Of Body Experience? – Exploring What It Feels Like

June 25, 2023 (Last updated on: July 7, 2023)
A young woman experiencing an out of body experience.

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are intense, profound experiences. In OBEs, people feel like they have left their physical bodies and can observe the world from a third-person perspective.

These experiences can be incredibly vivid and powerful, often leaving long-lasting memories. Despite their profound nature, science is yet to explain the phenomenon in detail.

This article will explore what it feels like to experience an out-of-body experience, its potential risks, ways to induce them safely, famous examples of out-of-body experiences in popular culture, and the skepticism surrounding them.

What Does an Out-of-Body Experience Feel Like?

An out-of-body experience (OBE) is defined as a sensation of moving outside one’s physical body and being aware of being separate from it. This often involves floating up or away from one’s physical form, seeing one’s body from a third-person perspective, and potentially even discovering a new ‘astral’ body that can move through space without impediment. Depending on the person experiencing an OBE, there may also be sensations such as hearing buzzing noises or feeling ‘tingles’ in different body parts.

Everyday experiences during out-of-body experiences include visiting unusual places that may not physically exist or meeting people who those around them cannot see. Further effects may include freedom from pain and illness while in the altered state and near-death experiences, such as feeling a sense of peace and joy beyond ordinary human understanding.

What Happens During An Out Of Body Experience?

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) involve a separation from one person’s consciousness and physical form, which can result in various effects for different people. During an OBE, some commonly reported sensations include feeling light or floating up towards the ceiling, appearing transparent or hallucinatory, passing through walls, and observing events happening elsewhere while being aware but unable to interact with them. There may also be feelings accompanied by buzzing noises, strong emotions such as love and peace combined with intense joy, and a sense of energy around oneself without actually feeling it on one’s skin.

Other sensations reported during OBEs include experiencing vibrations throughout the brain and entire body or just part thereof, feeling tingles or electric shocks traveling up and down the spine, seeing visions or perceiving spirit guides/entities as separate beings, and experiencing otherworldly landscapes filled with stars and bright lights. Individuals have also reported hearing music or soundscapes that they’ve never heard before or after this altered state.

During OBEs, some may also experience lucid dream states while always remaining conscious. These states can also include tactile consciousness, in which individuals become acutely aware when touching objects while still in an altered state, usually only experienced during sleep paralysis episodes within dreams. Some individuals have reported seeing colored clouds made up entirely of spectral lights, known as astral light.

People that have gone through OBEs can sometimes even eat or consume food within this altered state, during which the food does not appear solid but can be tasted and experienced nonetheless. Individuals have reported communicating telepathically with others undergoing this same state, which can be consciously initiated by oneself or spontaneously by another entity/being present during the altered state. Although OBEs continue to fascinate and intrigue many worldwide, much is still not yet understood about these experiences from a medical or scientific perspective.

Are Out of Body Experiences Always The Same?

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) come in many forms and can vary widely between individuals. Some commonly reported categories include spontaneous OBEs without warning and lucid dream-like states where individuals always remain aware. There are also sleeping dream states that occur naturally amid sleep paralysis episodes, known as REM sleep intrusions, where individuals become hyper-aware upon suddenly waking up paralyzed inside their body yet remaining conscious at all times. These dream-like states can bridge both realms, making it easier for spirit beings/entities to manifest themselves into our realm through us, allowing us to communicate with them directly.

There are also projected Dream Consciousness States, which require initiating dreaming consciously instead of letting it happen spontaneously while asleep. Additionally, there are Induced States where individuals seek to evoke OBEs through intensive concentration techniques, meditations, and other methods.

Some OBEs are Verified & Veridical Experiences, which occur when information acquired during an OBE is later confirmed independently, regardless of whether it is related directly to ourselves. This is due to a likely linked projection, where someone who shared the same vision in the astral plane or etheric level synchronistically means awareness. While OBEs continue to fascinate and intrigue many worldwide, much is still not yet understood about these phenomena from a medical or scientific perspective.

Theories About Out Of Body Experiences

Out-of-body experiences have been linked to both spiritual/religious beliefs. Ancient traditions and cultures have described these phenomena quite frequently, but scientific theories propose various physiological factors believed to play a role in triggering these mental states.

Some studies suggest that near-death, life-threatening situations or events offer a higher chance of inducing actual, consequential, verified OBEs. Although lesions in particular points of the skull base or frontoparietal junction and certain emotions are linked to the functioning of brain regions of the temporal and parietal junction, self-report imagery-related activity increases in the left supplementary motor area. Virtual reality simulations of overactivity of particular cortexes (superior temporal gyrus) are believed to be factors that can occur more readily in healthy participants.

Cognitive neuroscience has also suggested that some vestibular system disorders and impairments may lead to a partial loss of sensory input to the visual cortex that affects bodily self-consciousness and the individual’s perception of physical presence, increasing the likelihood of astral projection and dissociation from one’s physical form.

Additionally, some researchers propose that OBEs result from changes in functional brain connectivity, particularly brain lesions in the posterior superior temporal gyri and extrastriate body area.

Benefits of Out Of Body Experiences

While OBEs can be seen as an unusual and potentially risky experience, some people have reported benefits of OBEs, including increased spiritual awareness, enhanced creativity, and personal growth. Also, OBEs can provide insight into the nature of consciousness. It allows for perspective-taking beyond oneself and provides experiences that make it easier to understand themselves and their relation to the world around them.

Risks of Out Of Body Experiences

One of the most common risks associated with OBEs is sleep paralysis, where a person is paralyzed and unable to move, which can be quite distressing. Other risks associated with OBEs include increased fear and anxiety during the experience, which can sometimes lead to negative psychological impacts.

In rare cases, OBEs may be associated with mental health conditions, such as dissociative disorders, which can cause long-term disruption to an individual’s sense of self. There is also some risk involved in attempting to induce an OBE, as some methods can lead to negative side effects.

How To Experience An Out Of Body Experience Safely

There is no one definitive way to experience an OBE safely. However, some best practices exist for inducing an OBE and staying safe while experiencing it.

Some common steps include practicing lucid dreaming and becoming more mentally embodied, imagining oneself floating outside the body while still feeling connected to it, focusing on the virtual body part’s physical sensations such as breathing or heartbeat, and visualizing oneself moving through the environment with control. One should always feel centered and grounded during the experience, which can help mitigate any risks associated with the experience.

Famous Examples of Out Of Body Experiences

Some examples of famous OBEs throughout history include Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, who reportedly had an OBE shortly before her execution. Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut, has also spoken about his experience of having an OBE on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher, also reported several OBEs throughout his life.

More recently, various modern celebrities have reported having OBEs, including supermodel Kate Moss and actor William Shatner. These experiences have been documented in books, interviews, and other forms of media.

Out Of Body Experiences In Popular Culture

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) have been a popular subject in popular culture for decades, with many movies, TV shows, and books featuring characters experiencing OBEs in one way or another.

One common depiction of OBEs in popular culture is the classic ghost story trope of a spirit leaving the body after death. This can be seen in movies such as “The Sixth Sense” and “Ghost,” where characters can exist outside of their physical bodies and interact with the world differently.

Another famous depiction of OBEs in popular culture is the idea of astral projection, where a person can leave their body intentionally and travel to different places in the astral realm. This concept has been explored in movies such as “Doctor Strange” and “Insidious,” as well as in books such as “His Dark Materials” series by Philip Pullman.

Overall, OBEs continue to captivate audiences in various forms of media, offering a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of the human mind, body image, and spirit.

Skepticism Surrounding Out Of Body Experiences

While many people report having had an out-of-body experience (OBE), there is also a great deal of skepticism surrounding this phenomenon. Critics argue that the lack of empirical evidence makes it difficult to determine the veracity of these experiences.

One of the primary arguments against OBEs is the difficulty of reproducibility in controlled settings. Due to the subjective nature of the experience, it can be challenging to measure and analyze what is happening in the brain and body during an OBE. Additionally, some studies have suggested that OBEs may result from abnormal brain activity rather than detachment from the physical body.

Despite these criticisms, many people continue to report having OBEs. For some, these experiences offer a sense of spiritual connectedness and a greater understanding of life and death. However, the scientific community remains divided on the validity of these experiences, with many calling for further research to understand this fascinating and complex phenomenon better.

Real-Life Experiences of Out Of Body Experiences

Many people report having had an out-of-body experience (OBE) at some point, offering compelling and often deeply personal anecdotes of this phenomenon. These experiences can vary widely from person to person, with some experiencing fleeting sensations of lightness while others describing extended and vivid disassociation experiences.

Many people who have had an OBE describe feeling a sense of detached serenity or a feeling of being removed from the physical world. Some report seeing their body from a third-person perspective, while others describe traveling to different realms or dimensions and interacting with other beings. Often, these experiences are life-changing and lead to a greater appreciation of the mysteries of the universe.

Despite the personal nature of these anecdotes and the many reports of OBEs, it is essential to acknowledge the skepticism surrounding these experiences. While many believe that they have had an out-of-body experience, it cannot be easy to verify these claims scientifically due to the subjective and introspective nature of the phenomenon. Nonetheless, the power and significance of these experiences cannot be denied, and they continue to be a subject of fascination for people around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is it called when you are out of your body?
An out-of-body experience (OBE) is a phenomenon where a person feels like they are observing the world outside their body. This can include floating above one’s body, watching themselves from a third-person perspective, falling asleep, or even feeling like they have left their physical body entirely.

Why do I feel like I left my body?

There are many reasons why someone might feel like they have left their body, ranging from spiritual experiences to the effects of drugs, trauma, or even sleep disorders. One common cause is anxiety or panic attacks, which can trigger feelings of dissociation and detachment from one’s own body, particularly emotions. Other possible causes include meditation, hypnosis, hallucinogenic drugs, or neurological disorders.

Can anxiety cause out-of-body experiences?

Yes, anxiety and panic attacks are known to be at least one obe two of the triggers for OBEs. During stress or anxiety, the human body may release hormones such as adrenaline, which can cause physical sensations and feelings of detachment from the body. OBEs triggered by anxiety may be particularly distressing, as they can feel like an additional symptom of an already challenging experience.

What triggers depersonalization?

Depersonalization is feeling disconnected from one’s thoughts, feelings, and body. Various factors, including stress, trauma, sleep deprivation, substance abuse, and certain medications, can trigger it. It can also be a symptom of underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Depersonalization can be a distressing experience, and anyone experiencing prolonged or severe symptoms should seek medical attention.

What is the medical term for out-of-body?

The medical term for out-of-body experiences is autoscopic phenomena, which refers to the perception of seeing one’s own body from an external perspective. However, this term encompasses more phenomena in neurological patients than OBEs, including phantom limb syndrome, where amputees experience sensations in a missing limb. While OBEs are a relatively common experience reported by many people worldwide, much is still not yet understood about this phenomenon from a medical or scientific perspective.


In conclusion, out-of-body experiences are an intriguing and intense mental state likely mediated by a complex interplay of factors involving brain function and sensory input. While there are certain risks associated with OBEs, there are also potential benefits to exploring this altered state of consciousness.

By understanding the phenomenon better, we may gain insight into the nature of the human mind and consciousness and move towards a better working scientific understanding of these phenomena. Regardless of the scientific evidence, the prevalence and persistence of reports of OBEs only attest to a fundamental human need to explain and explore the perimeters of near death experiences of the self. Ultimately, through these experiences, we can gain a greater appreciation for the depths of our own consciousness and the nature of our own existence.


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