What Is Psychological Dependence?

What Is Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence refers to the conditioned responses — triggered by events or feelings — that compel an individual to use a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. Triggers can be anything a person associates with using a drug of choice and can cause strong emotions that influence their addictive behavior.

Symptoms of psychological dependence are:

  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Uncertainty and denial
  • Obsessive feelings associated with obtaining the drug of choice
  • Issues with problem-solving, concentration, memory and other aspects of judgment

Psychological and Physical Dependence: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to addiction, psychological and physical dependence are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, many critical differences come up between the two.

Physical dependence is all about the body. When an individual develops an addiction to drugs or alcohol, they may experience physical withdrawal symptoms if they stop giving themselves the substance they’ve regularly been using. It refers to the body’s craving for alcohol, drugs or another addictive substance — the body’s cells cannot function the way they have been without the drug. Painful withdrawal symptoms associated with physical dependence include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Body aches
  • Chills or shakes
  • Nausea
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Tremors and/or seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms

Psychological Dependence vs. Addiction

Knowing the difference between psychological dependence and addiction can be a valuable tool in recovery. Substance dependencies — both physical and psychological — frequently lead to addiction.

Addiction refers to the combination of both psychological dependence and physical dependence on a substance, object or activity. In other words, when an individual has developed an addiction, they exhibit a chronic psychological need for a habit-forming substance, along with experiencing the physical effects of dependence.

Addiction, or the compulsive use of a substance like drugs or alcohol, can cause changes in the brain, including areas critical for judgment, decision making, behavior control, memory and learning. Addiction can also influence the part of the brain that controls pleasurable feelings, which can create a reward response or psychological dependence on a substance or activity. When the addictive substance is not supplied, an individual who has already formed a psychological dependence will experience physical withdrawal symptoms.

Get Help for Psychological Dependence

Understanding how psychological dependence and addiction fit together is essential for treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with psychological dependence, remember that 7 Summit Pathways is here to help. We offer a full range of rehabilitation services and utilize a personalized treatment approach that can address your individual needs.

For those struggling with a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, we provide medically supervised detoxification programs followed by a wide range of therapies meant to target psychological dependence. These therapies help our patients plan for a life free from addiction, re-build healthy relationships and thrive in every part of their lives.

Don’t let psychological dependence control your life any longer. Reach out to 7 Summit Pathways or schedule an appointment today to learn more about our holistic treatments that work.

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