What is The Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence

Recovery is achieved through psychotherapy, counseling, and substituting the addictive behaviors for healthy alternatives. Alcohol use can cause irreversible liver damage and breaks down within the body into a known carcinogen³. The physical side effects of drug use are often enough for people to want to stop, but they may require medical treatment to overcome their withdrawals safely. Knowing the stance of the American Psychiatric Association, can we still assume there is a difference between psychological and physical addiction? Absolutely, but the distinction all depends on the particular experiences of the person struggling with a substance use disorder. This is why a professional and intensive rehab program with good aftercare is necessary for your success in beating your habit. The CDC reports that more than two million Americans were dependent on prescription opiates in 2014. The United Nations recently released the World Drug Report 2016, which indicated that there are more than 29 million people worldwide who suffer from a serious drug use disorder. So, know that if you are struggling with an opiates addiction or other substance abuse disorder, know that you are not alone. Psychological substance dependence refers to the user’s perceived need for a substance, based on a strong compulsion or urge to use the substance.

Eco Sober House

Although all types of addictions cause harm, there are considerable differences between physical and psychological addiction. Understanding those differences and recognizing the signs and symptoms of each type of addiction can help determine the best course of treatment. Physical and psychological dependence on a drug is different, although many with addictions to drugs or alcohol have both. Being physically dependent on a substance means a person’s brain and body have come to rely on the drug, and that a person will experience physical withdrawals when cutting back or stopping. Certain drugs are known to be more physically addictive than others, making it more likely that a person will develop a physical dependence (i.e. heroin, cocaine, or meth vs marijuana or alcohol). Long-term drug or alcohol abuse leads to changes in the brain’s structure and function.

Symptoms of Physical Addiction

It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals. Psychological dependence is when the use of substance ties to a feeling or event, called triggers. It’s not quite the same as physiological dependence, because it requires a trigger for you to crave that substance. Your brain and body don’t like not having caffeine in them, so they turn up the pain. Once you have your morning coffee, however, the headache subsides. When you forfeit activities that Sober House were usually enjoyed before drug use, it is an implication of the social symptoms of an addict. These activities or events, that previously brought joy, are now looked sourly upon due to the substance not being available. At least three criteria need to be met to be diagnosed with substance dependence. The first edition of the DSM was released in 1952 and has undergone several revisions and updates since. Through seeking out professional treatment, you confront your addiction head-on, and with full support.

It’s less likely they can tell if a person suffering from a substance use disorder feels sad every single day. Addiction and dependence are terms that are used interchangeably to describe an unhealthy, problematic reliance on drugs, alcohol, or other compulsive behaviors. Some people develop physical dependencies on a drug while others only develop a psychological dependence. While they may seem simple enough, you’ll be surprised what a healthy mind and body can do for your cravings and urges.

Recovery is just

Patients use this practice to help reframe intrusive or negative thought patterns and develop coping techniques for long-term recovery. The mechanism that generates dependence involves a neuronal counter-adaption, which is localized to areas of the brain responsible for a drug’s positive reinforcement. This adaption occurs as a change in neurotransmitter activity or in receptor expression. In therapy, you’ll typically explore patterns that trigger your use and work to create new patterns of thought and behavior. This condition can last for weeks, even months, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. You feel a sudden onset of panic because you’re about to give a huge presentation. You’re gripped with fear that you’ll fumble your words or screw up the slides because you didn’t get your caffeine boost. For example, some people have a dependence on their blood pressure medication. Contact us now to see how we can help you or a loved one overcome chemical dependency.

psychological dependence vs physiological dependence

Detox center will probably focus more on physical symptoms than mental ones. Addiction treatment usually focuses on the psychological aspect of addiction and the dependency that comes with it. Mental and physical symptoms of chemical dependency are dangerous. In treatment, the difference between physical and psychological dependence matters. In fact, treatment professionals map the course of your programs and therapies according to your type of addiction. They get to know your dependence and related factors for treatment before you start on your road to recovery. Psychological addiction occurs when you do not suffer physical withdrawal from the substances you use, but you do suffer mental effects. Marijuana and cocaine are two of the most commonly used drugs causing psychological dependence. In treatment, you need an array of therapies designed to suit your individual needs.

Risk factors for addiction and dependence

This is a physical common addictive dependency versus a psychological dependency. Depending on the addiction, it was previously thought to be either one or the other. Here at Sana Lake, we have a great detox program that will help you and your body recover physically and psychologically. Balance family obligations and mental health self-care by attending therapy online. Group and individual therapy sessions can help people manage addiction, mental health, and dual diagnosis concerns. For example, somebody who drinks a few drinks every day for years will almost certainly develop a physical alcohol addiction. They might experience shakes, heart palpitations, and anxiety if they were to stop suddenly. Unlike substance dependence, meeting just a single criterion would result in a diagnosis of substance abuse. However, meeting the criteria for both substance abuse and substance dependence would only result in a diagnosis of substance dependence. In order to give yourself the best chance at attaining and maintaining a healthy and positive lifestyle, professional treatment is the preferred option when you’re trying to quit drugs.

  • A person’s mental illness may get worse as a result of psychological chemical dependency.
  • Many drugs of abuse are described as producing both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation and fostering both forms of dependence.
  • Psychological addiction occurs when you do not suffer physical withdrawal from the substances you use, but you do suffer mental effects.
  • At Recovered, we recognize the impact COVID-19 has had and the continued challenges it poses to getting advice and treatment for substance use disorders.
  • Physical dependence is sometimes simply called dependence, but this phrasing can cause confusion because addiction is sometimes referred to as dependence as well.

Not unlike addiction, physiological dependency changes your brain chemistry. Tolerance does build up over time, which changes how the brain reacts to the presence of the drug. It may release fewer neurotransmitters, hormones, or chemicals until it detects the drug in your system. Although someone who’s dependent on drugs and alcohol might not have an addiction, it’s more likely to turn into addiction through long usage.


A person can be physically dependent to a drug, or they can be psychologically dependent. A person with a physical dependence on a substance will experience withdrawal symptoms when they cut back or stop using a drug. A person with a psychological dependence may only experience mood swings, psychological or cognitive problems, or no withdrawals at all when cutting back or stopping. A mix of dehydration and malnutrition can be to blame for vomiting or an upset stomach. The physical symptoms of many drug addiction typically include some level of stomach pains or vomiting/nausea. Nausea and vomiting is specifically a physical issue which once again shows the difference between physical vs psychological dependence. Whether someone is suffering from the effects of physical or psychological addiction, holistic addiction treatment is the best course of action. Addiction treatment centers use various evidence-based techniques to teach people to manage cravings, overcome withdrawal, and build a life outside of substance use.

What drugs are psychologically addictive?

  • Cannabis products (marijuana, etc.)
  • Inhalants.
  • Psychotropic medications (antidepressants)
  • Hallucinogenic drugs (LSD)
  • Stimulants (cocaine, Ritalin)

Some drugs, illegal and legal, are more addictive because they target pleasure and reward-seeking neurotransmitters. If you suffer only a psychological dependence, you still possibly need some time in medical detox. This time helps ensure your body safely cleans itself of the toxins related to your substance abuse. Although your stay proves less physically intense than for physical addiction, detox treatment keeps you safe and comfortable. Addiction is a complex disease with both physical and mental aspects. It’s the response to substances like drugs or alcohol altering their brain chemistry. For some, addiction can happen without them becoming dependent upon a substance.

Once the substances are out of the body, and the body begins to heal, the person may continue to suffer from the psychological consequences. Finding the right treatment facility and support system can make enduring the symptoms of withdrawal more manageable. For some, these first steps are the hardest parts of the recovery journey and require a full team of support while the brain and body heal. Taking larger doses of a drug or substance is an effect of psychological dependence, not physical dependence. Once your brain is used to the effects of the substance of choice, it requires the person to take larger and larger doses to get the same initial effect. As your body gets used to whichever substances you’re taking, you’ll need more and more drugs to achieve the same effect. This then begins to have a greater impact on your body chemistry and brain function. If, after this, you try to quit drugs, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms, and should seek help from an experienced rehab center to get you through detoxification safely. Much like a physical dependence, a psychological dependence happens because of using drugs or alcohol habitually. To reiterate, people can develop a chemical dependency through legally prescribed medication.

psychological dependence vs physiological dependence

Many symptoms are less problematic than seizures, such as watery eyes, or sweating. These physical symptoms help define the line between physical vs psychological dependence. However, even if these aren’t as problematic, they are clear indicators that an addiction has developed. Over time these symptoms may worsen and other more severe ones might take their place. When someone uses narcotics to cope with life’s problems, it is a symptom of psychological dependence rather than physical dependence. When someone is using narcotics to deal with life’s general ups and downs there is a dependency on that psychological dependence vs physiological dependence drug. This proves to be an unhealthy relationship between the substance and the person. When being asked, the difference between physical dependence versus psychological dependence, trembling might come up as a symptom of physical dependence. Many drugs of abuse are described as producing both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation and fostering both forms of dependence. This evidence suggests that the physical versus psychological addiction comparison could result from changes in brain chemistry from addictive behaviors rather than solely a result of substance use.

psychological dependence vs physiological dependence

The information provided by Recovered on this website is not a substitute for professional treatment advice. Specific trauma, stressors, people, locations, and events can be triggers. However, you can still choose to not take the substance while dealing with these triggers — with addiction, it’s almost impossible to not take the substance when in these situations. The instrument we use is The Behavior and Symptoms Identification Scale (BASIS-24®). Even less problematic discomforts, such as sweating and teary eyes, are both attributes of physical addictive dependence versus psychological addictive dependence.

Along with this, you’ll feel strongly compelled to seek out and use your chosen substance. If you can’t get what you want, it can lead to some incredibly volatile emotions. When you introduce drugs into your body, your system will compensate by creating its own chemical reactions to counter their effects. In time though, your body will stop reacting to the substances in the way it did when they were first introduced, and developing a tolerance. Here, we will look at the differences between physical and psychological addiction in detail, so you know what you’re dealing with, and how best to tackle it. It is important psychological dependence vs physiological dependence to know that while we will separate physical and psychological addiction into sections to help explain each, the two types of addiction can and do overlap. The symptoms are known as physical withdrawal effects, which are negative reactions that tell the body it needs more of the drug. They can include nausea, vomiting, sweating, chills, headaches, and overall pain. Since psychological addiction is based on a perceived need, many individuals grappling with this condition tend to become obsessed. Often, this means that the only thing that matters to the individual is getting and using the substance.

Understanding those differences can help determine the best course of treatment. You can also experience both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Dependence refers to the process by which your mind and body come to depend on a substance so you keep feeling a certain way. This tends to result in withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the substance. Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. But in a quality detox and rehab treatment program, you receive the help you need to free yourself from your dependencies. One of the biggest effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain is alterations in the way your brain responds and controls pleasurable feelings. With most drugs and with alcohol, dopamine levels in the brain are changed.

What does physiological dependance mean?

Physiological Dependence – The idea that behavior can be divided into components independent of each other, such as being purely mental or physical, does not mesh with what we now know about behavior and the processes that influence it.

But, a physical dependence can be thought of as the signs and symptoms a person displays that are tangible. Someone with a physical dependence on drugs and alcohol might show symptoms that others can notice. Almost anything can cause psychological addiction, whether you abuse drugs or alcohol, or pursue a particular activity. Really, anything bringing you pleasure can cause urges within you to recreate those feelings of pleasure. If you repeat the activity to recreate these feelings time and again, you risk developing an unhealthy attachment as psychological dependence. In the question of whether you suffer physical vs psychological dependence, you also must consider you possibly suffer both.

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