Physical vs Psychological Dependence

Physical vs psychological dependence

Addiction is different for everyone. It is a complex disease that affects individuals from the inside out. Not only can it impact a person’s physical well being, but it also can cause significant mental chaos. That said, there’s a significant difference between physical and psychological dependence. They can occur separately or together depending on the substance abused and the severity of the addiction.

Regardless of what type of dependence you or a loved one is facing, addiction therapy services at Crest View Recovery Center are geared to help users break free from the bonds of substance abuse. Our treatment combines medical detoxification for physical dependence with different therapies for psychological dependence. 

Let’s take a look at the differences between physical and psychological dependence. What do the symptoms look like? How does someone break away from dependence? What types of therapy does this include?

What is Physical Dependence?

Physical-vs-Psychological-Dependence-300x198Physical dependence is referred to as the chronic use of a substance that creates tolerance with continuous use. Any abrupt or gradual withdrawal of said substance will then cause the user to have unfavorable feelings or symptoms. When people think of the term “drug dependence,” the physical aspect is generally the first thing that comes to mind. 

This can include a harmful illicit drug like heroin or something seemingly harmless like caffeine. Physical dependence is when your body responds adversely without the substance. Regardless of the substance of choice, users will go through withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit. Different substances cause different withdrawal symptoms. At the bare minimum, they’ll be uncomfortable. 

For long-term users, however, the withdrawal process can even be deadly depending on which substance. For example, alcohol and benzodiazepines can produce potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms.

This is why detoxification in a medically supervised setting is crucial. Our trained medical staff will ensure that you safely detox from the substance. If necessary, medication will also be administered to alleviate pain.

Typical physical withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating or chills
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle cramps
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to eat

While a medical detox can go a long way in addressing physical dependence, those with a psychological dependence will require much more.

Psychological Dependence

Unlike physical dependence, psychological dependence occurs when people experience a mental desire for their substance of choice. This emotional state is often associated with a certain behavior. This is generally what causes psychological withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Agitation
  • Sleeping issues
  • Lack of Motivation

Unlike physical withdrawal symptoms, psychological withdrawal symptoms often last much longer. This is because generally, certain behavior is deeply associated with substance use. 

Marijuana is a popular example. Although it lacks the physically addictive qualities of alcohol or heroin, people who smoke marijuana regularly make “getting high” a top priority in their lives. Usually, it is also used ritually, like before going to work, or right after getting home. Therefore, every morning or evening, there is that psychological trigger that makes an individual remember using marijuana. 

You can develop a psychological dependence on virtually any substance. When individuals use drugs or drink alcohol, it triggers a dopamine release, which initially makes individuals feel great. Problems arise, however, when people use to recreate those feelings.

If you’ve found that chasing a high is interfering with other elements of your life, it may be time to seek substance abuse treatment programs at a professional rehab facility. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to break the psychological dependence you may be experiencing. With the right steps towards treatment, recovery is possible. 

Psychological Dependence: The Habit Loop

When understanding what psychological dependence is, we must take a look at our biological processes. We often don’t realize that there are engrained primitive traits inside of us operating every day. These traits can affect our patterns of behavior and how we form habits. 

This is beneficial to know because we can then use this information to “rewire” our brains from psychological dependence. Psychological dependence can also be explained as the process of building a habit. This process can be explained by the following four steps:

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

Your brain will run through these steps when developing and partaking in a habit, positive or negative. Let’s get a little more in-depth about what each of these steps means.

Steps of Psychological Dependence Explained

First, there is the cue. The cue is what tells your brain to begin a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward. Back then, these cues are what told us the location of primary rewards like food, water, and sex. Today, we can relate these cues to any addictive habits we want to get ahold of.

The cue is the first sign that you’re close to a reward. Naturally, this leads to the next step — the craving. Cravings are the motivational force behind every habit. The craving can be described as a desire or as the motivational force behind our actions. 

For example, you may not crave the taste of whiskey or drinking alcohol itself. Rather, you crave the feeling of temporary relief it provides. In other words, every craving is connected to a desire to change your internal state.

The third step is the response. The response is the habit you partake in, which can either be a thought or an action. The response is dependent upon the motivation you feel to act, as well as the internal desire regarding the behavior itself. If a certain action calls for more physical or mental effort than you are willing to exert, then you won’t do it. 

The last part of the process is when the response triggers the reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about taking notice of the reward. The craving is about desiring the reward. The response is about receiving the reward. We go after rewards because they serve two purposes: satisfaction and education. 

The Habit Loop: What Can You Do About It?

Of course, conquering psychological dependence is best done through a thorough treatment plan. From medical care to high-quality therapy, addiction can be targeted from all angles. However, there are also steps you can take to get a head start on breaking those habit loops. This is beneficial to know when you’re outside of treatment, on your own.

The more you’re aware of how your brain works, the more you can change your behavior. When it comes to the habit loop, there are three steps you can take to replace negative habits with positive ones. 

Step 1: Identify the Triggers

Recognizing potential triggers and disrupting the upcoming “cue” is the first step in breaking the feedback loop. If the trigger for an unfavorable habit never happens, the habit loop is interrupted. Without repeated reinforcement, the association between habit and trigger becomes weaker. To reiterate, repetition makes habits stronger. Thus, by eliminating our exposure to triggers for old habits, we can eliminate the habits themselves.

Step 2: Replace the Behavior

Ditching a habit without a plan to replace it is going to lead to some feelings of unease and discomfort. Fortunately, that’s where distraction comes in. However, this is not any kind of distraction. This needs to be a productive replacement from our prior negative habits.  

There’s a lot of options in replacing the behavior, and you’ll have to experiment with the options. The point is to have another action you can do when you feel the urge to give in to the toxic habit. Some ideas to get started include:

  • Going for a walk
  • Doing a five-minute meditation
  • Starting a new hobby or sport (drawing, kickboxing, yoga, etc.)

Choose something healthy and beneficial that will still light up the reward part of your brain.

Step 3: Re-evaluate the Rewards

The last step is to create a system in which the reward becomes more meaningful. If you’re struggling with an addictive habit and are aiming to replace the “reward,” think about the “why” behind your actions. How would breaking addiction help your life? What are all the benefits you’d experience from being sober?

Write down all the ways you can break the habit that would benefit you and improve your life. Understanding why you’re partaking in an action gives you an intrinsic connection to it. If you replace the habit with a random act “just because,” the old habit will creep back up. However, being aware of the “why” behind your actions gives you a new kind of power and control.

Breaking Physical and Psychological Dependence

Many individuals start the addiction recovery process at a medical detox facility. While this process effectively cleanses the body of harmful drug use, detox by itself doesn’t automatically lead to recovery. In essence, this process is only addressing physical dependence. It takes more to break your or your loved one’s psychological dependence. It is important to address the symptoms associated with both physical and psychological dependence to prevent relapse. 

A professional rehab facility like Crest View Recovery Center can teach individuals how to change addictive behaviors and embrace recovery. We have several different types of therapy programs that help individuals retrain their thinking and behavior patterns. 

At Crest View Recovery Center, we offer both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that help change the way a person thinks. Here is a quick breakdown of each:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – A counselor collaborates with a participant to root out faulty reasoning. In some situations, this involves the recognition of cognitive distortions, and then they begin the process of cognitive restructuring. Individuals are then able to replace self-destructive patterns with positive actions, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy – This type of therapy is known as a branch of CBT. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a form of CBT that focuses more on individuals dealing with co-occurring disorders (people suffering from both substance use disorder and mental illness also known as dual diagnosis). This treatment has more emphasis on learning how to manage the more intense emotions that come with mental illness. 

Getting Your Life Back on Track After Physical and Psychological Dependence

Beating psychological dependence on drugs or any substance is a little like quitting smoking. With the help of a licensed psychiatrist, you’ll learn how to “outsmart” the cravings by altering your routine and substituting healthy behavior like yoga therapy and meditation therapy.

Physical activity and family support help keep your mind off of drugs. Your family relationships may have been damaged while you were suffering from addiction. Through family therapy, we’ll help your family understand your addiction and help you mend broken relationships.

Start taking your life back today. We can help you through the dangerous and difficult withdrawal process. Contact Crest View Recovery Center today and get the help you need to live a fulfilling, sober life.