Man asking, "What's the difference between physical and psychological dependence?"

What’s the Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence?

Becoming dependent on a substance like drugs or alcohol impacts your mind and body, leading to serious complications that can echo throughout the rest of your life. But what’s the difference between physical and psychological dependence? At our drug addiction treatment centers, we offer the help you need—call Promises at 844.875.5609.  

Physical vs. Psychological: What’s the Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence?  

Physical dependence on a substance refers to the impact it has on your body. Drugs and alcohol cause changes in the way your brain functions and how the chemicals it produces affect the rest of your body.  

For example, drugs and alcohol cause a surge of dopamine. Long-term use of drugs and alcohol leads your brain to adjust and stop producing dopamine naturally, instead relying on the substance to prompt the production. 

Physical Dependence 

Because your body comes to depend on the substance, you can’t just stop using it without feeling withdrawal symptoms. These can vary, but they often include: 

  • Trembling 
  • Insomnia 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Mood swings 

Physical dependence on certain substances, like alcohol, can be so powerful they put your life in danger.  

Psychological Dependence

On the other hand, psychological dependence refers to what goes on in your mind when you develop an addiction.  

It involves not being able to stop substance use and needing it to feel emotionally stable. Because substances affect your brain chemicals, you may not be able to regulate emotions well without the help of drugs or alcohol.  

Psychological dependence also means you spend a lot of time and effort thinking about how to use again. You may give up on your favorite activities because they don’t offer the same “high” you get from the focus of your addiction.  

You may also turn to substances to help you manage symptoms of mental health conditions, which can be overwhelming.  

Treating Physical vs. Psychological Dependence 

Treating dependence both physically and psychologically is crucial, but it has to happen in different ways.  

Medical detox helps you manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal that can put your life at risk and make it more likely that you will relapse. This detox relies on drugs that mimic the substance you’re addicted to without offering the euphoria your brain seeks, so you can physically stabilize and break your body’s dependence on the substance.  

Arguably, psychological dependence is more complex and more difficult to manage. It requires understanding the underlying cause of the addiction and what may be preventing you from healing.  

This can only be done with individual and group therapy sessions. You can delve into all of the emotional and psychological issues you may be facing so that you learn how to regulate your emotions better, deal with stress, and anything else that might trigger your need to use.  

If you have mental health conditions that co-occur with the addiction, treating them at the same time is crucial. Mental health conditions can cause addiction because you may turn to drugs or alcohol to manage the symptoms of the illness.  

During individual therapy sessions, you can learn to function better with the mental health challenges you face and find healthier ways of dealing with symptoms.  

Breaking Away From Addiction at Promises Drug Addiction Treatment Centers 

At Promises, we offer a variety of programs to help you deal with both physical and psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol. We offer medical detox services and intensive treatment programs that can offer the right level of care.  

With the option of residential and outpatient programs, you can relearn how to function without drugs and alcohol. Call Promises today at 844.875.5609 to get more information on the programs we offer.  

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