Is There a Difference Between Psychological and Physical Addiction? All Points North

It helps to know what to look for as a means of helping a loved one cope with the challenges. 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 drug. This proves to be an unhealthy relationship between the substance and the person. The inability to stop using drugs even after health problems arise is another symptom of psychological dependency versus physical dependency. Here at Sana Lake, we offer several programs that can help each patient individually.

psychological vs physiological dependence

Hence, those with a substance use disorder suffer from issues with a physical dependence and a psychological dependence. The main difference between physical and psychological dependence is that physical dependence is a normal response to chronic drug use. In contrast, psychological dependence is a disease that affects the brain and can cause compulsive drug-seeking behavior that then potentially leads to addiction and abuse.

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Additionally, using a drug at larger doses opens the door for possible overdose or other worse health effects. This is considered a psychological symptom because it is a result of the brain’s interaction with the drug. Physical substance dependence refers to the human body’s reliance on a substance to the point that the body cannot function properly without the substance. When the user goes without the substance, his or her body will experience painful and uncomfortable symptoms. A patient’s appearance can indicate this; they might look disheveled and smell. However, not every person with a psychological disorder looks like they have one.

Although, it may last longer depending upon the severity of the addiction. Patients in a detox program will be under medical supervision 24/7. Medical supervision allows patients to withdraw in a safe setting.


These medications can help to reduce cravings and prevent relapse. These can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Memory loss is usually one of the first signs of someone psychological dependence on alcohol developing physical dependence. They may start forgetting things they once knew or have trouble retaining new information. Not unlike addiction, physiological dependency changes your brain chemistry.

  • When it comes down to physical vs psychological dependence, both can be just as stressful in the long run.
  • This behavior is characterized as a psychological symptom of dependency.
  • Loved ones of those dealing with substance use disorder need to understand that clouded judgment and feelings of desperation and frustration may be taken out on them.
  • You’ll build a strong foundation for physical and psychological well-being.

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. A common psychological symptom of dependence is making excuses or getting defensive about your drug use. When a person becomes addicted to a drug they may go to far lengths to be able to use it again.

Psychological dependence

People often confuse physical dependence with addiction, but they are not the same thing. Substance abuse is a disease that affects the brain and causes compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Physical dependence is a normal bodily response to chronic drug use.

psychological vs physiological dependence

When dependence turns into addiction it’s a condition that must be monitored for life. Considering that half of the people with a substance use disorder suffer from a mental illness, it’s likely symptoms of psychological dependence will emerge over time. 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. Some drugs, illegal and legal, are more addictive because they target pleasure and reward-seeking neurotransmitters. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), substance abuse is when a person uses psychoactive drugs in a way that could harm them.

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Many of those who struggle with addiction don’t just have a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. They also have psychological dependence, which is a complicated condition defined by cravings and changes in behavior, moods, and physical sensations. Both physical and psychological dependence can lead to addiction if left untreated. The signs and symptoms of a physical and psychological dependency are difficult to separate at times. Depression and anxiety can cause an individual to have heart palpitations, feel pain, and make them faint. Physical symptoms can make a person lose sleep, feel depressed, and feel anxious.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding physical dependence and psychological dependence. Many people use these words interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Substance use disorder (the medical term for drug addiction) involves psychological aspects and changes to the body’s processes. Your brain will respond differently to regular stimuli due to its altered state. It is possible that you’ve already moved past the dependence stage, which is why early detection of these symptoms is key.

When your body physically reacts to not having the drug that it is used to depending on, you have a physical addiction. Individuals with a physical addiction will feel pain and sickness when not using the drug they are addicted to. Think of that caffeine headache you get when you don’t have your morning cup of coffee. Unlike caffeine, however, many physical addictions occur with drugs that are much more serious and that have much more dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from a physical addiction can be mild to severe, depending on the type of drug your body is addicted to.

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