Physical vs. Psychological Dependence

Addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or any other kind of addiction is a complicated, multifaceted affair. Addiction has a number of physical and psychological effects on a person, creating symptoms that greatly impact one’s physical and mental wellbeing. Addressing addiction means understanding and developing personal strategies to cope not just with one’s physical dependence on an addictive substance, but also the psychological toll that will be present throughout each individual’s recovery journey.

What Is Physical Dependence?

The physical dependence on an addictive substance or behavior is commonly what comes to mind first when words like “addiction” are brought up. One’s physical dependence is defined by the body’s ability to aptly perform regular functions. Those suffering from addiction may find it incredibly difficult to operate when their addiction is suddenly denied to them.

This physical dependence means that an individual may feel exhausted, or unable to focus and perform daily tasks until they have engaged with a certain addictive substance or behavior. This continuously reinforces the idea that engaging with these addictive substances or practices is essential for their daily life.

Symptoms of Physical Dependence

The body can have a variety of reactions if it is denied what it has become accustomed to believing it needs for “normal” levels of functioning. Some of the symptoms of physical dependence can include:

  1. Increased heart rate

  2. Muscle cramps

  3. Shaking

  4. Nausea

  5. Vomiting

  6. Increased blood pressure

  7. Exhaustion

  8. Fatigue

Each individual will express their own symptoms, or a unique combination of symptoms, that can all indicate a degree of physical dependence. Those who are just beginning their recovery process and undergoing a detox program may experience these symptoms intensely during withdrawal. While difficult, it is a necessary phase that allows the body to readjust itself to traditional homeostasis that is not dependent on engagement with an addictive substance or behavior to operate.

What Is Psychological Dependence?

Psychological dependence is the way in which the mind believes it needs to engage with an addictive practice. Unlike physical dependence where physical symptoms may be present, psychological dependence affects an individual’s perception of themselves, their environment, and how they believe they “need” these substances or behaviors. However, that does not make this kind of dependence any less dangerous, and it can have many complicated issues on its own. Despite being relegated to one’s mental state, psychological dependence can have several real-world effects on an individual.

Symptoms of Psychological Dependence

There are a number of different psychological symptoms that can indicate dependence on a particular substance or behavior. Some of the symptoms may include:

  1. Anxiety

  2. Depression

  3. Decreased motivation

  4. Feelings of detachment

  5. Insomnia

  6. Reprioritization of relationships

  7. Altered personality/worldview

  8. Lack of focus

  9. Difficulty regulating emotions

These symptoms can intimately ingrain themselves in one’s psyche and can last for a long time even after one’s detox program has concluded. The difficulties created by this kind of dependence can affect many other aspects of an individual’s life. Feelings of anxiety and depression can fuel the further use of an addictive substance or behavior, and feelings of detachment can further deteriorate already strained relationships, as well.

The Differences Between Psychological and Physical Dependence

While both kinds of dependence often happen in tandem, there are some differences in how they are addressed, particularly when it comes to the early stages of recovery such as a detox program. The physical symptoms, such as aches and pains, can all be very difficult during this time. However, these physical symptoms often last a much shorter amount of time after one’s last engagement with an addictive substance or behavior.

While physical symptoms can begin to subside within about a month, the effects of one’s psychological dependence can last much longer, continuing to produce a great deal of anxiety, depression, or other symptoms that need to be addressed throughout detox, residential, sober living, and outpatient care. Creating individualized approaches to each person’s recovery program is essential in addressing the unique ways that one’s psychological dependence can continue to manifest. Furthermore, it is crucial for creating pertinent coping strategies to restructure one’s mental and emotional state.

Tackling the Problem Holistically

While both physical and psychological dependence can create their own complications throughout one’s recovery journey, it is still important to address them simultaneously through the recovery process. Dealing with the physical component of withdrawal or dependence without preparing oneself for the psychological side of addiction can create gaps in one’s coping and recovery toolkit, increasing the chances of relapse.

Likewise, addressing the anxieties associated without providing proper comfort for the effects of physical dependence can leave a person without options to mitigate the intense feelings. This may cause them to turn back to an addictive substance or behavior to make the symptoms stop. Finding a program that can educate and address both sides of dependence is necessary to create the best approach for prolonged sobriety.

Working through both the physical and psychological dependence on an addictive substance or behavior is a difficult journey, and there can be a lot of change involved to reach one’s sobriety. However, at Chateau Recovery, we are ready to help you take the first step towards your future. Our trained professionals are ready to help you understand and move through your unique symptoms of physical and psychological dependence. Your time with us can be fully customized with unique strategies pertinent to your needs and goals in recovery. We offer therapeutic approaches like art therapy, music therapy, yoga, and mindfulness, as well as individual, group, and family counseling programs to help you cope with your unique symptoms. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or for more information on how we can create a recovery plan that meets your needs, call us today to speak to a caring, trained staff member at (435) 222-5225.

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