Instead, psychological dependence can be thought of as a mental compulsion to use a substance. 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. Not being able to stop drug usage is a common symptom of psychological dependency versus physical dependency. This is a behavior that is symptomatic of psychological dependency.

physiological dependence on alcohol

For some people, psychological withdrawal is also a problem, and they begin to experience very strong alcohol cravings. 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. This physical dependence occurs when your body physiologically adapts to an external substance.

Treatment and Recovery from Physiological Dependence

Yes, there is a difference between physical dependence versus psychological dependence. Psychological dependence is the dependence on the drugs or the substance of choice. Early addiction theories included the “tolerance-withdrawal theory”, which identified the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms as the cause of addiction. However, some drugs have limited withdrawal symptoms but are still highly addictive, and some addicts relapse long after their physical symptoms have passed. In order for addiction treatment to be effective, patients must receive treatment for their physical and psychological symptoms. By attending a residential rehab program, you will be able to confront your addiction, learn how to manage your symptoms, and gain life-long support that will be there for you throughout your sobriety.

You can become physically addicted to anything from prescribed drugs to alcohol and heroin. The higher the dose you use, as well as the length of time you’ve been using, the more negative effects you’ll see and the worse your withdrawal symptoms, will become. North Jersey Recovery Center believes that addiction is a disorder that affects both the body and mind. Treating physical dependence without psychological dependence is ineffective. We create personalized plans for each individual who enters our facility to give them the tools for long-lasting recovery.

Emotional symptoms

Another way to view psychological dependence vs physical dependence is that people with a physical dependence continue abusing a drug to avoid negative physical symptoms. Meanwhile, people with a psychological dependence continue abusing a drug to maintain emotional stability and mental health. Addiction is a complex disease that has lasting impacts on physiological dependence on alcohol both the body and the mind. Over time, a complex web of physical and psychological changes develop that cause withdrawal syndrome as soon as substance abuse ends. An intensive treatment program in a sober living facility may be the safest route to recovery. Some drugs, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Examples of withdrawal symptoms include hand tremors and gastrointestinal issues. Your options now involve continuing to use or choosing addiction treatment programs. Substance abuse is a very serious problem that should never be ignored. When you’re physically addicted, it can manifest as both physical and psychological symptoms.

Are you struggling with an addiction?

Additionally, physiological dependencies are most commonly formed with prescription medication that is not abused by the patient. Many people with medical conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, chronic pain, or high-blood pressure become dependent on their medication. This is expected, as their body does actually need specific medications to treat their condition. This does not mean the patient has a substance use disorder — it just means they need medication to have a higher quality of life.

Also, their tolerance may go up, which means they’ll need a higher dose. On the other hand, addiction is when a person uses substances, like drugs and alcohol, despite the harmful consequences. The term psychological dependence is typically used to describe the emotional and mental processes that are related to the development of a substance use disorder or process addiction.

It could include prescription drugs, over-the-counter products, street drugs, alcohol, even nicotine. When you participate in the detoxification services at 12 Keys, you’ll be slowly weaned off the substance you’re addicted to, to minimize any negative physical withdrawal symptoms and to ensure that your detoxification is medically supervised. That said, sometimes you can have symptoms of addiction that are mostly psychological. For example, if you are addicted to gambling, you’ll solely suffer from an intense psychological urge to gamble. If, on the other hand, you’re addicted to a substance like a specific drug or type of spirit, you’ll usually first develop a psychological addiction and then a physical one.

  • At North Jersey Recovery Center, we strive to make your addiction treatment experience as comfortable as possible.
  • With regular use of depressants, it is relatively easy to develop a physical tolerance.
  • When you’re caught in the grip of addiction, it’s a very frightening and confusing place.
  • If the medication suddenly stops, the person has physical symptoms such as the brain feeling numb or fuzzy, the body feeling out of place like the nerves are not connecting to each other, alongside other physical side effects.
  • People can develop a psychological dependence on behaviors or activities such as gambling.

With addiction often comes physical dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal syndrome. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), substance abuse is when a person uses psychoactive drugs in a way that could harm them. Hence, those with a substance use disorder suffer from issues with a physical dependence and a psychological dependence.

Understanding the Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence

This change in emotional state is a result of changes in brain chemicals. It can cause cravings, motivation to seek out the substance or behavior, irritability, anxiety, or general dissatisfaction when withdrawing from the substance or activity. 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. There is a fine line between a physical dependence and a psychological dependence. But, a physical dependence can be thought of as the signs and symptoms a person displays that are tangible.

physiological dependence on alcohol

Dependence is characterized by the symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal. While it is possible to have a physical dependence without being addicted, addiction is usually right around the corner. Drug dependence occurs when a person’s body has come to rely on a drug to function normally.


By targeting both the physical and psychological symptoms of a substance use disorder, patients can safely and effectively be treated. Let’s take a deeper look into the differences between physical and psychological dependence. The hormonal stress response is mediated by a system known as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical (HPA) axis.

What does it mean to be psychologically dependent on alcohol?

You find it hard to socialise or enjoy yourself without alcohol. You use alcohol to avoid being upset by negative feelings. You use alcohol to cope with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.

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