Physical Vs. Psychological Dependence

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Though many use the words dependence and addiction interchangeably, dependence actually precedes addiction. Dependence is characterized by the symptoms of tolerance (requiring more of a substance to elicit the same effects) and withdrawal (symptoms that manifest when the substance is absent from one’s system). Although unlikely, it is possible to have a physical dependence without being addicted. Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a relapsing brain disorder. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli (e.g. drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, gambling, etc.) without regard for consequence. An individual with substance use disorder will prioritize satisfying his or her addiction cravings above all else. This is due to biochemical changes in the brain and central nervous system that have occurred as a result of chronic substance abuse. 

Psychological Dependence

A psychological dependence refers the emotional and/ or mental attachment to a substance. Healthline further explains, “Psychological dependence is a term that describes the emotional or mental components of substance use disorder, such as strong cravings for the substance or behavior and difficulty thinking about anything else.” Individuals that habitually abuse drugs and/ or alcohol inevitably develop habits, patterns and rituals related to substance abuse. These behaviors can carry significant weight with regard to developing a psychological dependence. Often individuals with psychologically dependence will feel compelled not only to compulsively seek out their substance of choice, but will also feel the need to partake and honor the established substance abuse related rituals developed in order to fully satisfy his or her cravings. 

Physical Dependence

When an individual has consistently abused drugs and/ or alcohol for a prolonged period of time his or her body is forced to become accustomed to functioning with the substance present. One’s body will be forced to make certain accommodations for the continued presence of foreign substance or substances in its system. With continued and consistent exposure, one’s body will become more accustomed to functioning with the presence of the substance in its system than without. The leads to an inability to function optimally when the substance is absent from one’s system and can even occur when there is not a sufficient amount of the substance in one’s system. Physical dependence occurs when one’s body physiologically adapts to external substance. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-318-3777. You are also welcome to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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