What is Psychological Dependence?

If any of your loved ones are struggling with drug or alcohol use and you’re concerned about their mental health, it is essential to learn about the difference between physical and psychological dependence and how the two relate in terms of addiction.

Once you can identify the factors involved in addictive behavior, you can develop a sound roadmap towards recovery. Never forget that addiction is treatable, so the more you know about the disease, the more you’ll be able to render assistance if possibly anyone close to you is a victim and undergoing treatment.

What Is Psychological Dependence?

Psychological dependence happens when one’s emotion or thoughts gets interfered with by drugs or alcohol.

Common symptoms in people struggling with addiction:

  • Craving to use drugs or alcohol.
  • Recurring thoughts or obsession on how to obtain drugs or alcohol.
  • Growing anxiety when they are unable to use their drug of choice.
  • Mood changes when anyone asks them about their substance abuse or trying to quit.
  • Increased depression when trying to stop drug or alcohol use.
  • The feeling of “needing” drugs or alcohol to cope with daily stressors such as sleeping, socializing, etc.

Psychological Dependence Versus Physical Dependence Versus Addiction

When we talk about addiction, there is significant terminology. One can use most of the terms interchangeably; however, sometimes, we do not always use them in the correct context. Suppose you’re worried that anyone around you has a problem with drugs or alcohol. It’s essential to know how physical and psychological dependence differs and how the two factors can play into addiction.


Physical dependence similarly means when the body is tolerant to alcohol or a particular drug. It implies that gradually the body will need more of the said drug to attain the same desired effects. Also, when one is physically dependent on a drug, one will typically experience physical withdrawal symptoms if one minimizes dosage significantly or stops taking the substance “cold turkey.” Depending on the drug, physical withdrawal symptoms vary. Some physical withdrawal symptoms are usually not that serious, such as nausea and vomiting, while others can be life-threatening, such as Arrhythmia.


As stated above, psychological dependence is associated with a person’s thoughts and emotions about alcohol or a particular drug, often when that person is trying to stop using. Not every substance result in physical dependence; however, you could develop psychological support with any.


According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), addiction is “a chronic disease defined by drug pursuing and compulsive use of the substance, or hard to control, despite dangerous consequences.”

Changes in the brain’s reward circuitry are a result of addiction, making it difficult for drug addicts or alcoholics to stop using permanently. In this case, the addiction is categorized as chronic. However, people struggling with addiction can manage and treat it just like they would treat other chronic health conditions. As of now, however, there isn’t any “cure.”

Some signs of addiction include:

  • Finding it hard to stop drug or alcohol use.
  • Endangering their lives while using and others’ lives close to them.
  • Failure to fulfil duties at home or work.
  • Participation in illicit acts to obtain drugs or alcohol.


Psychological and physical dependence often coincide with addiction and sometimes independently. For instance, one may take prescription opioids precisely as directed by their physician. Gradually, they may develop a tolerance to the specific drug. If the person stops using suddenly, they can experience physical withdrawal symptoms. That’s an obvious illustration of physical dependence. If this user engages in compulsive and reckless drug-seeking behaviours like taking beyond what’s prescribed or engaging in illicit acts to obtain more opioids, they are considered an addict.


To reiterate, not all drugs are associated with physical dependence, but that’s not a reason to believe they can’t develop psychological dependence in a user. Some medicines that have psychological support are Marijuana, LSD, Cocaine, Psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), and Inhalants. Other substances associated with a high component of simultaneous physical and psychological dependence are Valium, Ativan, Xanax, Alcohol, heroin, and morphine.


When a drug addict seeks treatment for their addiction, they abstain from substances. This period of abstinence is known as detox. The primary aim of detoxing is to cleanse drugs and drink from the person’s system. When this happens, the addict tends to experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Despite detox being gruelling for an addict, it’s the most accessible aspect of treatment. Physical withdrawal symptoms usually have timing intervals. Although there can be slight differences how individual addicts react, health care professionals and addiction specialists are always aware of what to expect during detoxification in most patients.


While it’s easy for some victims to safely tackle physical dependence symptoms in their own homes, others may not be able to. Research shows that the best strategy to tackle both physical and psychological dependence among addicts is to receive formal care under the guidance of mental health professionals or addiction specialists.

BlueCrest Recovery Center utilizes a bevy of strategies to combat mind and body dependence like Cognitive-behavioral therapy where an addict learns triggers and coping mechanisms to ward off substance use.

Other treatment strategies include:

Family therapy for younger people to address triggering patterns with parents, siblings and other loved ones.

Contingency management where positive reinforcements like rewards or privileges are extended to patients when they attend counseling sessions and regularly take treatment medications as prescribed.

Motivational enhancement therapy to compel behavior changes in someone struggling with addiction.

Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA”) and Narcotics Anonymous (“NA”) during and post-treatment.

If you are looking for a professional treatment facility that addresses both physical and psychological dependence, call us today.

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