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What is Psychological Dependence?

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What is psychological dependence? Psychological dependence is a term used to depict the emotional and cognitive aspects of substance use disorder, which typically involve intense cravings for the substance and difficulties focusing on anything else. It is sometimes also referred to as psychological addiction. While the terms dependence and addiction are often used interchangeably, they are not the same.

Dependence refers to a state in which the body and/or mind rely on a substance to maintain a certain state, often leading to withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Addiction, on the other hand, is an informal term for substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive substance use regardless of adverse outcomes. Addiction includes both psychological and physiological elements that are difficult to disentangle.

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Although the term psychological addiction is frequently used to denote psychological dependence, there is considerable variability in the utilization of these terms by medical professionals. To clear up the confusion, DSM-5-TR ( the most current edition of American Psychiatric Association diagnostic and taxonomic tool, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has merged the diagnoses of substance dependence and substance abuse into a single diagnosis of substance use disorder, ranging in severity from mild to severe. The main reason for the change from DSM-IV was to alleviate the confusion surrounding these terms.

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What is The Difference Between Psychological Dependence and Physical Dependence?

What is the difference between physical dependence and psychological dependence, then Psychological dependence and physical dependence are distinct concepts, even though there is some overlap between the two.

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence mainly involves the emotional and cognitive components of addiction. It is characterized by strong cravings and a compulsive desire to consume the substance, often accompanied by an intense preoccupation with obtaining and using it. This form of dependence is centered on the psychological desire for the pleasurable effects of the substance or behavior and the fear of coping without it. Withdrawal symptoms associated with psychological dependence are predominantly emotional and psychological in nature – anxiety, irritability, and depression, for instance.

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence, by contrast, relates to the body’s adaptation to the presence of a substance. It results in physiological changes that necessitate continued use of the substance to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which can be highly uncomfortable or even life-threatening. Physical dependence typically develops over time as the body adjusts to the constant presence of the substance, provoking changes in the brain’s chemistry and functioning. Withdrawal symptoms associated with physical dependence are often physical in nature, such as tremors, nausea, and sweating.

Treatment plans often incorporate elements that address both the psychological and physical aspects of dependence to promote holistic recovery.

What Is an Example of Psychological Dependence?

An example of psychological dependence related to substance use is seen in the case of someone who has developed a habit of using a specific drug like marijuana or cocaine as a coping mechanism for managing stress or emotional discomfort. The person may experience a strong psychological urge to use the substance in response to certain triggers, such as negative emotions, social situations, or environmental cues associated with drug use. This reliance on the substance to alleviate psychological distress can lead to a compulsive pattern of use, even in the absence of physical withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. 

Despite recognizing the adverse effects of substance use on their health and well-being, the person may find it challenging to abstain from using the drug due to the perceived emotional relief or temporary escape it provides.

Drugs That Can Cause Psychological Dependence

Several drugs are known to cause psychological dependence, leading individuals to develop a strong emotional reliance on the substance. Some common examples include:

  1. Marijuana: Despite the lack of severe physical withdrawal symptoms, associated with marijuana, many people develop a psychological attachment to the relaxing or euphoric effects of the drug.
  2. Cocaine: Due to its ability to induce feelings of euphoria and increased energy, people can become psychologically dependent on cocaine, leading to frequent and compulsive use.
  3. Methamphetamine: The intense and long-lasting high produced by methamphetamine can result in the development of a psychological dependence, leading to increased cravings and drug-seeking behaviors.
  4. Prescription opioids: Opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone can create a sense of emotional well-being and relaxation, making users psychologically dependent on the drug to manage pain or induce a pleasurable sensation.
  5. Benzodiazepines: Benzos like Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam), commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, can lead to psychological dependence due to their calming effects and the temporary relief they provide from stress and anxiety.
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Get Treatment for Drug Dependence at California Detox

If you have developed physical or psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol, we can help you achieve and maintain sobriety at California Detox.

Supervised medical detox at our Laguna Beach treatment center allows you to withdraw from drugs as safely and comfortably as possible. After detoxification, you can move directly into ongoing treatment.

All treatment programs at California Detox are tailored to meet individual needs, combining evidence-based interventions and holistic therapies for a comprehensive approach to addiction recovery. These include:

For immediate assistance, call admissions today at 949.694.8305.

FAQs

Dependence refers to a state in which the body and/or mind rely on a substance to maintain a certain state, often leading to withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Addiction, on the other hand, is an informal term for substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive substance use regardless of adverse outcomes.
Psychological dependence mainly involves the emotional and cognitive components of addiction, whereas physical dependence relates to the body’s adaptation to the presence of a substance.

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