Physical and Psychological Dependence of Addiction

woman holding bridge of her nose wondering what is psychological dependence

One of the most difficult parts of beating an addiction to drugs or alcohol is dealing with the dependence you’ve developed. As your body and brain become more dependent on a substance, trying to quit can bring on various symptoms of withdrawal. Many people want to quit and have tried to, but the symptoms of withdrawal are so harsh that they go back to using. When it comes to dependence there are two types: physical dependence and psychological dependence. A substance that doesn’t make you physically dependent can still cause psychological dependence.

Understanding Psychological Dependence on Drug and Alcohol

Most people are aware of physical dependence. This happens when the body tries to maintain its balance. Continuing substance abuse throws off homeostasis, and the body needs to adjust. This happens with drugs and alcohol, and it can also happen with sugar, caffeine, nicotine and more. Once you stop taking any of these substances, you may develop symptoms of withdrawal. For example, after a long night of drinking, the hangover you experience is a minor form of withdrawal.

What many people don’t know about is the psychological form of dependence. So, what is psychological dependence, and how does it happen? This form of dependence happens based on the way your brain works when it comes to forming habits. Famous psychologists like Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner made their mark in the psychological field of behaviorism. Pavlov did his well-known experiments with dogs, but Skinner took the research further.

Based on Skinner’s research, we can explain habits as a matter of trigger, behavior, and reward. When a situation triggers you to behave in a way that produces a reward, your brain prompts you to behave the same way the next time that trigger appears. When you use drugs or alcohol to manage depression, anxiety, anger, or stress, you strengthen the habit. If you repeat this behavior often enough, the habit becomes psychological dependence.

The Psychology of Forming Habits Can Present a Big Challenge

When you have a physical dependence to a substance, it can go away within a matter of days or weeks. Many addiction treatment facilities use various medications that target physical dependence and symptoms of withdrawal. Medications like Suboxone are extremely helpful for people coming off opioids, but the psychological dimension is a whole different issue.

As the physical dependency fades, the real work begins. Depending on a substance psychologically is much worse than physical dependency because breaking a habit is one of the hardest things a person can do. Overcoming an addiction is even more difficult. Your brain relies on drugs or alcohol in a wide range of situations, so to recover, you have to retrain your brain. This is where treatment comes in.

At a treatment facility, you’ll work with trained therapists and psychologists who specialize in methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy is one of the best ways to overcome addiction because it helps you change thoughts and behaviors. You’ll begin to recognize your various triggers and behaviors and discover new ways to cope with life. As you behave in healthier ways, you retrain your brain, and the psychological dependency begins to vanish.

Getting Help for Your Addiction

Kemah Palms Recovery® is an addiction treatment facility that specializes in helping people overcome dependency on drugs and alcohol We offer medical as well as holistic treatment methods that can help you begin a new life. Our therapists will give you the tools you need through methods like CBT. You’ll begin to see the advantages of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. We also offer a chronic pain management program that’s extremely beneficial for those struggling with prescription drug addiction. To learn more about how Kemah Palms Recovery® can help, call us today today.