If you’re concerned that a friend or family member has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it’s important to know the difference between physical and psychological dependence and how both of these factors can play into addiction. Significant advancements have been made in understanding the neurobiological underpinnings and environmental factors that influence motivation to drink as well as the consequences of excessive alcohol use. Activation of the HPA axis and CRF-related brain stress circuitry resulting from alcohol dependence likely contributes to amplified motivation to drink. Similarly, systemic administration of antagonists that selectively act at the CRF1 receptor also reduced upregulated drinking in dependent mice (Chu et al. 2007) and rats (Funk et al. 2007; Gehlert et al. 2007). This new focus is clinically relevant because these symptoms (e.g., anxiety, negative affect, and altered reward set point) may serve as potent instigators driving motivation to drink . Sensitization resulting from repeated withdrawal cycles and leading to both more severe and more persistent symptoms therefore may constitute a significant motivational factor that underlies increased risk for relapse .

What are the 6 causes of substance abuse?

  • Expectations of Masculinity and Self-Medication.
  • Pressure Relating to Life Circumstances.
  • Genetic Predisposition to Substance Use.
  • Health Conditions.
  • Trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences.
  • Grief.

We are experts at addressing both the physical and psychological parts of addiction and will work with you in your journey towards a clean and sober life. Building and maintaining a strong social support system can also be useful in combatting symptoms of psychological dependence. For those struggling with a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, we provide medically supervised detoxification programs followed by a wide range of therapies meant to target psychological dependence. These therapies help our patients plan for a life free from addiction, re-build healthy relationships and thrive in every part of their lives. The criteria for substance abuse focused more on the legal, social, and occupational consequences of substance use.

When to Seek Treatment for Psychological Dependence

We understand this struggle, which is why we are uniquely qualified to help. Feelings of “needing” drugs or alcohol to cope with daily stressors, go to sleep, be social, etc. Constipation and diarrhea are two effects that physically manifest themselves. Having diarrhea can cause dehydration which can lead to other health problems.

Treatment for psychological dependence varies depending on the substance being used, the frequency of use over a certain period of time, and the person. Treatment for psychological dependence involves the help of a licensed doctor such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Many people find it hard to quit and need help and support from others. 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.

Social Symptoms

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. Addiction is also known as compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences. It is characterized by the inability to stop using a certain drug to the detriment of work, social, or family obligations.

physiological dependence on alcohol

Psychological dependence is not always caused by drugs or alcohol. A person may become addicted to skydiving or other behaviors because of the adrenaline rush. The adrenaline rush releases the same chemicals in the brain that make a person feel euphoria. Other behaviors may include gambling, playing video games, extreme sports, and any activity a person becomes dependent on. When the behavior stops, the person has similar symptoms to drug and alcohol withdrawal but without the physical symptoms.


Knowing the difference between psychological dependence and addiction can be a valuable tool in recovery. Substance dependencies — both physical and psychological — frequently lead to addiction. By getting the help of a qualified addiction treatment center, you’ll be in good hands when you detox. At a treatment facility, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re safe.

This classification fails to recognise individual variation in drug use. Alcohol can be used in heavy doses that are gravely disabling and induce severe physical dependence with convulsions on sudden withdrawal; i.e. for the individual the drug is ‘hard’. But there are many people mildly psychologically dependent on it who retain their position in physiological dependence on alcohol the home and society. Important risk factors for addiction include a history of abuse of street drugs, prescription drugs, or alcoholism. It is important for all patients exposed to opioids to undergo careful screening for all these major risk factors. Caring therapists routinely work with people just like you who want to quit drugs or alcohol.

What Are Symptoms of Psychological Dependence?

The truth is all kinds of addictions have a psychological component. Even opiate addiction, alcohol addiction, and meth addiction, which are physically addictive, have a psychological element that perpetuates a substance use disorder. This effect apparently was specific to alcohol because repeated chronic alcohol exposure https://ecosoberhouse.com/ and withdrawal experience did not produce alterations in the animals’ consumption of a sugar solution . While psychological and physical dependence can overlap with addiction , they can also occur on their own. An example is an individual taking prescription opioids exactly as directed by their physician.

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning and cerebrospinal fluid corticotropin releasing hormone and corticotropin levels in alcoholics after recent and long-term abstinence. Walker BM, Koob GF. Pharmacological evidence for a motivational role of kappa-opioid systems in ethanol dependence. Schulteis G, Liu J. Brain reward deficits accompany withdrawal from acute ethanol in rats.

Dependence Without Addiction

Addiction refers to the combination of both psychological dependence and physical dependence on a substance, object or activity. In other words, when an individual has developed an addiction, they exhibit a chronic psychological need for a habit-forming substance, along with experiencing the physical effects of dependence. In treatment, the difference between physical and psychological dependence matters. In fact, treatment professionals map the course of your programs and therapies according to your type of addiction.

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