When people talk about the negative impacts of substance abuse, much of the discussion tends to center on addiction and the problems with physical dependence. But psychological dependence is another major factor involved in excessive drinking or drug use. Though physical and psychological dependence are interrelated, they are not the same thing.
Abuse of drugs or alcohol leads to changes in brain chemistry — that’s part of the reason why risky behavior and poor judgment are part of the pathology of drug use. You start to develop cravings for the “good feelings” that the drugs or alcohol provide, and let those cravings drive your choices — even if it leads to negative consequences.
Breaking the psychological dependence is a key part of what happens in a drug treatment program and could well be the biggest challenge of all. To learn more about this condition, contact the experts at Amatus Recovery Centers today.
What Is Psychological Dependence?
There’s no objective way of judging whether someone needs a substance abuse treatment program. Rather than a specific number of drinks or quantity of drugs, diagnoses are based on what a substance does to your life.
Put another way, according to the World Health Organization, psychological dependence begins when someone loses their ability to moderate their use of alcohol or drugs and starts orienting their lives around the consumption. Nothing else — not family, not work, not health — matters. The craving becomes the obsession.
Quite literally, the substance becomes central to how the person lives his or her life, no matter what kind of trouble it creates.
Put more succinctly, the WHO says it’s when you start to exhibit “impaired control over drinking or drug use.” With the onset of psychological dependence, it may be time to consider treatment options.
Symptoms of Dependence
Craving is the primary psychological sign of dependence. But the line between psychological and physical dependence is thin indeed. In fact, the more you crave, the more you use, and the greater the likelihood of experiencing physical symptoms.
Dependence manifests itself in a variety of ways. Any of these symptoms may not suggest a problem, but when they happen in bunches, it may mean it’s time to get professional help.
The symptoms of physical dependence include but aren’t limited to:
- Clammy skin
- Disrupted sleep
Addiction vs. Dependence
Keep in mind that — despite common usage — there is a difference between “addiction” and “dependence”. Quite often you will see them used interchangeably in media and other sources. The two terms are related, but they are not the same.
Addiction is the inability to stop drinking or using a drug, even in the face of the significant problems it causes with school, work, relationships, health, or the law. But you can have a physical or psychological dependence without becoming addicted.
Medical science has identified drugs that fit this definition. For instance, corticosteroids, which doctors use to control inflammation, can cause changes in your body. These changes result in physical withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them.
Certain antidepressants such as Paxil can trigger dizziness or other physical symptoms if stopped too abruptly but do not rise to the level of a substance use disorder.
Breaking the Cycle
We address psychological dependence, physical dependence, and addiction with treatment programs provided by Amatus Recovery Centers. Treatment begins with a thorough evaluation and can include detox, counseling, and aftercare. We provide clinically appropriate support in a range of environments and support you well past the end of counseling. Working closely with us, we can direct to a stable position of sobriety. Contact us at 833.631.0525 today for a confidential consultation.