Drug dependence occurs when a person’s body has come to rely on a drug to function normally. Two types of dependence exist and are distinct. They are physical dependence and psychological dependence. Determining whether you struggle with physical dependence vs psychological dependence isn’t always easy to do. Therapy sessions often help people explore physical vs psychological dependence to arrive at a place of deeper self-awareness.
Physical Dependence Vs Psychological Dependence
The easiest way to understand physical dependence vs psychological dependence is that physical dependence affects the body while psychological dependence affects behavior. Another way to view psychological dependence vs physical dependence is that people with a physical dependence continue abusing a drug to avoid negative physical symptoms. Meanwhile, people with a psychological dependence continue abusing a drug to maintain emotional stability and mental health.
Which type of dependence a person suffers from depends on the drug in question. An individual’s biology also seems to play a role. A few drugs that are most associated with physical addiction include opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, alcohol, and tobacco products. On the other hand, nearly any drug is a strong candidate for causing psychological dependence.
Characteristics of Physical Dependence
Physical dependence or addiction happens when the body is no longer able to legitimately function without the presence of a drug. The actual physical, cellular operation of the body’s systems is disrupted. This often manifests in sleep problems, tremors or shakes, gastrointestinal problems, and even seizures.
Insufficient or poor sleep can lead to other health problems like weight gain, brain fog, and a weakened immune system. Tremors or shakes are caused by disruption to certain brain areas that control motor coordination. This can progress to the point of it being difficult to use a writing utensil or silverware. The two biggest gastrointestinal problems are constipation and diarrhea in relation to physical drug dependence. Lastly, seizures are the result of connections between nerve cells in the brain being blocked.
Other symptoms related to physical dependence include:
- Dry mouth
- Shortness of breath
Characteristics of Psychological Dependence
Another way to distinguish between physical vs psychological dependence is that psychological dependence doesn’t cause symptoms when a drug is absent from the body. Instead, psychological dependence can be thought of as a mental compulsion to use a substance.
People who struggle with psychological dependence perceive a need to use even if they aren’t trying to avoid physical discomfort by using. Cravings, irritability, and fatigue are typically present when someone is suffering from psychological dependence. Depression, obsession, and anger are all common experiences during psychological dependence as well.
Treating Psychological Dependence Vs Physical Dependence
Treatment methods for psychological vs physical dependence are largely the same. The difference comes in the application of those methods. For instance, both types of dependence can be addressed through therapy. However, the therapeutic focus necessary for rooting out a psychological dependence vs physical dependence will naturally be different.
Treating physical dependence is often possible using a medication-assisted treatment approach. This is particularly true in the case of opioids and alcohol. Detox and treatment for those substances involve using other medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms. This can help people effectively stop using as their body is supported in learning to live without the drug.
The focus during treatment when the problem is more psychological is generally an evidence-based therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is often a go-to approach because it focuses on changing patterns of thought and behavior that influence addiction.
Addressing Physical Vs Psychological Dependence at Sunstone Recovery
Sunstone Recovery is skilled in treating both dependence and addiction. Don’t wait to address this issue. It’s time to kickstart your recovery by calling 855.833.9199.