Psychological Dependence: Symptoms, Signs and Treatment

Many people don’t know that substance abuse is more than just the addiction to drug and physical dependence problems. A huge part of the issue also involves psychological dependence. Although physical and psychological dependence are interrelated, they have distinct effects worth noting. 

When a person is dependent on a substance and regularly misuses them, it can lead to changes in their brain chemistry. When someone suffers from this type of dependence, they are at risk for poor behavior and judgment. Besides that, being dependent on alcohol or drugs can lead a person to crave for the high or the “good feeling,” even when it leads to negative consequences. 

Ending psychological dependence is a major part of a drug treatment program and is one of the most challenging as well. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how you can stop psychological dependence, how it’s related to addiction, and the treatments to help manage this issue. 

What Is Psychological Dependence?

You need to consider many things before you can determine if someone needs to undergo a substance abuse program. Rather than basing off your diagnosis by quantifying the drinks and drugs they take, doctors also rely on what the substance does to the quality of your life. 

The World Health Organization says that psychological dependence starts when a person loses their ability to manage their use of drugs and alcohol and adjust their lives around their next use. 

To them, nothing matters more than the drugs they take and the alcohol they consume, leaving out important aspects of their life, such as their relationships, work, and well-being. 

With that being said, it’s easy to say that the substances become the center of their lives or have become an obsession, not caring about the trouble and negative impact it does on their lives. 

That’s why when you’re starting to see these psychological effects, and they have uncontrollable behavior towards the substance, it’s best to begin considering treatment options. 

Psychological Dependence Symptoms

When a person craves drugs or alcohol, that’s usually a sign of psychological dependence. However, the line between physical and psychological dependence is relatively thin. The more your use and crave a substance, the more your experience physical symptoms. 

There are different ways physiological dependence symptoms can manifest. Here are some symptoms you need to take note of to determine whether or not your loved one needs professional help:

  • Nausea;
  • Seizures;
  • Disrupted sleep;
  • Fatigue;
  • Moodiness;
  • Anxiety;
  • Chills;
  • Clammy skin;

Physical Dependence vs. Psychological Dependence

When you’re experiencing physical dependence, your body starts to rely on the substance to function. When you stop using the substance, withdrawal symptoms will begin to occur, which could happen with or without psychological dependence. 

However, you should know that there are times when physical dependence isn’t a negative thing. For example, people who need to regulate their blood pressure are dependent on the drug. 

Sometimes, you may rely on coffee to stay awake in the morning and give you energy. And when you skip your morning cup, you may experience a pounding headache or feel groggy throughout the day. 

When you put physical and psychological dependence into context, you may spend the whole day thinking about coffee and longing for the taste and ritual of preparing your cup. 

And when you’re dealing with psychological dependence alone, you may feel panic and even screw up some tasks because you didn’t get to have your daily caffeine boost. 

How Does it Relate to Addiction?

There is a slight difference between being addicted to substances and being dependent on one. With that being said, they are often interchanged, and many think that they are closely related, but that’s really not the case. 

When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you cannot stop consuming these products, even when it negatively affects your life. However, when dealing with physical or psychological dependence, you’re not necessarily addicted to the substance. 

psychological dependence link to addiction
Psychological Dependence and Addiction

For example, if your doctor requires you to use corticosteroids to control inflammation in your body, it can change your body’s chemistry. These changes can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms after you use the medication.

Another example is Paxil, an antidepressant, which could trigger nausea or dizziness and other physical symptoms when you stop taking it abruptly, but it doesn’t escalate to the level of substance disorder. 

Substances Connected to Psychological and Physical Dependence

Many believe that all substances of abuse are associated with physical and psychological aspects of dependence. Although this is partly true, many separate the development of a use disorder and withdrawal process since some happen by nature.

Here are some substances that aren’t connected to the withdrawal process by are associated with withdrawal symptoms:

  • Stimulants, including cocaine and Ritalin;
  • Hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD;
  • Cannabis products;
  • Inhalant products;
  • Psychotropic medication, including antidepressant medications;

Here are some substances associated with strong physical dependence:

  • Opiate drugs, including morphine, heroin, Vicodin, and more;
  • Barbiturates, including phenobarbital and Seconal;
  • Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and more;
  • Alcohol;

Most drugs that are misused are associated with both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, developing forms of dependence. 

How to Treat Psychological Dependence

One of the most significant differences between drugs that are considered to result in physical versus psychological dependence is the withdrawal process. Some drugs that are considered viable candidates for physical dependence are alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines, resulting in fatal effects, such as seizures.

However, some substances can be physically addicting but don’t necessarily foster the same effects. Substances like opiate drugs will have different withdrawal symptoms.

When someone is going through a withdrawal process, it’s incredibly important that the patient is monitored by a psychiatrist and physician specializing in addiction medicine. This is because they can identify potential triggers, seizure activity, and more, leading to proper treatment and addressing the issue right away. 

Although there are reports that seizures occur to individuals recovering from other substances, it’s still important to have a physician-assisted withdrawal program to eliminate any complexities and issues during the withdrawal process. 

Besides that, during the initial recovery, they may also face emotional and physical distress, which could lead to overdose during a relapse, become suicidal, and get involved in accidents. 

Anyone who is going through psychological addiction or dependence and physical addiction or dependence should still be assessed by a physician. These patients should be treated for co-occurring issues and should be guided throughout the recovery. 

Additionally, involving the patient in social groups and having a strong support system in their close circle is vital during this journey. So if you know someone who needs professional help, it pays to know more about their condition and find ways to help them recover through various effective treatment programs.

The Bottom Line: Psychological Dependence Is Important to Address 

Seeing that psychological dependence can trigger addiction, it’s crucial that, if you’re noticing signs of dependence, consider getting help from a professional. Getting treatment before dependency escalates can help save your loved ones from deteriorating their quality of life and eliminate possibilities of severe physical symptoms.